With 42 professional fights under his belt, Fedor Emelianenko’s legacy is set in stone regardless of how much longer he decides to continue competing. For now, he is determined to keep building upon it.
“The Last Emperor” begins work on the next chapter of his story this Saturday when he faces Frank Mir in the main event of Bellator 198 on Saturday at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill. A win puts Emelianenko one fight closer to the finals of the Bellator Heavyweight World Grand Prix tournament.
10 months ago, it would have been fair to question if Emelianenko would fight again after he was knocked out in 74 seconds by Matt Mitrione at Bellator NYC. However, Emelianenko was confident he could compete again in the wake of that loss and he reiterated that stance to Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour.
“After the fight with Matt Mitrione I didn’t consider and I didn’t think about retiring,” Emelianenko said via a Russian translator. “I was thinking that I was planning to continue fighting. Things happen.”
Had the 41-year-old Emelianenko decided to hang up the gloves, it would have been his second retirement after taking a break from the sport in June 2012 following a first-round knockout of Pedro Rizzo. He returned in December 2015, winning twice more to put together a five-fight win streak (a modest achievement compared to the 28-fight unbeaten stretch he put together in the 2000s) before joining Bellator last year.
Coming off of his first defeat in almost seven years, Emelianenko couldn’t say whether he’s putting in any extra effort in preparing for his battle with Mir.
“It’s difficult to say because always when I work out I try to work 100-percent,” Emelianenko said. “I cannot say if I became more aggressive or less aggressive and since I understand my coaches, they always want to see their sportsmen more aggressive, more strong, greater, and they want to see their sportsmen that way for a very long time, for more years.”
Though Emelianenko ruled over Japan’s Pride promotion for years, he never actually took part in any of its acclaimed tournaments, so he’s excited to be involved with Bellator’s eight-man Grand Prix that will crown a new heavyweight champion. The remaining field includes Mir, a former UFC heavyweight champion, Mitrione, Chael Sonnen, current Bellator light heavyweight champion Ryan Bader, and former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal.
The last time Emelianenko was in a tournament, it was back in 2011 competing in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix — the brainchild of current Bellator president Scott Coker — and he bowed out unceremoniously in the opening round with a loss to Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva.
Even though he could go one-and-done again, Emelianenko is a fan of the single elimination format.
“It’s always been that such great tournaments would attract a lot of attention,” Emelianenko said. “They were always very interesting, very exciting. It’s always very interesting to see and to find out who is the strongest, who is the fastest, who is the best one.
“For me, that’s a great joy and happiness to be a part of that tournament and to participate in that tournament and to compete with such great and famous sportsmen, sportsmen with great titles, so I’m very happy to be in this tournament.”