Fedor Emelianenko Explains Why He Chose Tim Johnson as Bellator 269 Opponent

The legendary Fedor Emelianenko returns to action this Saturday, stepping into the cage for the first time in nearly two years.

When Fedor last fought, in December 2019, it was against a blown up Rampage Jackson who was moving up in weight to take on the heavyweight legend. Fedor stopped Rampage via TKO that night in Japan, but his next battle came with COVID-19. After contracting and beating the virus, it’s been a long wait for the Russian to return, but he does this weekend at home in Moscow at Bellator 269.

The promotion’s first trip to Russia is massive, with a small army of Russian stars on the card topped by the man many still see as the greatest fighter of all time. So why Tim Johnson, when names like Junior Dos Santos and Alistair Overeem were on the market?

“Tim Johnson had quite a winning streak going on, which obviously shows that he’s quite a good fighter,” Fedor said during this week’s Bellator 269 virtual media day. “And fighting someone that’s spearheading the [division] is always a great opportunity.”

Later, Fedor would add that “aside from Tim Johnson, Dos Santos for example had a serious streak of losses. He was also fired from the UFC as well.” Which is why Emelianenko didn’t find a match-up with the ex-UFC champ suitable compared to Tim Johnson. “Not to mention the fact that Bellator came up with a bunch of options, and Tim was quite an obvious choice.”

After Bellator 269 in Moscow, the plan is still for Fedor to fight once more. Where that fight will come remains a question. Scott Coker has suggested in the past it might come in the U.S., and New York would be an obvious destination.

“I prefer Chicago to New York,” Fedor said with a laugh — a rare showing of emotion from the normally stoic fighter. “The plan for the next fight will depend on plans with Bellator, and whatever Bellator decides,” he went on to add.

There’s good reason for Fedor to prefer Chicago — his win over Frank Mir came at the AllState Arena, while his Strikeforce victory against Brett Rogers came at the Sears Center, also local to the city. New York, well, that was the site of Fedor’s loss to Matt Mitrione.

“If it’s in America, it should be in Chicago,” Fedor emphasized.

Watch the full Bellator 269 media day appearance from Fedor Emelianenko above. The event takes place Saturday, October 23, 2021 at the VTB Arena in Moscow, Russia. More coverage from the event can be found below.