WASHINGTON (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 05th February, 2023) Few mixed martial arts (MMA) athletes leave the sport on top, and on Saturday, legendary Russian fighter Fedor Emelianenko ended his 22-year MMA career with a loss against US fighter Ryan Bader, whom he was challenging for the Bellator organization's heavyweight championship.
Bader beat Emelianenko by technical knockout in the first round of the main event of Bellator 290 at the Kia Forum in Inglewood, California. The event marked the first time Bellator aired live on CBS and the first time MMA aired on the network since 2010.
Emelianenko ended his career challenging Bader for the championship, leaving his gloves in the cage after the match - a tradition when retiring from the sport. Emelianenko was honored at the event by a number of former opponents whom he fought in organizations and events around the world. Bader said after the match that he, like many other fighters, idolizes Fedor as a figure of the sport.
Emelianenko, 46, was born in the Luhansk Oblast during Soviet times, later moving to Stary Oskol in the Belgorod Oblast. He began training in Sambo and Judo at age 11, receiving the Russian Federation's Master of Sports certification in both sports in 1997 before transitioning to MMA in 2000.
From April 2001 to June 2010, Emelianenko went undefeated in MMA, winning 27 matches and earning awards including the PRIDE Heavyweight Championship - considered the preeminent organization at the time - as well as a "fight of the decade" recognition for his bout against Croatian fighter Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic.
"(I want to be remembered) as a fighter who believed in God. I earned my fans in the cage, not outside the cage talking trash," Emelianenko said in an interview with the MMA Hour's Ariel Helwani, when asked about what sort of legacy he would like to leave in the sport.
Emelianenko is often listed as one of the greatest heavyweights of all time for his accomplishments, which never included a bout in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Nevertheless, Emelianenko holds wins over former UFC champions including Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, Frank Mir and Quinton Jackson.
Emelianenko ended his career with a record of 40 wins and seven losses. His retirement symbolizes the end of MMA's early era in the 1990's and early 2000's, when the sport first began to reach the mainstream.
Emelianenko has said he plans to spend more time with his family following retirement from MMA.