The Fedor Emelianenko sweepstakes is over.
After weeks of speculation as to who will be one of the final career opponents for “The Last Emporer,” a frontrunner emerged. Bellator is finalizing a three-round main event for Emelianenko (39-6 MMA, 3-2 BMMA), which will see him battle former UFC fighter Tim Johnson (15-7 MMA, 3-3 BMMA).
Bellator Moscow takes place Oct. 23 at VTB Arena in Moscow. The main card airs on Showtime after prelims on MMA Junkie.
A person with knowledge of the situation informed MMA Junkie of the booking Thursday but asked to remain anonymous as the promotion has yet to make an official announcement. TASS was first to report the fight.
Emelianenko, 44, has not competed since December 2019 when he defeated Quinton Jackson at Bellator 237 via first-round TKO. Although he’s competed just four times since 2017, Emelianenko is 3-1 over that stretch. Prior to a knockout loss to Ryan Bader, “The Last Emporer” advanced through two rounds of the Bellator heavyweight grand prix with finishes over Chael Sonnen and Frank Mir.
Since the June 25 announcement of his return, which was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous fighters took to social media and interviews to lobby for the matchup. Past opponents Fabricio Werdum and Matt Mitrione both threw their names in the hat, while Bellator heavyweights Josh Barnett and Jake Hager also expressed interested. Additionally, promotion president Scott Coker mentioned free agents Alistair Overeem and Junior Dos Santos as possibilities.
Ultimately, the promotion has zoned in on Johnson, who most recently competed at Bellator 261 in June when he was lost a close unanimous decision to Emelianenko underling Valentin Moldavsky in a five-round interim heavyweight title fight. The defeat snapped a three-fight winning streak for the 36-year-old American.
The Oct. 23 bout is expected to be the second-to-last fight of Emelianenko’s career, as he has two fights left on his Bellator contract. The final fight is expected to take place in the United States or Japan, though the situation is still fluid.
With the addition, the Bellator Moscow lineup includes:
- Fedor Emelianenko vs. Tim Johnson
- Tyrell Fortune vs. Vitaly Minakov
- Usman Nurmagomedov vs. TBA