– BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA)
January 30, 2022
Although Fedor Emelianenko wanted to avenge a heavyweight grand prix loss to
Ryan Bader in his farewell bout, Bellator president Scott Coker said it was only fair that Cheick Kongo
receive the next shot at the promotion’s heavyweight belt.
After Ryan Bader
defended the crown with a grueling five-round verdict over interim champ Valentin Moldavsky in the
Bellator 273 main event, the promotion announced that the Arizonan’s next title defense would come against Kongo in a rematch in Paris this May. There is unfinished business between the two, as their first meeting in 2019 ended prematurely when Congo was unable to continue following an accidental eye poke.
“This was a fight that we’d been putting together for a while,” Coker said at Saturday’s post-fight press conference. “It was an eye poke or something I think where it was not a very clear decision or winner. We’ve been trying to put that fight on for some time, and we had a date in Paris that we wanted to go in May. It’s the week before the fight in London in May, with [Michael
Page] vs. [Yaroslav] Amosov. So we said whoever wins, Moldavsky or Bader, will fight Cheick Kongo.
Fedor did tell me before the fight, ‘If Ryan Bader
wins, I’d really like to fight him for the belt. ‘ I said, ‘Well, Congo is going to fight him in Paris, and we can see what happens.’ But May to July is not a lot of time. This is a very crazy business. Things change rapidly, so let’s see what happens. ”
Emelianenko is expected to have his last bout in Russia this July, and while he has requested Bader, it might not make sense to put “The Last Emperor” in a title bout if his time in MMA is limited. So even if Bader gets by Kongo in Paris, it seems likely that Emelianenko will face a different opponent in his homeland. The legendary Russian has won four of his last five outings – with his lone defeat coming against Bader via first-round TKO in the finals of the heavyweight grand prix in January 2019.
“This is his retirement fight, and now that Bader’s the champion, it’s like I’m not sure if he will be able to lock it up at some point,” Coker said. “But there’s other heavyweights that he could fight, so we’ll find somebody for him that makes sense.”