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Fedor Emelianenko calls Russian fighters ‘hostages’ over Ukraine war backlash

“Last Emperor” is attempting to end a ban of Russian MMA teams by the IMMAF, which manages amateur competitions around the world.

Bellator Japan - Fedor v Rampage Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images

Fedor Emelianenko is a mixed martial arts (MMA) legend. And while Fabricio Werdum snapped his impressive 27-fight win streak back in 2010, he’s put together a pretty solid 9-2 run as he prepares to retire from combat sports.

When will that happen?

Bellator MMA President, Scott Coker, has been trying to sort out a proper final fight for “The Last Emperor,” but international events keep getting in the way.

The current war between Russia and Ukraine nixed Bellator’s plan for a big retirement fight in Moscow’s Red Square. And now it’s an open question as to whether Emelianenko can fight in the United States as visa applications for Russian political figures aren’t the easiest to process.

And Fedor is a political figure. He was a deputy in the Belgorod Regional Duma and is leader of Russia’s Mixed Martial Arts Union. He’s currently using his clout as such to try and help amateur MMA fighters from getting banned from the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF), an organization focused on establishing a legitimate framework for the amateur MMA scene.

“Until recently, sport was out of politics,” Emelianenko told TASS.ru (via Bloody Elbow). “Now, the situation has developed that talented Russian athletes are hostages of socio-political problems between states. Hopes, plans and colossal efforts have been reduced to zero, faith in the justice of the main principles of Olympism has been lost.

“We are sure that athletes should compete with worthy opponents, because this is the most important thing for the development of sports,” he continued. “And our team is one of the strongest in the world. A whole competitive and constantly developing team has dropped out of the world MMA.

“We would like to note that this year the Russian national team was formed as part of the national championship and is ready to take part in all international competitions next year.”

Many sports organizations shut their doors to federations and teams after Russia invaded Ukraine in February. The IMMAF announced a ban of Russian and Belarusian teams from its competitions in March 2022.

“It is with sadness that the IMMAF board has taken this decision,” they wrote in a press release. “As we believe in the power of sport to unite people beyond politics. However, the homeland of our friends and colleagues in the MMA League of Ukraine is under attack and they have been forced from competing in next week’s Super Cup as they take to defending their country.

“We are compelled to unite with global sport in showing solidarity with Ukraine.”

With no end to the war in sight, it leaves plenty of Russian athletes in limbo over a situation they have little control over. The results impact not just amateur MMA, but UFC fighters as well. As the pro-Ukraine western countries try to punish the Russian government more, fighters from Russia (or Russia-allied nations) are finding themselves unable to compete outside of locations such as Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

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