INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Ryan Bader has been saying all week that he doesn’t mind being “the bad guy” against Fedor Emelianenko in his retirement fight. A man of his word, he’s gone through “The Last Emperor.”
Bader spoiled Emelianenko’s last appearance in an MMA cage by making quick work of him, winning by first-round TKO after just 2 minutes and 30 seconds to retain his heavyweight title. The fight headlined Bellator’s debut on CBS at the Kia Forum.
The speed difference between Bader, 39, and Emelianenko, 46, was evident from the outset. It didn’t take long for Bader (31-7 MMA, 9-2 BMMA) to cut Emelianenko (40-7 MMA, 4-3 BMMA) with a right hand that sent him reeling to the canvas. Bader pounced, then settled into position before landing punches and hammer punches as he controlled one of Emelianenko’s wrists. Referee Herb Dean had no choice but to intervene.
Later, Bader admitted that he didn’t appreciate exactly what needed to be done.
“It was bittersweet. She idolizes him like every other upcoming MMA fan and fighter,” Bader said before addressing the crowd and Emelianenko directly. “First of all, stand up and give that man a hand for what he has done for the sport He put the sport on his back. That man is a legend right there, and I’m so happy to be able to be a part of his story, so thank you so much, Fedor. You are the man. But I had to come in and do my job at end of the day I got the win, and then you gotta keep going.
Moving forward is what Emelianenko will be doing, as he announced before the fight that he would hang up his gloves. To honor him, Bellator invited a who’s who of MMA luminaries who were in attendance, including former opponents Mark Coleman and Dan Henderson, as well as Josh Barnett, Randy Couture, Royce Gracie, Matt Hughes, “Rampage” Jackson and Frank Shamrock.
Emelianenko was moved by the show of appreciation from his peers and the adoring crowd.
“On the one hand, I’m obviously sad that I didn’t deliver in the fight as I would have liked,” Emelianenko said. “But on the other hand, I’m so happy that all these people are here cheering me on, and all these veteran fighters who have been walking with me for almost the last 20 years are here to say hello. I’m really happy. I’m so happy to see all the fighters who are here to support me. A thousand thanks.”
Farewell to Fedor: ‘The People’s Forever Heavyweight Champion’
Emelianenko, who made his professional debut in May 2000, was considered the No. 1 in the world during his heyday when he competed for Pride FC. Although he has never fought for the UFC, he does hold victories over numerous former UFC champions. He leaves the sport as one of the greatest fighters of all time and is considered by many to be the greatest heavyweight.
The fight between Bader and Emelianenko was a rematch of the 2019 Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix Final which Bader won in 35 seconds to reclaim the title. He expressed appreciation for being a part of Emelianenko’s storytelling career.
“It’s not even the victories. It’s being able to compete against that man,” Bader said. “That first fight was great, and this is the same deal. It’s such a buildup every time you fight Fedor and you’re faced with that cage. It’s pretty surreal, so doing it twice – I don’t care about beating it twice. I’m interested in sharing the cage with that man. It was a good ride.”
Complete Bellator 290 achievements:
Johnny Eblen def. Anatoly Tokov by unanimous decision (50-45, 49-46, 49-46)
Brennan Ward def. Sabah Homasi via TKO (head kick & punches) – Round 2, 1:34
Lorenz Larkin def. Mukhamed Berkhamov via knockout (elbow) – Round 1, 1:41
Henry Corrales def. Akhmed Magomedov by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Ali Isaev vs. Steve Mowry ends in a unanimous draw (28-28, 28-28, 28-28)
Chris González def. Max Rohskopf via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 1:22
Grant Neil def. Karl Albrektsson via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Diana Avsaragova def. Alejandra Lara via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Nikita Mikhailov def. Darrion Caldwell by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
For more information on the card, visit the MMA Junkie Events Hub for Bellator 290.
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The story originally appeared in MMA Junkie