As Fedor Emelinanko steps inside the octagon for his final dance, a true MMA legend whose contributions to the sport will be remembered for years to come. With his impressive record, longevity, and humble demeanor, he has earned his place in the pantheon of greats and will always be remembered as one of the greatest fighters of all time.
Emelianenko has set himself apart from other MMA fighters with his humility and sportsmanship. Despite his success and accolades, he has always remained grounded and gracious, treating his opponents with respect inside and outside the octagon. This has endeared him to fans and earned him the respect of his peers. Some of these peers, who are to be described as nothing other than MMA legends, will be in attendance for Bellator 290.
Bellator president Scott Coker confirmed during an appearance on “The MMA Hour” that Josh Barnett, Mark Coleman, Randy Couture, Renzo Gracie, Royce Gracie, Dan Henderson, Matt Hughes, Rampage Jackson, Chuck Liddell, Frank Shamrock, and Chael Sonnen will be among the star-studded attendees.
Josh Barnett is a former UFC heavyweight champion who, throughout his career, has faced some of the most formidable opponents in the sport and has established himself as a true legend in his own right. Barnett boasts notable wins over Andrei Arlovski, Roy Nelson, Frank Mir, Pedro Rizzo, Mark Hunt, and Randy Couture.
Josh Barnett, who hosted eight bloodsport events, a unique mixture of MMA and pro wrestling, went on record in 2022 in calling to be a possible opponent for Fedor’s final fight.
On Lex Fridman’s podcast, Barnett expressed his admiration and respect towards Fedor. To Barnett, Emelianenko represents everything great about the sport of mixed martial arts. His humility and respect not only for his opponents but the art itself will always be a source of inspiration and motivation for future generations of fighters.
Mark Coleman is a former mixed martial artist and wrestler who is widely considered one of the pioneers of mixed martial arts. Inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2008, it is evident that Coleman has had a lasting impact on the sport.
One of the key reasons for this is his role as a pioneer. He was one of the first fighters to transition from wrestling to mixed martial arts, and he helped lay the foundation for the sport as it is known today. With his relentless grappling style, he showed the world what was possible in the cage and inspired countless fighters to follow in his footsteps.
For Coleman, Emelianenko represents both a rival and a source of inspiration. Coleman and Emelianenko first faced each other in the ring in June 2003, at Pride FC Final Conflict, with Emelianenko winning the bout via submission. The two fighters would meet again in June 2011, with Emelianenko once again coming out on top.
Despite the losses, Coleman has always spoken highly of Emelianenko and the impact that he has had on the sport. Coleman has said that watching Emelianenko fight was like watching a master at work and that he has always been amazed by his skill and athleticism.
Randy Couture is a former mixed martial artist and wrestler who is widely considered one of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport. Couture is a former Olympic wrestler who transitioned to mixed martial arts in 1997.
Throughout his career, he has competed in some of the biggest promotions in the world, including the UFC. He has held multiple championship titles in both heavyweight and Light Heavyweight divisions. Couture, also a former opponent of Fedor, faced off in August 2007 at Affliction: Banned, with Fedor winning via TKO.
Couture, who appeared in all three of the Expendables movies, is much like Fedor in that, despite being in his 40s, competed against fighters much younger. However, despite his age, Couture still won multiple championships and continued to compete at the highest level. He is a true testament to the power of hard work and dedication, and his longevity in the sport has inspired countless fighters to keep pushing themselves to the limit.
Renzo Gracie is a mixed martial artist and member of the legendary Gracie family, which is widely considered to be one of the pioneers of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and modern mixed martial arts. A true gentleman outside of the ring, Gracie has been a great ambassador for mixed martial arts.
He is also highly respected as a coach and trainer and has worked with some of the top fighters in the sport over the years. Renzo has also praised Fedor for his fighting style, which combines his grappling skills with striking ability and a seemingly indomitable will. According to Renzo, Fedor’s ability to take on all comers, regardless of size or style, is a testament to his martial arts mastery.
Another member of the famous Gracie family, Royce Gracie, first rose to fame in the early 1990s when he won three consecutive UFC tournaments, showcasing his dominant grappling skills and revolutionizing the sport of mixed martial arts in the process. With his impressive record, Gracie quickly became a household name and inspired countless fighters to take up Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Gracie has earned his place among the all-time greats and will always be remembered as one of the top fighters of his era. His legacy continues to inspire and influence fighters to this day.
Royce Gracie and Fedor Emelianenko come from different generations of mixed martial arts. Still, they share a common bond through their love of the sport and unwavering respect for one another. In many ways, Emelianenko is the embodiment of what Gracie himself represents and is a true testament to the power of martial arts. Gracie has long been a vocal advocate for the sport of mixed martial arts, and he recognizes Emelianenko as a fighter who has made a significant impact on the sport and helped to push it to new heights.
Dan Henderson is a retired American mixed martial artist and former Olympic wrestler. Henderson made his professional debut in 1997 and, throughout his career, competed in the UFC, Pride, and Strikeforce. Dan Henderson was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame for his fight with Shogun Rua in 2011. Henderson has an established list of victories, including none other than Shogun Rua, Fedor Emlianeko, Michael Bisping, Wanderlei Silva, Vitor Belfort, and Renzo Gracie.
