Fedor Emelianenko vs. Timothy Johnson Booked as Oct. 23 Bellator Moscow Headliner

By Jay Pettry Aug 5, 2021

Recent Bellator MMA interim title challenger Timothy Johnson is the winner of the Fedor Emelianenko sweepstakes.

On Thursday, Bellator announced that Emelianenko (39-6, 1 NC) now has an opponent for his headliner atop Bellator Moscow in October. The Oct. 23 show, which will be held inside the VTB Arena – barring any COVID-19 related concerns – will be capped off by a heavyweight battle between Emelianenko and Johnson (15-7). While this will be the final bout for “The Last Emperor” in his home country of Russia, he will reportedly take one more match to say goodbye to the sport.

The Pride Fighting Championships legend had multiple different foes suggested or offered for his final run. Those names included Junior dos Santos, Josh Barnett, Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum and even Anderson Silva. Dos Santos supposedly received an offer for a possible matchup, but it fell through. Instead, the promotion will be using a member currently on its roster rather than signing a free agent.

The 44-year-old has won three of four, with his lone defeat in that stretch to Ryan Bader for the heavyweight crown. On his way through the Bellator heavyweight tournament, he bested Frank Mir and Chael Sonnen, both by first-round knockout. Each of his last five bouts, win or lose, have ended in the first round due to strikes. Emelianenko retired after his win over Pedro Rizzo in 2021, but he returned over three years later to compete under the Rizin Fighting Federation banner and force Jaideep Singh to tap to strikes.

Johnson is coming off of a loss to Emelianenko’s teammate Valentin Moldavsky for the interim heavyweight crown in June. Johnson fought beyond the third round for the first time in his career in that match, and he fell short by lopsided unanimous decision when ultimately unable to stop Moldavsky’s grappling. The defeat snapped a three-fight win streak where the ex-Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter knocked out Tyrell Fortune and Matt Mitrione, while winning a decision over Cheick Kongo to get a crack at gold. Johnson was part of the first headliner into France when he faced Kongo, and he will be a member of the inaugural main event for Bellator into Russia.

Bellator Moscow, a currently unnumbered event while the promotion announces other upcoming dates, will go down on Oct. 23 in the VTB Arena in Moscow. The Emelianenko-Johnson heavyweight clash will not be the only major tilt in the weight class, as ex-champ Vitaly Minakov returns from a lengthy absence against Fortune. Unbeaten lightweight prospect Usman Nurmagomedov has been linked to this card as well, but his opponent is currently undetermined.

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