Bellator NYC: The Last Emperor Fedor Emelianenko Explains Why He’s Still Fighting

Bellator NYC fighters Matt Mitrione and Fedor Emelianenko aka the Last Emperor
Matt Mitrione and Fedor Emelianenko Credit: Dave Mandel/

Bellator NYC (preceded by Bellator 180 on Spike TV) June 24 features a co-main event of The Last Emperor, Fedor Emelianenko, taking on former UFC slugger Matt Mitrione. It’s a fight that was originally supposed to be part of Bellator 172, until Mitrone was forced out of action at the last minute.

It’s also The Last Emperor’s first fight in North America since a trio of losses in Strikeforce to Fabricio Werdum, Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and Dan Henderson in 2010-2011. After those losses, Emelianenko left the promotion, took another trio of fights overseas (two in Russia, one in Japan), winning them all, and retired in June of 2012. He then returned to action at the end of 2015, in a huge mismatch against Singh Jaideep for Rizin FF. Following that, he was nearly finished by Fabio Maldonado at EFN 50 a year ago.

Now, Fedor Emelianenko (36–4 (1)) is back in business with his old Strikeforce boss Scott Coker. The question of the day is, why is he still fighting?

“Because I’m a fighter” the Russian heavyweight answered (via a translator) on today’s Bellator NYC conference call, with Cageside Press in attendance.

So it’s not about the money then? Well not exactly. As The Last Emperor explained on the call, “For every fighter, money plays an important role because that’s what you do as a fighter, that’s your job and you have to make sure that you’re providing for your family, you’re paying expenses for your training and everything else, so whenever you’re making certain negotiations for a fight, you always have to take this into consideration.”

“And of course, you’re always looking for the best financial deal that you can make.” It seems clear that Bellator MMA was the promotion willing to make that deal. Now, in his promotional debut, Emelianenko will walk to the cage in Madison Square Garden.

Does that have any importance to the Russian legend? Was he aware of the history of the venue? In typical Fedor fashion, he answered simply via his interpreter that he “knew about this before.” The heavyweight has one heck of a poker face. He later added that he wasn’t overwhelmed by that, but added that it was important for him to be fighting there. Still, he was treating it as “another fight.”

What of the talk that he could wind up facing Chael Sonnen, also on the card at Bellator NYC, somewhere down the road? After answering that “they’re in different weight categories,” the fighter said simply that “we’re going to discuss this after the fight.”

So that’s a maybe then?