Fedor Emelianenko drubbed in 1st-round TKO loss in final fight

For the retirement fight of Fedor Emelianenko, one of the greatest fighters of all time in mixed martial arts and the icon of a bygone era, there was a who’s who of MMA legends Saturday night at the Bellator 290 in Inglewood, Calif. to give one of the their a proper farewell.

They were finally reminded that this is not a sport that gently takes its greats out of the game.

Emelianenko, 46, who was challenging Ryan Bader for the Bellator Heavyweight Championship in the main event at the Kia Forum, was stopped by TKO in the first round of a fight in which he was dominated. In some ways, the fight turned out to be even uglier than their first meeting in 2019, when Bader knocked out Emelianenko in 35 seconds.

This time the fight lasted 2 minutes and 30 seconds, but it was obvious from the start that this was a mismatch as Emelianenko unleashed wild punches and missed badly. Less than a minute later, Bader dropped him with an overhand right and a bludgeon began that left Emelianenko face down on the canvas, bloodied and helpless, until referee Herb Dean stepped in to wave him off.

It was a cruel ending. And yet somehow the night managed to end gracefully.

There was a celebratory mood, sparked by Bader (31-7, 1 NC), who described his win as “bittersweet” during an in-cage interview and received applause as he paid tribute to Emelianenko.

“I idolized him like every other MMA fan and fighter that comes up,” Bader said, before addressing the crowd directly, “Get up and help this man for what he’s done for the sport.”

Emelianenko (40-7, 1 NC) was a dominant figure in the formative years of MMA, going undefeated in 28 fights from 2001-2010. During this period he defeated many of the top heavyweights in the world and won the Pride and WAMMA Championships.

Some of those who fought Emelianenko in his prime were present to honor him on Saturday night, as were other legends of the sport. When Emelianenko was interviewed, Bellator brought some of the biggest names in MMA history into the cage: Royce Gracie, Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Mark Coleman, Frank Shamrock, Dan Henderson, Matt Hughes, Josh Barnett, Renzo Gracie, and Rampage Jackson other Chael suns. Emelianenko noticed their presence and smiled before shaking everyone’s hands.

“On the one hand, I’m sad that I didn’t deliver the fight the way I wanted,” Emelianenko said through an interpreter in Russian. “But on the other hand, I’m so happy that all these people are here and cheering me on and all these experienced fighters that have walked with me for the last 20 years are here to greet me. So I’m very happy.”

The fight for Emelianenko was just one of two championship fights at the top of the Bellator 290 tent. Johnny Eblen successfully defended his middleweight title in the co-main event, going undefeated with a dismal dominance from Anatoly Tokov, a 32-year-old Russian coached by Emelianenko.

After a back and forth for the first round and a half, Eblen (13-0) took over and wore Tokov down, amassing double-digit takedowns to reach a unanimous decision (50-45, 49-46, 49-46). Tokov (31-3) saw a seven-fight win streak come to an end.

https://www.espn.com/mma/story/_/id/35592004/fedor-emelianenko-mauled-1st-round-tko-loss-final-fight Fedor Emelianenko drubbed in 1st-round TKO loss in final fight

Emma Bowman

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