There is no question that Bellator MMA has to be happy with their first trip to Russia.
Bellator 269 took place in Moscow on Saturday, in front of a packed house at the VTB Arena. In the main event, the legendary Fedor Emelianenko turned back the clock, unleashing a blistering knockout over top heavyweight contender Tim Johnson.
“I’ve been in the fight game for a long time. For him to really deliver in his home town in front of all of his fans, it was really fun to watch,” Bellator President Scott Coker said following the event. “It was a real special night, and like I said, being a promoter for so long, there’s a few times that just capture that moment in time, and this was that night.”
At 45, Coker believes Fedor “can still bring it,” with the Bellator President noting combinations from the fighter he hadn’t seen in a while.
“I can’t remember the last time Tim was knocked out, or if he’s ever been knocked out like that,” Coker later added. “I was like, man, his hand speed is still there, and his twitch speed is still there. And so he proved it, he proved to me why he’s still the greatest of all time.”
Fedor’s performance capped off the evening, but Russian fighters like Usman Nurmagomedov and Kirill Sidelnikov also had big nights. With so many Russian talents on the Bellator roster, it feels like the market could be a huge opportunity for Bellator, who have slowly chipped away at the UFC’s dominance in other European territories including the U.K. and Ireland.
“When I think about the expansion of Bellator, really it started probably three or four years ago when we said ‘okay, we’re going to start expanding, and we’re going to Europe,'” Coker told Cageside Press when asked about returning to Moscow, or other Russian destinations. “We went to the U.K., we went to Ireland, went to Italy, went to Hungary, went to Tel Aviv, visited Tokyo, and now we can put the Russian market in our hat, and I think we did a great job.”
“We’ll definitely be back, and we’d like to build a business here,” Coker continued. “I think you’ll see Bellator come to Russia a couple of times a year minimum. And we’re definitely going to keep our eye out for the next up-and-coming talent here, because there are so many gyms here, so many great fighters here. When you look at our roster, we have so many great Russian fighters, that’s one of the reason we decided to come.”
Of course, the main reason was Fedor, which Coker also acknowledged. “Even as far back as Strikeforce, he always said ‘hey come to Russia, I want you to see my homeland.’ And I was like ‘yeah we’ll get there one day.’ To finally get there and have that victory the way that it unfolded for him here in his home town with his fans— really a special night, and put a check on that bucket list.”
Watch the full Bellator 269 virtual post-fight press conference with Scott Coker above. More coverage from the event can be found below.