Former Pride Fighting Championships heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko will face former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight champion Frank Mir in the main event of Bellator 198 this Saturday at Allstate Arena in Chicago. The winner will progress to the semi-finals of the 2018 Bellator Heavyweight World Grand Prix tournament to face another former Octagon talent in Chael Sonnen. Sonnen defeated Quinton Jackson in January to secure his spot in the next round.
Emelianenko made a recent appearance on “The MMA Hour” and was asked if he was concerned about the potential mind games that would certainly happen if he were to face Sonnen in the semi-finals.
“I don’t think that I need to answer anything that Chael Sonnen said about me,” Emelianenko said via a Russian translator. “To speak about Chael Sonnen and the fight with Chael Sonnen, I think we’ll be able to after the fight with Frank Mir. So we have to finish that fight first and then, if that’s God’s will, I’ll face Chael Sonnen.”
Emelianenko was once considered untouchable earlier in his career where he went 28 fights undefeated over a nine year period.
In that unbeaten run, “The Last Emperor” beat some of the best heavyweights in the world at the time including Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mirko Filipovic, Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, Andrei Arlovski and Tim Sylvia.
In June 2010, his winning streak came to an end when he was submitted by former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Wedrum in Strikeforce. He then suffered two more defeats after that fight before rebounding with five straight wins. His last fight ended in bizarre circumstances when he lost to Matt Mitrione in 74 seconds in June last year. Both fighters hit each other at the same time and knocked each other down before Mitrione managed to get up and jumped on the fallen Russian, knocking him out.
Fight fans are concerned about how the 41-year-old Emelianenko will handle Mir given the large size difference. At their initial face off earlier in the year, Mir claimed he was over 300 pounds at the time.
“Actually, when I met Frank, I saw that he really became bigger, so he became heavier,” Emelianenko said. “But I don’t see any problem with that. I don’t think size is a big problem, for me the most significant thing is the knowledge that the fighter gets and the shape that the fighter gets after he prepares for a fight and in my career I did have many fights where the opponents were much bigger than me.”
Another factor going into the fight is the opinion that Emelianenko is arguably less effective in a cage compared to the ring which is where he’s had most of his fights. Emelianenko doesn’t understand the criticism and feels “comfortable” in either. He did mention that he has focused on cage work in this training camp.
“Yes, certainly during my camp I did work in the cage and I did have the sparring in the cage as well,” Emelianenko said. “I can tell you that recently during the last time I exercised, I worked out, I trained in the cage, not in the ring.”
Back in 2004, Mir was the UFC heavyweight champion and Emelianenko was still dominating in Japan’s Pride promotion, which is where he was the most effective during his career. At the time, fans were hopeful for this matchup to happen. Despite the fight being 14 years later, Emelianenko is still excited to be able to replicate the fight for fans at Bellator 198.
“Frank was the champion of the UFC and our fans have been waiting for this fight for a pretty long time and I think that will be a great fight and for me, that’s a remarkable event as well,” Emelianenko said.