UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Being crowned Bellator’s heavyweight champion would certainly be a nice addition to Fedor Emelianenko’s resume.
But, the way Bellator president Scott Coker sees it, that’s just what it would be: an addition. Whether he beats Ryan Bader in the final bout of the promotion’s heavyweight grand prix or not, Coker said, Emelianenko’s legacy has been cemented as the greatest of all time.
“I already feel like he’s the GOAT,” Coker told reporters, including MMAjunkie, at a press conference after Bellator 208. “He has nothing to prove. To me, he has nothing to prove. He’s doing this because he wants to compete and he’s had some tough opposition, and if he won the tournament I’d be happy for him and I think this is something he really, really wants.
“Everybody knows that Fedor’s been fighting a while. He was the king of PRIDE, then he fought for me in Strikeforce, and now he’s here in Bellator. He’s already proven everything. He’s the GOAT and whatever he does now will just add to the legacy of Fedor.”
On Saturday, at Bellator 208, Emelianenko (38-5 MMA, 2-1 BMMA) took out Chael Sonnen (30-16-1 MMA, 2-2 BMMA) in under five minutes to earn a second straight win and a spot in the heavyweight tournament’s finals against Bader (26-5 MMA, 4-0 BMMA).
The bout headlined the Paramount-televised main card, which took place at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y.
The pairing between the heavyweight legend and Sonnen, who competed at middleweight for most of his career, would have looked like a pretty significant mismatch at a different time – particularly, during the almost decade-long stretch that the Russian went without losing, all the while facing some of the world’s top fighters.
At 42, though, Emelianenko has already shown he can be beaten and rocked – even in his wins. While the ever-strategic Sonnen, 41, has proven he can hold his own against larger competition and pull it off when you least expect him to. These elements made for a more intriguing matchup, perhaps, than many expected.
Nevertheless, it was Emelianenko who came out victorious of the thrilling affair. And while it’s hard to compare his 42-year-old version to that of 15 years ago, one can see where Coker is coming from when he says he believes Emelianenko still has some gas left in the tank.
“When I watch (Bellator’s) countdown shows myself as a fan, I see Fedor hit the mitts and I’m like, ‘Man, this guy still has that twitch speed,’” Coker said. “He’s still fast, he’s still explosive, he hits hard. That’s something that’s not going to go away. The speed might go away, but the power doesn’t go away, but the speed, he still has that speed. To me it’s pretty impressive man. I think the reason why is he has just not stopped training. He’s always in shape and he’s always training. He’s never stopped training for long periods of time.”
“It’s been a great journey” for Emelianenko, Coker added, and there’s really no denying that. But adding yet another accolade to it will involve getting past a tough foe in Bellator’s 205-pound champion, who put on an extremely dominant display over Matt Mitrione in his own semifinal bout, at this past Friday’s Bellator 207.
“Ryan Bader, he showed me that he can control a big, big man and do what he needs to do to win,” Coker said. “He’s going to try to do that to Fedor, and does Fedor have some tricks up his sleeve. We’ll see. It’s going to be an interesting fight.”
With the two set to meet Jan. 26 in Inglewood, Calif., that settles it for Emelianenko’s more immediate future. But what about Sonnen, who came into Bellator 208 off wins over Wanderlei Silva and Quinton Jackson?
Coker says that’s up to Sonnen now. But it would appear that being knocked out of the running for the heavyweight crown won’t necessarily mean the end of Sonnen’s title hopes.
“Now that the heavyweight tournament for him is over, he’ll have to decide,” Coker said. “If he wants to fight at 205, we have some great fights for him at 205 and then he’s going to have to make that decision. We’ll talk to him. I think he’ll like that. I think he might like to fight at 205.
“That’s a fight I would like to see (against Ryan Bader for the 205 title). That’s a fight we can put together in the future. But let’s get through the heavyweight tournament and then we’ll talk to Chael. But to me it makes a lot of sense for him to go to 205 and fight our top guys.”
- Fedor Emelianenko explains how he'll prepare for Ryan Bader in tournament final
- Chael Sonnen thought he'd have 'rope-a-dope moment' vs. Fedor Emelianenko at Bellator 208
- Watch Fedor give Chael Sonnen his warmup track suit after knockout win at Bellator 208
Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Bellator title would add to legacy, but Scott Coker thinks Fedor Emelianenko is already the GOAT