Published On: Fri, Oct 12th, 2018

Fedor Emelianenko, an M.M.A. Legend, Is Still Entering the Cage

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But he kept fighting. In April, he won a quarterfinal match for the heavyweight championship of Bellator, the biggest M.M.A. promotion after the U.F.C., defeating Frank Mir, a former U.F.C. heavyweight champion. The fight was reminiscent of his battles of yore: a knockout in 48 seconds. Now he is two fights away from the Bellator title. The fight card will be telecast on Paramount Network in the United States, starting at 9 p.m., Eastern time.

Bellator has its share of up-and-coming mixed martial artists, but has also marketed veteran fighters who made their names in the U.F.C. The former champion Benson Henderson, Timothy Johnson and Cheick Kongo are all on Saturday’s card. Matt Mitrione, Roy Nelson, Rampage Jackson, Wanderlei Silva and Rory MacDonald are among the ex-U.F.C. stalwarts who have fought in Bellator this year.

Bellator is trying to sell the Emelianenko-Sonnen fight as an old-fashioned United States-Russia rivalry and filmed a promo with the brash Sonnen in an Uncle Sam-style outfit, with modern allusions to Russian “meddling.” “I felt ridiculous,” he said later.

When he wasn’t clowning, Sonnen acknowledged the challenge ahead of him: “I’ve never dealt with power like I’m going to have to deal with Fedor.”

For his part, the taciturn Emelianenko responded to Sonnen’s taunting, including remarks about his physique, through an interpreter. “I agree that my body’s not the bodybuilder’s body. In the cage, there are different measurements,” he said with chilling calmness.

How much longer can Emelianenko keep going into the ring? The hard truth is, as Sonnen put it, “Every fighter’s career ends the same, which is face down and embarrassed.”

“We do not speak about retirement at the moment,” was all the taciturn Emelianenko would say of the matter. The consensus is that Emelianenko is far from done: He is more than a 2-1 favorite over his slightly younger opponent.

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