Bellator 290: Ryan Bader Stops Retiring Legend Fedor Emelianenko, Retains Title

Fedor Emelianenko, Ryan Bader, and a host of MMA legends at Bellator 290
Fedor Emelianenko, Ryan Bader, and a host of MMA legends at Bellator 290 Credit: Bellator MMA

Plenty has been written this past week about the unrivaled career of heavyweight legend Fedor Emelianenko. Whether he won or lost at Bellator 290 on Saturday night, lots more was bound to be written in the coming days.

The man who dominated Japan’s PRIDE and went undefeated for a decade hung up the gloves following his rematch with Ryan Bader — a rare opportunity for a pioneer in mixed martial arts to compete for a title two decades into his career. A chance to go out on top.

It was also a chance to exact his revenge on Bader, who defeated “The Last Emperor” several years ago in the final of Bellator’s heavyweight grand prix.

One final walk, stoic and emotionless as ever. One final round of introductions, and the last ride of “The Last Emperor” was underway. It wasn’t the storybook ending fans and the Russian himself no doubt wanted, but it was an ending.

Emelianenko opened with a lunging overhand that fell short, then had to fend off a Bader right hand as the champ charged forward. Again, Fedor extended on a right hand, while Bader caught the Russian with a solid shot. Moments later, a Bader right hand sent Fedor down! Fedor was bloodied, with Bader on top, dropping ground n’ pound – but Fedor held on, trying to recover.

It wasn’t to be. Ryan Bader sat back in half-guard, absolutely smashing Emelianenko with ground n’ pound. Ref Herb Dean gave Fedor ample opportunity to defend, recover, escape, but there was nothing he could do but roll over — and take more of a drubbing.

Ultimately, it was Ryan Bader coming away with his second finish of the legend, adding another line to the tome that is his own legacy. And defending his heavyweight title. But nothing, no single loss, will take away from the career of Fedor Emelianenko, who retires as one of the best mixed martial artists to ever compete.

“I’m so happy that all these people are here cheering for me, and all these veteran fighters that walked the same path are here tonight,” Fedor said following the fight, as legends including Josh Barnett, Dan Henderson, Chuck Liddlell, Rampage Jackson, Mark Coleman, Randy Couture, Royce Gracie and others joined him in the cage.

And with that, Fedor laid down the gloves, showing perhaps more emotion — just a little — than in any of his past outings combined.

Official Result: Ryan Bader def. Fedor Emelianenko by TKO, Round 1, 2:30