The legendary run of Fedor Emilianenko came to a predictable end at Bellator 290. Once again, Emelianenko succumbed to the heavy hands of heavyweight champion Ryan Bader in a failed attempt to recapture a major MMA title.
This would be the second meeting between the two. They previously faced off at Bellator 208 when Bader stunned Emelianenko with a jab that sent him to the ground, leading to a follow-up barrage that ended the fight in just 35 seconds.
Emelianenko, 46, announced ahead of this bout that it would be his last, prompting a huge outpouring of the MMA community to send him off. While Emelianenko made a better account of himself, he was quickly overmatched again.
A straight right connected from Bader that wobbled Emelianenko. Sensing an opportunity, Bader secured his position on the ground and began pounding away until Herb Dean intervened and stopped the fight.
The official time was 2:30 in the first round.
Emelianenko’s retirement was long overdue
“The Last Emperor” is an MMA icon, but the mystique surrounding him ended after suffering a three-fight losing streak while competing with Strikeforce. The most telling loss came in 2011 to Dan Henderson, who competed primarily as a middleweight in the UFC.
He didn’t get the memo and put together a string of wins overseas before being drawn to Bellator in 2017. His debut fight, a loss against Matt Mitrione, punctuated the fact that Emelianenko was no longer the legendary fighter from his PRIDE days.
Bellator figured to give Emelianenko a send-off worthy of his legacy despite fighting only twice since the 2019 loss to Bader. It is unlikely Emelianenko will return to the sport aside from an ambassador role, but anything that can happen in combat sports usually does.
Emelianenko retires with a career record of 40 wins to 7 defeats, and will be remembered as one of the greatest heavyweights of all time.