Fedor Emelianenko will return to Japan to fight on New Year's Eve. | Photo Courtesy: M-1 Global
Fedor Emelianenko will make his return to the Land of the Rising Sun on New Year’s Eve.
Sherdog.com confirmed with a source close to the event Monday that “The Last Emperor” will lock horns with Olympic judo gold medalist Satoshi Ishii at Dream “Genki Desu Ka! New Year! 2011.” The bout had been teased previously by a number of sources, but it remained unconfirmed until today.
Going down Dec. 31 from the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, the event will also feature the semifinal and final rounds of Dream’s ongoing bantamweight world grand prix. Four men currently remain in the tournament draw, which features Antonio Banuelos, Masakazu Imanari, Bibiano Fernandes and Rodolfo Marques.
The Dream lightweight and featherweight titles will also be up for grabs, as company 155-pound king Shinya Aoki will put his belt on the line against former Sengoku champion Satoru Kitaoka, and 145-pound pacesetter Hiroyuki Takaya will defend his strap against two-time Shooto champion Takeshi Inoue. The event is expected to air live on HDNet.
Long considered the best heavyweight in the world, Emelianenko returned to his winning ways in November after suffering three consecutive losses. Following his defeats to Fabricio Werdum, Antonio Silva and Dan Henderson in the Strikeforce cage, the Russian outpointed former UFC title challenger Jeff Monson on Nov. 20 in Moscow. The face of M-1 Global, Emelianenko last competed in Japan four years ago, submitting massive South Korean kickboxer Hong Man Choi in 2007.
Ishii, 24, holds but a fraction of Emelianenko's professional experience. A superior judo practitioner, Ishii took home the gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. After falling by unanimous decision to fellow Olympic champion Hidehiko Yoshida in his MMA debut, Ishii rattled off four straight wins before drawing with former WEC middleweight champion Paulo Filho in a controversial verdict at Amazon Forest Combat 1 on Sept. 14.