Fedor Emelianenko’s Bellator MMA debut was supposed to be vs. Matt Mitrione, but the latter suffered kidney stones shortly before Bellator 172 in February, and the fight was canceled. Now Russia’s Izvestia.ru reports that the promotion is uncertain when Mitrione will be cleared to fight and is now considering Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, Cheick Kongo, or Joey Beltran for Fedor’s future.
“If Fedor’s opponent is replaced, it will not be a huge problem for us,” said Fedor’s longtime coach Vladimir Voronov to Izvestia, as translated by Karim Zidan for BE. “We are ready for any fight that the organization will provide.”
The replacement of Mitrione with less dangerous fighters is appropriate.
Fedor is the greatest fighter in heavyweight history, and arguably the greatest fighter of all time. Across a ten-year span, from December 2000 to June 2010, Fedor Emelianenko won 28 fights in a row. Critics charge that some of his opponents were cans, selected only to satiate the Japanese fan’s thirst for oddball matchups. And that’s true.
However, during that decade Fedor defeated four former UFC champions, one Pride FC champion, one former K-1 champion, two future K-1 champions, and two former Olympic medalists. He defeated eleven top-10 ranked fighters, two of them twice. And he did so in a division that is so unpredictable that no UFC heavyweight champion has ever successfully defended his belt more than twice.
That said, Fedor is human, and many times was moments away from losing. By 2010, his skills had declined only so very slightly, but what might have only momentarily staggered him, now led to losses. And it was happening in a sport with talent on the rise.
The Last Emperor lost to future UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum, Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva, and Dan Henderson, in a row. Then his management ratcheted the level of competition back, and he got wins over Jeff Monson, Satoshi Ishii, and Pedro Rizzo and retired. It was 2012.
Three-and-a-half years later he called up his big friend Vladimir Putin, asked if it was cool to unretire, and defeated the non-credible Singh Jaideep. Then he won a highly controversial majority decision over the highly-credible Fabio Maldonado.
Mitrione, however, represented a major step up in competition. He did exit the UFC on a two-fight losing streak, but it was to then surging fighters Ben Rothwell and Travis Browne. And Mitrione turned it around in Bellator, winning the last two, over Carl Seumanutafa and Oli Thompson.
Beltran is 4-11 with one NC since 2010. Kongo is a far tougher fight, on a four-fight win streak since losing a split decision to King Mo early in 2015. Rampage would likely be tougher still and is on a five-fight win streak, which includes KOing Beltran in the first, decisioning King Mo, and decisioning Maldonado. For the hardcore fanbase, Fedor vs. Rampage, which somehow never happened in Pride, would be the fight to make. Further, this is exactly the past-prime type of fight that Bellator has proven to expert at promoting.
It is believed that Fedor will now make his Bellator debut in June or July.