Ahead of his mixed martial arts competition swansong tonight at Bellator 290, former Pride FC heavyweight Grand Prix victor, Fedor Emelianenko has received praise and plaudits from past opponent, Mirko Cro Cop – with the Croat wishing the former luck ahead of his heavyweight championship rematch against Ryan Bader.

Cro Cop, a former Pride FC, Rizin, and K-1 World Grand Prix victor, who shared the squared circle with Russian icon, Emelianenko back in the Pride FC 2005 heavyweight Grand Prix finale, suffered a unanimous decision loss to the former. 

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Tonight, however, Emelianenko, recognized as arguably the greatest heavyweight mixed martial arts fighter of all-time – as well as widely considered as one of the greatest fighters to ever grace the sport, bows out in a championship rematch against the aforenoted, Bader, attempting to avenge a 2019, knockout loss inside just 35-seconds.

Headlining Bellator 290 tonight on CBS in Inglewood, California – a who’s who of mixed martial arts pioneers, icons, and folklore will honor Fedor Emelianenko following his final walk, with Josh Barnett, Mark Coleman, Randy Couture, Renzo Gracie, Royce Gracie, Dan Henderson, Matt Hughes, Rampage Jackson, Chuck Liddell, Frank Shamrock, and Chael Sonnen all slated to be in attendance. 

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Fedor Emelianenko receives message of support from Mirko Cro Cop

A past opponent of Emelianenko – the aforenoted, Cro Cop wished the Russian well ahead of his title showdown with Bader – as well as listing him as the greatest fighter to ever compete in professional mixed martial arts.

“Tomorrow early in the morning after his last fight, the last Pride’s giant and champion, Fedor Emelianenko, will leave the battle scene!” Mirko Cro Cop posted on his official Instagram. “For me, the greatest and most complete MMA fighter of all time. It was a pleasure and privileged to share the ring with him once and to share the same dressing room many times in the Saitama Arena. Regardless of the outcome of tomorrow’s match, for me and many others, you remain forever the icon of free fighting and the GOAT. Good luck, Fedor.”

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Aspiring mixed martial arts reporter based in Ireland. Follow along at @Ross_Markey on Twitter for all the latest news, fight announcements, opinion, and feature pieces.