Of all the situations the ‘Last Emperor’ could have expected in Chicago this week for Bellator 198, an interaction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was probably not one of them.
According to The Telegraph, the FBI showed up at Fedor Emelianenko’s hotel on Wednesday, April 25, where they requested to see the legendary fighter and “knocked on his room.” The same report suggests that the FBI have been moving back and forth from the hotel over the past few days.
While the FBI’s reported presence during fight week is unusual, it does not appear to involve any suggestion of any wrongdoing on Fedor’s part. It is unclear why the FBI is present or why they are interested in speaking to the former PRIDE heavyweight champion.
Though it remains unclear why the FBI would be interested in Fedor, it should be noted that the longtime fighter has previously had working relationships with Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump. However, while the Telegraph article claims that “Fedor has friends, who are fans, in very high places,” referring to Trump and Putin, this is not the case. While Fedor did maintain working relationships with both presidents at one point or another during his career, he was never friends with the politicians.
Fedor’s association with Putin led to the legalization of MMA in the Russian Federation in 2012, as well as Fedor himself becoming the president of the Russian MMA Union, the sport’s regulatory body. In exchange for his newfound career in sports administration, Fedor became a political tool in Putin’s re-election campaign. Ahead of Putin’s re-election in 2012, Fedor campaigned for the ‘United Russia’ party in support of Putin, who later won a third term for presidency with 63.6% of the vote. At the time, Putin’s popularity had reportedly faltered and the added support and prestige that came from role model athletes like Fedor was seen as key to restoring faith.
However, Fedor’s campaigning for Putin was not his first taste of political life in Russia. Back in 2010, when he was still in the midst of his MMA career, he was elected to a five-year term as a deputy of the Belgorod Regional Duma, representing the loyalist United Russia political party. On July 28, 2012, Emelianenko replaced Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as a staff member of Russia’s Council of Physical Fitness & Sports. The corresponding decree was signed by Putin himself.
With regards to Trump, Fedor’s relationship with the U.S. President was limited to him headlining two Affliction shows before the promotion’s collapse. Trump ventured into the mixed martial arts realm in 2008 by investing in the Affliction brand and promoting Fedor as a fighter who is capable of “inflicting death on people.”
While Trump and Fedor began a working relationship long before the businessman’s pivot to politics, the Affliction deal was noted by the Hillary Clinton campaign as one of the key ties between Trump and the Russian Federation.
Given this information, it could be speculated that the FBI is potentially questioning Fedor about his relationship to Trump and Putin to determine whether there is an association between Trump and the Russian Federation. However, given the lack of information on the matter, it is difficult to come to an accurate conclusion on this bizarre situation.
** Bellator officials are yet to respond to a request for comment.