The legendary career of former PRIDE heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko will come to an end in 2023. Emelianenko will fight for one final time when he faces heavyweight champion Ryan Bader for the title inside the Kia Forum in Inglewood, California at Bellator 290 on Feb. 4. The card will air live on CBS, the first time the promotion has aired live on the network and the first time MMA has been live on CBS since 2010.
The fight, which will be the first for the promotion of 2023, is a rematch of the January 2019 bout between the two. Bader won that fight via TKO in just 35 seconds to win the Bellator Heavyweight World Grand Prix and the then-vacant championship. The win made Bader, who also held the light heavyweight championship, a two-division champion.
“We have been working tirelessly on growing this brand into the global powerhouse it is today and a primetime slot on CBS has always been one of our key objectives,” Bellator president Scott Coker said in a statement. “With a healthy roster full of many of the world’s very best fighters, along with elite up-and-coming prospects and legends of the game, I’m very excited to showcase this event on the most-watched network in America.”
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Bader went on to lose the light heavyweight title to Vadim Nemkov. He also lost to Corey Anderson in the Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix. Since the loss to Anderson, Bader defended the heavyweight title against interim champion Valentin Moldavsky and Cheick Kongo.
Emelianenko became an MMA legend during his stint with PRIDE FC. After debuting with the Japanese promotion in 2002 with wins over Semmy Schilt and Heath Herring, Emelianenko won the PRIDE heavyweight championship with a win over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in the first fight of their tremendous rivalry.
After a 27-fight win streak that saw him compete in Rings, PRIDE, Affliction and Strikeforce, Emelianenko lost three fights in the Strikeforce organization. After five wins, Emelianenko signed with Bellator and debuted for the promotion in June 2017. He has since gone 4-2, losing to Bader and Matt Mitrione while holding wins over UFC veterans Frank Mir, Chael Sonnen, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Timothy Johnson.
Emelianenko remains the greatest fighter in MMA history to never fight in the UFC. His career record stands at 40-6.
The co-main event will feature Yoel Romero challenging for the light heavyweight championship against the winner of the Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix finals between champion Vadim Nemkov and challenger Corey Anderson. Nemkov vs. Anderson takes place at Bellator 288 on Nov. 18.