MMA fans around the world were witness to a historic moment as the legendary Fedor Emelianenko stepped into the cage for the last time at Bellator 290. After a 20 year career, the 46-year-old Russian heavyweight was met with a who’s who of MMA luminaries, including former opponents Mark Coleman and Dan Henderson, as well as Josh Barnett, Randy Couture, Royce Gracie, Matt Hughes, “Rampage” Jackson, and Frank Shamrock. However, the night belonged to Ryan Bader, who spoiled the occasion by making quick work of Emelianenko, winning by first-round TKO after just 2 minutes and 30 seconds to retain his heavyweight title.
The speed difference between Bader, 39, and Emelianenko was evident from the start. It didn’t take long for Bader to clip Emelianenko with a right hand that staggered him back onto the canvas. Bader pounced, then settled into position before unleashing punches and hammerfists while controlling one of Emelianenko’s wrists. It left referee Herb Dean no choice but to step in. Afterward, Bader admitted he didn’t exactly enjoy what had to be done, but expressed his appreciation for being part of Emelianenko’s story.
Emelianenko, who made his professional debut in May of 2000, was considered the pound-for-pound No. 1 fighter in the world during his heyday when he competed for Pride FC. Although he never fought for the UFC, he holds victories over a number of former UFC champions. He leaves the sport as one of the greatest fighters of all time and is considered by many as the greatest heavyweight.
The fight between Bader and Emelianenko was a rematch of their 2019 Bellator heavyweight grand prix final, which Bader won in 35 seconds to first claim the title. Although Emelianenko was disappointed in not delivering in the fight, he was touched by the show of appreciation from his peers and the adoring crowd.
The night was bittersweet, but the legacy of Fedor Emelianenko will live on forever. His 20 year career has left a lasting impression on the sport of MMA, and his status as one of the greatest fighters of all time is undisputed. He will always be remembered for his incredible accomplishments and contributions to the sport.