Fedor Emelianenko to Take Retirement Title Bout Against Ryan Bader in February

The legendary Fedor Emelianenko is getting a chance to go out on top.

On Friday, CBS Sports broke the news that Emelianenko (40-6, 1 NC) would be taking his final fight on Feb. 4. Atop Bellator 290, he will square off against former foe Ryan Bader (30-7, 1 NC) for the latter’s heavyweight title. The fight card will be held at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., and it will air on the CBS network. This event will be the first MMA fight card on CBS since Strikeforce: Nashville in 2010, which concluded with a massive post-fight brawl and the prompted the cancelation of Strikeforce's television contract.

Former two-division champ Bader has not tasted defeat as a heavyweight, as he moved up to the division in 2018 and rattled off three wins in under a year over Muhammad Lawal, Matt Mitrione and the aforementioned Emelianenko to claim the strap. While his first defense against Cheick Kongo ended by no contest due to an eye poke, a contentious title unification match against Valentin Moldavsky and a subsequent rematch of Kongo both went his way by five-round decision. As a 205er, however, he has lost two of his last three, with knockout losses coming to Vadim Nemkov for his own belt and Corey Anderson in the light heavyweight tourney semifinal.

Since Bader knocked him out in early 2019, Emelianenko has not lost. He bounced back 11 months after the setback to Bader by pummeling Quinton Jackson in the first round in Japan. He returned nearly two years later to square off against Tim Johnson in the main event of Bellator’s Russia debut, and he smashed Johnson in under two minutes. “The Last Emperor” has not won a championship bout in a major organization – this does not count his World Alliance of Mixed Martial Arts title, which sold on Ebay to an anonymous bidder for $1,595 in 2011 – since 2006, when he tapped Mark Hunt with a kimura for the Pride Fighting Championships strap. Since his final Pride appearance in 2006, he has won 14 times, and 12 of those have come inside the distance. According to a Bellator official, Emelianenko has been asking for this rematch ever since the loss to Bader.

The organization also made a second announcement for this event’s billing: the light heavyweight belt will be on the line as well that night. The winner of Nemkov-Anderson 2, who will throw down at Bellator 288 on Nov. 18 in Chicago, will make his next defense in the co-main event of Bellator 290. That victor's foe will be Yoel Romero, who has fought three times under the Bellator banner since joining the league in 2021. While Romero did not get his hand raised in his debut against Phil Davis, subsequent pairings with Alex Polizzi and Melvin Manhoef saw “Soldier of God” put them both away in the third round.
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