Bellator held a press conference this past Friday to announce that the great Fedor Emelianenko is returning on October 23rd in Moscow. “The Last Emporer” has not competed since December of 2019 when he stopped Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at Bellator 237. The glory days of devastating ground-and-pound are most certainly behind the Russian, however he still holds the name value to entice fans to tune in. At 44 years of age, Scott Coker needs to be particular selective when choosing a formidable opponent. With no announcement of an opponent at the press conference, we dive in to see who could be next for Fedor Emelianenko.
Most Likely Opponents for Fedor Emelianenko
After failing a drug test that caused the fight to be cancelled in 2009, this long-awaited matchup certainly fits the bill for a reasonable contender. Barnett, otherwise known as “The Warmaster”, is 43 years old and has not competed in a MMA contest since 2016. Barnett was expected to make his Bellator debut in both 2019 and 2020, however an illness and then a subsequent failed drug test prevented him.
When the bracket for the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix debuted, it was meant for Overeem and Emelianenko to meet in the semi-finals. However, Fabricio Werdum and Antonio Silva spoiled those plans. Overeem, recently signed with Glory Kickboxing, but is still able to fight MMA in a promotion of his choosing. “The Demolition Man” is 41 years old and has been the more active fighter. Scott Coker has worked with Overeem in the past, it would come to no surprise if the two meet in Moscow.
This is a bit out of left field per se, but tell me this matchup isn’t pleasing to the hard cores. Two legends of MMA and with Silva not receiving a proper send-off in the UFC, he has an opportunity to go up against someone similar in age. Silva was visibly ecstatic after earning a win over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr this month, it begs the question, would he compete in MMA once again?
Junior Dos Santos
The once great heavyweight is at the tail end of his career and after losing 4 straight, was subsequently cut from the UFC. He has not been officially signed by Bellator, but Scott Coker has expressed interest in “JDS” as a formidable opponent for Fedor Emelianenko. Even though Dos Santos has been unsuccessful in his recent fights, he has been the more active fighter of the two.
When Werdum’s tenure in the UFC ended, fans were clamouring for the rematch with the Russian. Werdum decided to go in a different direction and chose to sign with the PFL. According to MMA Junkie’s John Morgan, this matchup is definitely in play for October and Werdum’s status in the PFL is not a deterring factor.
Bellator does not have a deep roster of heavyweights. But they do have another 46-year old fighter with some name recognition. Kongo, last competed in October of 2020 when he was on the wrong side of a split decision to Tim Johnson. If those list of opponents do not work out for one reason or another, Kongo could be in play as a solid in house option.
Ayala would be the youngest fighter out of the options discussed. However, at 11-8, Ayala should be considered for the fight in Moscow. Ayala isn’t very active with only 4 fights in the past 4 years. He’s also lost 3 of those 4.
With only two fights left on his contract, Fedor Emelianenko is set to end an historic career. With so many pioneers leaving the sport without a proper goodbye, it’s imperative that Scott Coker gives one of the greatest ever an opportunity he so rightfully deserves.
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