The recent Russian invasion of Ukraine has sent shockwaves through the sporting world as many organizations and federations have decided to cancel shows in Russia and even prohibit Russian athletes from competing in events. Major MMA promotions like UFC and Bellator haven’t indicated they’re going to bar Russian fighters from competing at events, but following Bellator 276, president Scott Coker revealed the growing conflict will affect what happens with their star heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko.
“We’re not going to do Fedor’s retirement fight [in Moscow] for obvious reasons,” Coker told the press. “We will be looking for an alternative site at some point.”
Not only was Emelianenko’s retirement fight set for the Russian capitol, but the event was set to take place in Moscow’s historic Red Square sometime in Summer 2022. Not any more, though.
“We had an amazing show planned in Moscow,” Coker said. “I don’t even mind telling you guys this, but we originally had approval to do the fight in Red Square, and it was going to be just a great sendoff for the GOAT, in my opinion. But now we have to pivot and create something else that’s great, and find another venue and find another amazing site, because he deserves to have a great sendoff. We just don’t know exactly where yet.”
Fedor Emelianenko’s previous ‘retirement tour’ fight saw him knock out Tim Johnson in under two minutes, another bout that took place in Moscow. Now the 46 year old heavyweight will likely have to wait until global tensions cool down or accept a fight stateside to compete in his final fight.
Given Fedor’s loyalty to Russia, there’s also a possibility he could move ahead with the Red Square fight — already approved by Kremlin officials since 2021 — without Bellator. Emelianenko previously served a five year term as a deputy in the Belgorod Duma (similar to a state legislature) and continues to be a member of Russia’s Council of Physical Fitness & Sports. Fedor and Russian president Vladimir Putin are close enough that Putin gave Emelianenko council on his MMA comeback, and the FBI questioned Fedor as a potential link between Donald Trump and Putin.
Fedor has also repeatedly supported Russia over Ukraine through the annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbass, and was born in Luhansk, one of the Ukrainian regions Putin recognized as independent shortly before invading the country.