Without a doubt, Russia’s ‘Last Emperor,’ Fedor Emelianenko is one of the greatest mixed martial artists to ever grace the face of the Earth. But despite his incredible success throughout his career and late resurgence through the Bellator heavyweight Grand Prix, it all ended abruptly in January.
At Bellator 214, the vacant title was on the line in the tournament’s finals. Standing in Emelianenko’s way on his path to becoming a champion for the first time in 10 years was the current light heavyweight champion of Bellator, Ryan Bader. In the end, 35 seconds was all it took for Bader to sleep the icon with a stiff left hand followed by some on the ground.
It seemed like we may very well have seen Emelianenko step into the cage for the last time ever that night. And if it is, no one can take away the amazing career that he crafted.
So is that the end for Emelianenko? That remains to be determined… But Bellator President Scott Coker is planning to find a sense of clarity during the week of May 11 when Bellator 221 takes place in Chicago, Illinois.
“I haven’t talked to Fedor about anything,” Coker told BJPenn.com. “Because he’s been in Moscow, but I will be sitting down with him in Chicago. And I’m going to ask him, you know, say ‘what are your plans, what do you want to do?’ Because if [he] would like to continue, I would love to put together a tour for him and maybe, you know, fight in Japan one time, fight here in the US, fight in Moscow. And we would promote all of them and have like a victory tour like a victory lap. But he might say, ‘No, I’m not interested, I’m just going to go work for the government,’ or not working… I don’t know what his plans are. So in a couple of weeks, I’ll have a clear direction of what he wants to do.”
From that fateful day in January to now, Bellator has made a rather big name acquisition as they’ve been accustomed to doing over the years. That being none other than ‘The Warmaster’ Josh Barnett.
The former UFC champion signed with the promotion on April 1 (legitimately) and shortly after it was speculated that he would be awaiting the winner of the next heavyweight title clash that is the aforementioned double champion in Bader as he faces Cheick Kongo.
According to Coker, it isn’t exactly a foregone conclusion that Barnett will be the next title challenger following Kongo… But he likes the idea of the ‘fight that never was’ between him and Emelianenko from Affliction in 2009.
“That would be something huh? Him vs Barnett, the fight that never happened. That would be amazing,” Coker said. “[Barnett getting a title shot for his debut] hasn’t been determined, but I think that his manager was looking for a fight in between that fight and then the title fight. But Josh would like to fight for the title and we’re just trying to work out the schedule because he needs a full camp to train.
“He’s been out for a little bit. But he’s also got some other movie and wrestling obligations. So he’s a very busy guy, but hopefully, we can get him in the cage and have him fight and maybe he’ll get a fight and then if he wins then he can go for the title before the end of the year.”
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 4/26/2019