Fedor Emelianenko, the former #1 heavyweight on the planet and longtime Pride FC Heavyweight Champion, is back.
The announcement was made Saturday night during Bellator 142: Dynamite before the finals of the light heavyweight tournament. While details are still unclear, it is known that Fedor will be competing under Sakakibara’s new promotion, whose name has yet to be confirmed, with the bout occurring on New Year’s Eve. The fight will air live on Spike TV. An opponent for Fedor has not yet been announced.
The news comes as quite a shock to an industry that seemed to be counting the days until “The Last Emperor” officially signed with Ultimate Championship Fighting, the only major promotion yet to enjoy Fedor’s services during his career. It is likely that the Russian hero would’ve received an immediate title shot had he signed with the UFC, possibly garnering him a rematch against Fabricio Werdum, the man to end his years unbeaten streak.
When he returns this winter, it will have been 3 1/2 years since the former champion last participated in active competition. Emelianenko (34-4-1) has not competed since 2012, when he dispatched Pedro Rizzo via KO in the first round. He would retire after that contest, ending his legendary run in the sport on a 3-fight winning streak. Prior to the streak, Fedor had dropped 3 in a row to elite competition in Strikeforce.
Emelianenko gained God-like status in the world of MMA during his time with Pride FC, the now defunct Japanese powerhouse promotion that was also founded by Sakakibara. During that time, Fedor defeated nearly every notable heavyweight fighter in the sport and defended his championship until the company officially closed its doors in 2007.