Henderson and Emelianenko fought each other in the main event of Strikeforce: “Fedor vs. Henderson” in 2011. The fight was one of the most highly anticipated in the sport’s history at the time. Dan Henderson has spoken highly of Fedor Emelianenko, recognizing him as a true legend of mixed martial arts. Furthermore, Henderson has praised Emelianenko for his dominance in the ring and his embodiment of the spirit of competition.
Matt Hughes is a former mixed martial artist who dominated the Welterweight division for many years. Hughes boasts a real whos who of victories against some of the biggest names in MMA history. These include George St Pierre, Matt Serra, BJ Penn, Renzo Gracie, Royce Gracie, and Carlos Newton.
Hughes is also another UFC hall of Famer who will be in attendance. Inducted in 2010, Matt Hughes has been an inspiration to many during his comeback from being hit by a train in 2017. The accident caused a grade-3 diffuse axonal injury - a bleed on the brain. However, Hughes has shown the fighter spirit within himself to recover from this, re-learn how to walk and talk, and continuously inspire others—having somebody as respected by his peers and the MMA community as Matt Hughes speaks volumes of what Fedor means to Hughes and the MMA universe.
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson is a retired mixed martial artist who significantly impacted the sport during his career. He is widely regarded as one of the most exciting and charismatic fighters of his era. He is known for his powerful strikes, relentless pace, and never-say-die attitude in the octagon.
In addition to his success in the ring, Rampage was known for his charity work outside of the sport. He is actively involved in giving back to his community.
Jackson holds notable victories over Wanderlei Silva, Chuck Liddell, Dan Henderson, Lyoto Machida, and Kevin Randleman. Jackson also competed for the UFC lightweight title against Jon Jones in 2011, losing via a rear-naked choke in the 4th round. Fedor was Jackson’s last opponent before retiring in 2019. A unique mutual respect between opponents will be on display as Rampage pays homage to a former rival.
Chuck Liddell is a retired mixed martial artist and undoubtedly one of the biggest names in the sport’s history. An absolute fan-favorite with his famous mohawk haircut, he was known for his heavy hands, striking skills, and willingness to stand and trade blows with his opponents. He will always be remembered for his exciting style, which often involved a relentless pace, heavy strikes, and an iron chin.
Liddell not only faced but beat some of the toughest competition the sport has had. Some of his victories include Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture, Victor Belfrot, Kevin Randleman, and Wanderlei Silva.
Chuck Liddell has been quoted as saying that Fedor Emelianenko is one of the greatest fighters of all time and a true legend of the sport. He has also praised Emelianenko for his striking skills and ability to adapt and evolve his style throughout his career. In addition, Liddell has spoken highly of Emelianenko’s ability to control the pace of the fight, his grappling skills, and his overall toughness in the ring. Overall, Liddell has shown great respect for Emelianenko’s abilities and impact on the sport of mixed martial arts.
Frank Shamrock is a retired mixed martial artist who was one of the first fighters to embrace the idea of cross-training and was known for incorporating various styles and techniques into his game. In addition to his success in the ring with victories over opposition, including Tito Ortiz, Cesar Gracie, and Kevin Jackson.
Shamrock was also known for his charismatic personality and ability to promote the sport. He was one of the first fighters to bring a larger-than-life personality to the sport, and he helped to popularize mixed martial arts with his exciting fights and larger-than-life personality. Like many others in attendance, Shamrock has shown great respect for Fedor Emelianenko and his impact on the sport.
Shamrock was at the forefront of the birth of MMA. Debuting in 1994, when the sport was different from the polished spectacle we see today. Shamrock has seen the growth and development of mixed martial arts and is held in the highest regard by many of his peers. His presence speaks volumes of what Fedor means to the sport.
Chael Sonnen is a former UFC title challenger and retired MMA fighter. Now a popular podcast host on youtube, the “Oregon gangster” continues to be a fan-favorite as an analyst for ESPN. Sonnen had a successful MMA and wrestling career, with notable wins against Rampage Jackson, Wanderlei Silva, Michael Bisping, and Shogun Rua. Additionally, Sonnen challenged for the UFC Middleweight championship twice against Anderson Silva and the Light Heavyweight championship against Jon Jones.
Sonnen captivated the audience throughout his career with his undeniably charismatic and verbose personality, both a masterful planner of material and quick on his feet, whose skills inside the cage equal his gifts outside it. Sonnen shared the octagon in his penultimate fight against Fedor at Bellator 208. Like many who will be in attendance, those who shared the octagon with Fedor speak only in high praise of the legend.
Scott Coker claimed that many of the aforementioned attendees reached out to him about attending Bellator 290 on their own. Many of whom shared the octagon with Fedor, the rest, like many of us, would have admired his career as a fan. Not only does the support from all-time greats show what a tremendous impact Fedor has had on the sport. But the words used to describe him as a person and his unrivaled career show what a legacy he will leave and what a role model he is to those coming up. At Bellator 290, we will witness the last fight of someone who genuinely, and forever will be, a legend in mixed martial arts history.