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Fedor speaks out against sanctions targeting Russian athletes

“They will understand that there is no way without Russia.”

Bellator Japan - Fedor v Rampage Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images

Fedor Emelianenko—one of the greatest fighters in mixed martial arts history—is not impressed with the current treatment of Russian athletes on the global stage.

The former PRIDE heavyweight champion and current Bellator competitor spoke out against the sanctions placed on Russia and its athletes across various international sports leagues. This includes the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF), which suspended both the Russian and Belarusian federations for the foreseeable future.

“We hope that the sanctions will not last forever and that the European and World Championships will be of full value,” said Emelianenko. “But we are developing a plan B to meet and communicate with friendly countries.”

Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the world’s largest nation has transformed into a pariah in the world of sports. Russia’s national and club soccer teams have been banned from international competition, including the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. UEFA also canceled its $45 million a year sponsorship deal with Gazprom, and moved the Champions League Final, which was due to play in Putin’s hometown of St. Petersburg, to Paris. The International Paralympic Committee also moved to bar athletes from Russia and Belarus on the eve of the Paralympic Games in Beijing.

For its part, the IOC urged sports bodies to exclude Russian athletes from international competition, stating that there was a need to “protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants.”

The Russian-born Emelianenko disagreed with the international community’s decision to isolate Russia from global sports, adding that decision is hypocritical. “Somehow it turns out that we have always had the slogan “keep politics out of sports”, but politics is the first thing that hits sports.”

“We hope that the sanctioning countries will finally come to their senses. They will understand that there is no way without Russia.”