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Ryan Bader’s head coach is a fan of Fedor Emelianenko, but still doing best to stop him from retiring as Bellator champ

Ryan Bader knocked out Fedor Emelianenko
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Fedor Emelianenko is one of the most beloved fighters in MMA history and could have the perfect end to his career Saturday at Bellator 290, when he faces Ryan Bader for the heavyweight crown in Inglewood, Calif.

Bader’s head coach Jair Lourenço would’ve also loved to see “The Last Emperor” walk away on top — but destiny put him on the other side of the cage one more time.

“Many people cheer for Fedor to end his career with a belt, and I admit I would also cheer for him against any other fighter except for Bader or someone else I trained,” Lourenço told MMA Fighting. “Being on the other side at this moment is not difficult because it’s a moment of joy for me, to be sharing the cage with these legends. We’re working hard to stop Fedor from walking away with the Bellator belt. We’re just focused on keeping the belt, and we’re confident everything will work out.”

Bader and Emelianenko have both never lost rematches in MMA, and Lourenço said it’s an “honor” to prepare Bader to face the Russian legend again. The first time they met, back in 2019, Bader won the Bellator heavyweight grand prix by knocking out “The Last Emperor” in just 35 seconds.

Bader celebrates his win over Emelianenko.

“It’s an honor to be sharing the cage with a legend like Fedor and also a legend like Bader,” Lourenço said. “[Bader is] a TUF champion, a double champion in Bellator — actually, he won three belts there with the grand prix one. He’s a legend of the sport, too. It will be a battle of legends and I’m thrilled to be there.”

Lourenço admits the plan for the first match was to drag Emelianenko to deep waters using Bader’s wrestling against the fence, but “Darth” saw an opening to counter on the feet and stopped him in under a minute.

That original plan remains the same for Bellator 290, he said: Drag Emelianenko into the later rounds.

“I always tell my fighters to be ready to finish the fight until the last minute,” said Lourenço.

“He’s ready to fight five rounds, but always trying to force the opponent to make a mistake and look for openings to finish the fight. The plan is to go all the way to the end. There’s always a chance to knock him out or submit him from the first second to the very last second, regardless of if we’re winning or losing the fight.”

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