Fedor Emelianenko Reflects on Legacy, Sendoff at Bellator 290

Los Angeles, CA — In a sport where eras seem to end every couple of years, one truly did wrap up on Saturday night.

One of the last holdovers from the Pride era, the legendary Fedor Emelianenko retired off a loss to Ryan Bader in the main event of Bellator 290 in Los Angeles.

A second loss to Bader won’t detract from Fedor’s legacy any, even while boosting Bader’s own. At 46, and over a year removed from his last fight, Emelianenko (40-7, 1NC) was always going to be the underdog. That wasn’t the point. The point, as Bellator did a wonderful job making clear throughout the evening, was to give a proper sendoff to a man many consider the heavyweight GOAT.

“I feel great. He hit me a few times, but I didn’t feel anything,” Emelianenko told media outlets including Cageside Press following the event, adding that he never lost consciousness.

The loss wraps up a career that began over two decades ago, and took the Russian heavyweight — consistently undersized, fighting larger foes — to the heights of the sport in the 2000s. Fedor dominated opponents in Japan’s PRIDE at a time when it had the best heavyweight roster in the sport. While he never made the jump to the UFC — one of the few big fish Dana White couldn’t land — he beat many of the UFC’s best in his heyday: Tim Sylvia. Andrei Arlovski. Big Nog. Mark Hunt. Mirko Cro-Cop. Kevin Randleman. Mark Coleman. Gary Goodridge.

All heavyweight stars of the UFC, past and present. Only match-ups with Randy Couture and later, Brock Lesnar, never came to fruition.

As far as how his career wrapped up, with a 2-1 record in his last three Bellator fights, Emelianenko said it all went to plan. Except losing to Bader, of course. “Basically I’m very happy, I’m very excited it happened here [in the U.S.]. Because right from the beginning we were discussing with Scott Coker that it’s going to be three fights. One is going to be in Russia, another one is going to be in Japan, and the third one is going to be in the United States. This is exactly how it happened.”

Many of Fedor’s peers and past opponents joined him in the Bellator cage following the bout. Rampage Jackson. Josh Barnett. Mark Coleman. Chuck Lidell. Randy Couture. Royce Gracie. A who’s who of MMA legends.

“I was really happy to see all those legends, all those fighters, because with some of them, I shared the ring, some of them, I just basically was watching them and learning from them,” said Fedor. “It was great that all those fighters came to support me.”

As far as the fights that stand out to him from his career, “I think probably the first fight with Antonio Nogueira. [And] the fight with Mirko Cro-Cop. But I don’t know why I still remember, all the time, the fight with Tim Sylvia.”

Who says Fedor Emelianenko doesn’t have a sense of humor?

The Nogueira fight, and their series, in one in particular that stands out to Fedor. “With Antontio Nogueira, it was a special fight, and it was very interesting to me. He was a very smart fighter, and at that moment, he was the strongest and best one. I always remember it, it’s a special memory. Our fights were really specially, so I would really like to remember those fights.”

Watch the full Bellator 290 post-fight press conference with Fedor Emelianenko above.


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