When the news broke that Fedor Emelianenko would be returning from his retirement it instantly led to weeks of speculation among the mixed martial arts community. Rumours of dealings with the UFC began to spread across the web, with Emelianenko and his management teasing on social media and in interviews, but all the while holding the cards close to their chest.
The we learned that ex-Pride FC owner Nobuyuki Sakakibara was pairing up with Bellator MMA to host Fedor’s comeback, later confirmed for New Year’s Even in Japan. Cue the deflated balloons. That said, let’s get the good stuff out the way first, because there are many positives to take from this situation.
For starters we won’t have to pay to watch the former Pride FC heavyweight champion fight again, whereas had he joined the UFC we’d be digging in to our wallets for a $60 tax on watching the Russian legend’s comeback. There’s also the fact he’ll be fighting in Japan again, where he made his name as the most elite heavyweight during the illustrious 10 year reign.
Also you have to consider the impact this will have on Japanese MMA, which has been a dead zone since Pride went bust back in the day. Hey, maybe this doesn’t fully close the door on the UFC either, perhaps a few big wins will make Fedor worth that big buck that Zuffa is so often slow to offer. $2.5 million is a big gamble to take for any promotion on a fighter that’s been out of action for so long, and just the thought of Fedor falling flat against the current UFC heavyweights may have been enough to scare them off of signing Fedor. That’s if the UFC ever showed any interest at all.
So what if ‘The Last Emperor’ blasts the competition with ease in Japan? It’s likely we may go full circle and see the UFC once again bargaining for an appearance from the great Fedor, but then there’s also the competition outside the UFC to consider. Of course Bellator heavyweight champion Vitali Minakov could provide an exciting match, perhaps even Cheick Kongo, but let’s be honest, no one poses anywhere near the level of elite threat as the UFC, whether you like that fact or not.
So before we go in to the section of this article that picks apart Fedor’s signing with Bellator, check out this video of a striking session with ‘The Last Emperor’: