Bellator Moscow preview: Fedor Emelianenko and returning Vitaly Minakov prime invoice

Venue: VTB Area, Moscow, Russia Date: Saturday, 23 October
Protection: Watch dwell protection on BBC iPlayer from 17:00 BST

Fedor Emelianenko is again combating in Russia for the primary time in 5 years in what may very well be his remaining bout.

Bellator has the MMA legend contracted for an additional struggle however after a professional profession spanning 21 years and 46 bouts, Emelianenko admitted this week his struggle in opposition to Tim Johnson may very well be his final.

However Emelianenko additionally mentioned he’s but to develop uninterested in combating.

“MMA is essentially the most joyful job that I might have,” he mentioned.

“I am by no means uninterested in the press occasions, and truly think about them to be a necessity to the enterprise of fight sports activities, so I’ve gotten used to them over time.

“So far as combating alongside my family and friends, I believe this may be tough. When my family and friends are combating with me on the identical card, it is necessary that I focus alone struggle and never get caught up in the remaining.”

‘Fedor might have picked any individual a lot simpler’

Many followers would have anticipated a neater opponent for Emelianenko than Tim Johnson (15-7). The American is contemporary off a failed crack on the heavyweight interim title final June and sits second within the heavyweight rankings behind interim champion Valentin Moldavsky.

It seems Emelianenko is bidding for what may very well be the proper farewell struggle if he can earn one other title shot.

Johnson defined: “If Fedor beats me, this positively just isn’t going to be his final struggle. If he will get a win over me, he’ll get an opportunity to probably struggle for the belt once more.”

Bellator president Scott Coker revealed Emelianenko (39-6-1NC) was provided simpler fights, however needed a ranked opponent.

“We had an inventory of 20 individuals who needed to struggle him, everybody needs to struggle Fedor,” Coker mentioned.

“He might have picked any individual a lot simpler, any individual not ranked, any individual of the previous guard, however he needs to struggle at a excessive stage and that is why he ended up selecting Tim to struggle. He needed to struggle somebody who was ranked in our rankings.”

‘I by no means took MMA significantly’

Vitaly Minakov is again after two years out of motion

The co-main occasion sees the return of former heavyweight champion Vitaly Minakov after two years of inactivity.

Minakov (22-1) has only one defeat on his report to Cheick Kongo and takes on an previous coaching associate in American Stated Sowma (7-2).

Minakov made his long-awaited return to Bellator in 2017 having been stripped of the heavyweight belt in 2016 due to inactivity.

The Russian was combating throughout his ‘inactive’ interval simply not for Bellator earlier than visa points and the Covid-19 pandemic compelled him to sit down out the final two years of motion.

“My fundamental motivation in MMA is to completely return to the group and compete for the title,” he mentioned.

“At one level I thought of ending [my career]. However in the mean time I perceive very clearly that I’ve the will to compete and the power to win the title.

“I’ve by no means taken my martial arts profession significantly,” he continued.

“I realise clearly that I need to keep on this sport for a while. I am not concerned about doing it only for the sake of doing it. I need to get my belt again, particularly because it’s modified when it comes to design. I want to get an identical belt for myself.”

Homegrown expertise headlines

Usman Nurmagomedov speaks to his cousin Khabib after a fight
Usman Nurmagomedov is skilled by retired legend Khabib

The cardboard is stacked with Russian expertise, with each bout that includes a house fighter.

Emelianenko additionally has lots of his prodigies on the invoice, with middleweight Anatoly Tokov, heavyweight Kirill Sidelnikov, light-weight Vladimir Tokov and bantamweight Nikita Mikhailov all in motion.

Non-Russian fighters together with Eire’s Brian Moore and England’s Aiden Lee may have an enormous activity on their fingers to silence what is predicted to be a hostile crowd.

Additionally on the principle card is Usman Nurmagomedov. The 23-year-old is a rising star in Bellator however bares the heavy burden of the Nurmagomedov identify in MMA.

Former UFC champion Khabib, broadly thought-about among the finest fighters of all time in ending with an ideal 29-0 report, helps coach his cousin Usman.

Usman takes on Finland’s Patrik Pietila (11-8) in a catchweight bout and has been handed a fundamental card slot. Nurmagomedov may have many family and friends current in his first struggle in Russia underneath the Bellator banner and the 23-year-old admitted he was feeling the strain.

“It is positively a bit demanding realizing that your family and friends might be watching you,” he added.

“In the event that they see me fall or get knocked out, they’ll age 5 years in a single hour as a result of they’re going to fear for me. I do fear just a little bit, however it’s not important.”

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