Fedor Emelianenko Will Fight Ryan Bader in Feb 4. Retirement Fight, Airing on CBS

Fedor Emelianenko, Bellator MMA
Fedor Emelianenko, Bellator 269 Credit: Lucas Noonan/Bellator MMA

Mixed Martial Arts will return to broadcast network CBS for the first time since 2010 when the legendary Fedor Emelianenko takes his final bow next year.

Emelianenko (40-6, 1NC) will face Ryan Bader (30-7, 1NC) in a rematch for the heavyweight title at Bellator 290 on February 4, 2023. CBS Sports reported the news on Friday.

A legend of PRIDE, Emelianenko later competed in Strikeforce, and briefly retired in 2012, only to return to action in 2015, starting with a fight in Japan’s RIZIN, essentially PRIDE’s heir apparent.

He joined Bellator MMA in 2017 and has fought there exclusively ever since, posting a 4-2 record in that span. Among those losses was a shock upset against Ryan Bader in Bellator’s Heavyweight Grand Prix final. Bader won both the tournament and the championship that night in 2019, and has retained the title ever since.

Emelianenko’s heyday, however, came in Japan, where he went undefeated for years and was widely considered the best heavyweight on the planet. The Russian holds notable wins over Mark Coleman, Mark Hunt, Mirko Cro-Cop, Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (Big Nog), Kevin Randleman, Gary Goodridge and others — defeating all of them in their prime.

When the UFC scooped up Strikeforce in 2011, Emelianenko and the promotion were unable to come to terms on a deal that would have seen him face the man who was then the biggest name in MMA, Brock Lesnar. Instead, he returned to Russia, then Japan, for a handful of fights, all wins, prior to his first retirement.

The 46-year old “Last Emperor” now meets Bader for the second time as “Darth” Bader himself approaches age 40. The Arizona native, a former Bellator double champ at light heavyweight and heavyweight, has twice defended his belt, against Fedor Team’s Valentin Moldavsky and Cheick Kongo (an earlier fight with Kongo ended in a No Contest due to an accidental eye poke).

Since arriving in Bellator MMA in 2017 after a solid UFC run, Bader has found considerable success, posting an 8-2, 1NC record and winning two belts. His only setbacks have come against Vadim Nemkov, who dethroned him at light heavyweight, and Corey Anderson, as part of the light heavyweight grand prix.

Bellator 290 will take place on February 4, 2023 at the Kia Forum in Inglewood, California.