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Fedor Emelianenko gets retirement fight, meets Ryan Bader for title at Bellator 290

The legendary heavyweight will have one more shot at gold before calling it a career. 

Fedor Emelianenko at Bellator Japan in 2019.
Fedor Emelianenko at Bellator Japan in 2019.
Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images

Fedor Emelianenko is getting a championship opportunity in the final fight of his legendary career.

CBS Sports’ Brent Brookhouse and Shakiel Mahjouri report that Emelianenko and reigning Bellator heavyweight champion Ryan Bader are expected to headline Bellator 290, the upcoming event scheduled for Feb. 4, 2023, at the Kia Forum in Inglewood, California. Bellator 290 airs on CBS, which is the first time the promotion will host an event on the network.

“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,” said Bellator president Scott Coker in a press release. “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.”

Emelianenko and Bader have fought before at Bellator 214, where the ‘Last Emperor’ was knocked out by ‘Darth’ in 35 seconds in the Heavyweight World Grand Prix finals over three years ago. Emelianenko rebounded with first-round KOs of Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Timothy Johnson at Bellator 237 and Bellator 269, respectively.

Following his win over Johnson, Emelianenko revealed that he had one more fight on his current contract with Bellator and set his sights on a rematch with Bader.

Bader retained the heavyweight title in his first defense at Bellator 226 after Cheick Kongo could no longer continue due to an accidental eye poke. The Power MMA Team product dropped down to light heavyweight for his next defense of that title, only to lose it to Vadim Nemkov by second-round TKO. The former two-division champion would stay at 205 to compete in the Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix, but was taken out by Corey Anderson in the semifinals.

Bader returned to heavyweight in 2022, successfully defending his title twice against Valentin Moldavsky and the aforementioned Kongo.

Also announced for Bellator 290 is a fight between the winner of Vadim Nemkov vs. Corey Anderson 2 and Yoel Romero for the light heavyweight championship.