Fedor Emelianenko isn’t coming back to MMA, but he’s not quite done with combat sports.
In February, Emelianenko challenged Ryan Bader for the Bellator heavyweight title in what was billed as the final fight of “The Last Emperor,” losing by first round knockout. After the fight there was a celebration of Emelianenko’s illustrious career in honor of his retirement, while that is still technically true, it’s not entirely accurate, because on Wednesday, Emelianenko told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour that though his MMA career is over, the 46-year-old legend is now looking to try his hand at boxing.
“MMA is done, 100 percent,” Emelianenko said. “I’m not going back to MMA. I want to try myself in boxing. I think that’s going to be interesting.
“After the last fight with Bader, I took a break. I started lifting weights a little bit, got some muscles back so my injuries are going away, so my shoulder feels better a little bit, and I started boxing, so I feel pretty good and pretty confident in boxing.”
Emelianenko is one of the greatest fighters of all-time and was widely considered to be the best heavyweight in the world for nearly a decade in the 2010s. At the moment, Emelianenko says he and his team are in the very early stages of planning who his first opponent would be, but that have one particular name in mind.
“We watched the fight on TV of Roy Jones Jr. vs. Mike Tyson. Mike Tyson would be an interesting fight,” Emelianenko said. “He has a big name, he’s a legend. ... It would be interesting because you can see a lot of his videos on YouTube and all over the place, he’s still in good shape. He still works pads, he still has that same power.”
Tyson is the former heavyweight champion and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2011. At 57 years old, Tyson is also far beyond his athletic peak, but did participate in an exhibition bout against fellow boxing legend Roy Jones Jr. in 2020. Most recently, Tyson has been helping lineal heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou prepare to box lineal boxing heavyweight champion Tyson Fury in their exhibition bout on Oct. 28 in Saudi Arabia, and Emelianenko says if they two of them could get on the undercard of that bout, he would jump at the chance.
“That would be awesome,” Emelianenko said when asked about the idea. “If it would be possible I definitely would do it. I will be ready.”
“I always train,” Emelianenko added. “There was a camp right now in Russia. I was there. I’m always ready. I heard that Mike Tyson is going to help Francis Ngannou to prepare for this fight, so he’s probably in good shape too.”
If the fight does somehow get made, Emelianenko is likely to be a massive underdog, given his age, the number of losses he’s suffered by knockout, and the fact that it would be his first professional bout going up against a former champion. But “The Last Emperor” isn’t concerned.
“Right now I’m 47, but I started boxing when I was 23,” Emelianenko said. “Over half of my life I’ve done boxing. Everybody knows that I’m mostly a wrestler, sambo, judo. I was on the national sambo and judo teams, but you can see in my fights that I’m pretty good at boxing as well. Of course I’m not as good as Mike Tyson, but it would be interesting.”
And if for some reason the Tyson fight can’t get made, there’s always Jake Paul. In recent years, Paul has made it his mission to beat former world-class MMA fighters in the squared circle, adding another scalp to the mantle when he defeated Nate Diaz this past weekend.
For his part, Emelianenko actually gives Paul credit for his accomplishments, but even so, he isn’t sure Paul would take the fight.
“He grows a lot as a fighter,” Emelianenko said of Paul. “If you look into him at the beginning of his boxing career, he wasn’t doing as good, but right now he’s definitely growing and he’s getting better and better. He’s had some knockdowns, knockouts, not with boxers but with the MMA stars.
“The only thing is, the way he’s chooses his opponents, they’re a little bit smaller, more comfortable for him, for his style of boxing, I guess. They’re all a bit smaller than him. ... I didn’t think about [fighting Jake Paul] but I doubt he would want to do it.”