Heralded as one of, if not the greatest heavyweight to have ever graced a pro mixed martial arts arena, Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko has never competed under the umbrella of the UFC – widely regarded as the world’s best promotion.
For years, rumours swirled around that the once “Baddest man on the planet” would one day walk through the doors of UFC HQ, and for years it never happened.
Though, if there was the slightest chance of Emelianenko ever throwing down in the eight-walled cage, it was in 2016. As we now know, that hit the buffers, as Emelianenko elected to sign with Bellator; the UFC’s closest rivals.
Speaking to Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of the MMA Hour, Emelianenko gave his reasons for choosing the Santa Monica based promotion over the WME-IMG owned company:
“We had made great relations with Scott Coker,” Emelianenko said through an interpreter. “I received a very good offer from Bellator. In addition, Bellator invited my entire team. So all of the guys will be performing as well.”
“Depending on the point of view, a lot of times you can be very close and sort of go around and around and never get to it,” he said. “There were some things that were not satisfactory for UFC and there were some things that were not satisfactory for me and we never came to an agreement.”
“One of the main reasons was the ability for my team to perform, for my guys to perform,” Emelianenko said. “The other reasons were, we were not exactly on the same terms [with the UFC] as far as the financial conditions and some other things, some other smaller things as well.”
Emelianenko’s last outing (eight months ago) before inking with Bellator was against former UFC light heavyweight Fabio Maldonado at EFN 50.
The Brazilian Maldonado nearly ended the fight in the opening stanza, but somehow, Emelianenko (36-4, 1 NC) was able to survive the onslaught, and salvage a hotly contested majority decision victory.
“I did not think so at the moment,” Emelianenko said. “I do understand that there isn’t a whole lot of time that I have left and considering my age, of course. But no, I didn’t think it was time to end my career after the last fight. No, I didn’t have any thoughts like that.”
For almost a decade (Apr. 2001 – Jun. 2010) Emelianenko, now 40, went undefeated – amassing a twenty-eight-fight unbeaten streak (twenty-seven-fight win streak) during that period.
However, Fabricio Werdum (fighting under the now defunct Strikeforce banner) put an end to Emelianenko’s winning ways via first-round submission. Werdum also handed the MMA legend his second career loss to date.
The rot didn’t stop there – Emelianenko went on a three-fight skid – stoppages to Dan Henderson and Antonio Silva.
After leaving Strikeforce, Emelianenko contested at other promotions; most notably M-1 Global and Rizin where he was able to get back into the win column.
Emelianenko who now sports a five-fight win streak is set to meet Matt Mitrione this Sat., Feb. 18, 2017 in the main event at Bellator 172.