Fedor Emelianenko and Nobuyuki Sakakibara are working together again. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Fedor Emelianenko has picked a promotion for his MMA return, but at least for now, it won’t be for either of his main suitors.
“The Last Emperor” will compete for the first time in more than three years when he fights on New Year’s Eve in Tokyo for a new organization run by former Pride Fighting Championships President Nobuyuki Sakakibara. According to a release, Sakakibara is partnering with Bellator MMA for the event, which will be televised on Spike TV.
“I have decided to return. On this New Year’s Eve we’ll have a big event in Japan. And Spike TV are working with us on the show. Let’s start a new chapter of MMA,” Sakakibara said during the Bellator 142 "Dynamite broadcast on Saturday night.
An opponent for Emelianenko’s return was not announced, but the Russian will be headlining the card. It is currently unclear if Emelianenko will compete under the Bellator MMA banner in the future. Further details are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
“I am a fighter,” Emelianenko said in English. “And I am ready. I will see you New Year’s Eve on Spike TV.”
Over the past few weeks, there were rumors that Emelianenko had signed with the UFC, but promotion president Dana White squashed that speculation when asked about the negotiations during a press conference in Melbourne this week.
“There is nothing to tell you. If there was, I’d tell you,” White said. “The Fedor thing has been a mystery for a very long time. We’ve obviously talked to them. I don’t know what they’re doing right now or what their plans are.”
Emelianenko hasn’t competed since June 21, 2012, when he scored a first-round knockout of Pedro Rizzo at an M-1 Global event in Russia. Regarded as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters of all-time, Emelianenko is a former Pride heavyweight titlist and owns notable wins over the likes of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mirko Filipovic, Mark Hunt, Andrei Arlovski, Tim Sylvia and Mark Coleman, to name a few.