Bellator 290: Scott Coker Says Anderson Silva Discussed for Fedor, Promotion Talking with Ngannou

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

When it comes to Bellator 290, there’s no question that it’s very much all about Fedor.

Fedor Emelianenko, long considered one of the greatest heavyweights of all time, will take a bow this weekend, after a rematch against Ryan Bader for the Bellator MMA heavyweight championship.

The card will air on CBS, a historic first for Bellator, and a fitting turn of events for the retirement party of one of the greatest fighters of all time.

That party is expected to be attended by a host of famous names, including Randy Courture, Rampage Jackson, Royce Gracie, Chuck Liddell and more. Since that cast of notables was announced earlier on Wednesday, there has been constant talk of who else might show up.

“We have a lot of martial arts dignitaries coming, but the gentleman that we’re going to invite into the ring are mostly retired, and have either fought Fedor before, or been around him in the same timeframe,” Bellator CEO Scott Coker told Cageside Press during Wednesday’s Bellator 290 press conference. “We will have a lot of MMA stars, and different martial artists and different celebrities. But the people we invite into the cage will be people that are special to Fedor.”

As far as opponents for Fedor’s final fight, Coker acknowledged that several names were on the market, including Junior Dos Santos, Alistair Overeem, and Josh Barnett. But the Russian legend insisted that he wanted to rematch Bader, who defeated him in 2019 in Bellator’s heavyweight grand prix, for the title.

Coker granted that wish.

Among the other options was Anderson Silva, Coker later revealed. But “The Spider” opted to focus on boxing, saying the wear and tear on his body in MMA was too much.

It wasn’t long before free agent Francis Ngannou was brought up at Wednesday’s press conference. And while both Ryan Bader and Fedor himself said they’re focused on the fight ahead, Coker was clear that the promotion wants to continue a dialog with the former UFC champ.

“I’ll tell you, our policy has been, we reach out and talk to every free agent that is available to talk, and have a conversation,” Coker stated. “And to bring the top free agents to Bellator. We have reached out, there is dialog, and we look forward to having a sitdown with him at some point in the near future.”

That led to a question about another free agent, Nate Diaz. “There has been dialog with everybody. I think that Nate was somebody that Mike [Kogan]’s talking to, with his management. It’s just preliminary talks, it’s just an ongoing conversation, but if there’s anything to update, we’ll let everybody know,” replied Coker.

“Every fighter has different needs, so we’re going to sit down and have a conversation,” Scott Coker said when asked what it would take to land some of the big free agents on the market. “And with Francis, I think it’ll happen I think sooner than later. With Nate, maybe it’ll be later than sooner. With Nate, I think it’ll depend on when he’s ready to come back. Sometimes he takes a long period off, sometimes he comes back quickly.”

“Top free agents, we definitely want them to come here, and have a home here. And we’re looking forward to those conversations.”

As for Fedor, as he approaches his final fight, he admits that age, and his family, have spurred the decision to retire. But he’ll continue to share his wealth of fighting knowledge with his teammates — many of whom, like Vadim Nemkov and Anatoly Tokov, have found success in Bellator.

“Of course I’m very happy to see all that,” Emelianenko told Cageside Press on Wednesday. “Because all this time, all this life I did compete at the highest level, plus right now I have a new generation of fighters coming over, and they’re winning the belts, they have good careers. So I have a legacy behind me that I’m going to leave.”

Fedor Emelianenko challenges Ryan Bader for the heavyweight championship at Bellator 290 this Saturday, February 4, 2023. The main card airs live on CBS.