Fedor Emalienko is officially back, just not in the UFC as many have expected.


In an announcement made during Bellator: Dynamite 1 last Saturday, former PRIDE boss Nobuyuki Sakakibara announced that MMA legend Fedor Emalienko will be fighting on a New Year’s Eve Fight Card in Tokyo,Japan and which will be televised on Spike TV. Sakakibara, who himself is making an MMA comeback, will be promoting the event for a new MMA Promotion based in Japan. In doing so, Emalienko returns to where his legend was born and is reunited with the man who helped him grow it.

The Last Emperor

Known as the Last Emperor for being the last PRIDE Heavyweight champion, Emalienko was touted as the #1 Pound for Pound fighter in MMA when he was PRIDE Heavyweight champion from 2003 to 2007. Emalienko has iconic victories over the likes of Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera, Mark Coleman, Mirko Filipovic and  Mark Hunt among others. After the UFC’s parent company Zuffa purchased PRIDE in 2007 and ceased its operations, Fedor won the inaugural WAMMA Heavyweight title with the 2008 Submission of the Year winner against former UFC champion Tim Syliva. In his next fight, he would score the 2009 Knockout of the Year in defeating another former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski in his first title defense. Fedor then went on to fight for Strikeforce where three straight losses to current UFC champion Fabricio Werdum, Antonio Silva and Dan Henderson forced him out of the limelight. After three more fights outside the United States, Fedor hang up his gloves in 2012.

Change in LandScape

But the change in landscape in the UFC’s heavyweight division has bred rumors of a comeback by Emalienko. This was fueled even more by Fabricio Werdum’s victory over Cain Velasquez at UFC 188 last June and Andrei Arlovski’s rise to the UFC’s #4 contender slot. With his contemporaries like the 38 year old Werdum and the 36 year old Arlovski dominating the current picture, the possibility of Fedor Emalienko returning became very plausible especially with the dearth of quality title contenders in MMA’s heavyweight division. Emalienko is turning 39 soon but with the average age of the UFC’s heavyweight contenders right now pegged at 35. then the Last Emperor is still in the ripe age to compete-just not in the UFC at least for now.

Return To Glory

Fedor’s opponent hasn’t been named yet nor has the venue for the event been announced. The terms of Emalienko’s contract with the new promotion is even muddy. Some say it’s just a one fight deal while others are reporting a two fight contract. Rumors are even saying that Bellator will be sending some of the fighters in its roster to complete the fight card. But as the MMA world awaits for the announcement of the complete details, Emalienko’s return isn’t just seen as an attempt to make money or further his legend. It is more widely seen as an attempt to rebuild the once prominent MMA scene in Japan. Back in its days, PRIDE was the venue for the best MMA fighters and it also became the breeding ground for former UFC champions. With Sakakibara spearheading a new start-up promotion and Fedor Emalienko as its lead star, the MMA looks to open the coming year with a big bang.

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