Bellator 290 will see the retirement fight of one of the greatest fighters to ever pull on a set of MMA gloves, and Chael Sonnen says Fedor Emelianenko’s farewell will be a sad moment for the sport.
Emelianenko will challenge Ryan Bader for the Bellator heavyweight title in the main event at the Kia Forum in Inglewood, California, in a bout that will see “The Last Emperor” call time on his 48-fight MMA career.
Fedor’s retirement also marks the departure of one of MMA’s most enduring legends, and Chael Sonnen said the occasion will be an emotional one for longtime fans of the sport, including himself.
“It’s painful. It’s painful and I couldn’t say that about anyone else,” he told Bellator’s social media team during fight week in California.
“There is a sombreness to knowing that this is going to be the last time that Fedor is on this side of the cage. I’ve never been able to say that.
“I was a huge fan – take Royce Gracie just by example, that kind of started it. But I lived through the Chuck Liddell era, Randy Couture, (and) Sakuraba. I could play this game with people that eventually, the sun set (on their careers) and it was done. But it wasn’t painful. It wasn’t something that I dreaded.
“Daniel Cormier might be a great example, or even Khabib, who was more recent, that people can relate to. You felt something (when they retired), but it wasn’t necessarily pain, it was almost a celebration.
“This is sad. Realizing that that is the last time Fedor will be at a press conference. We’ve only got a weigh-in and we’ve only got a fight left. And eventually, it’s going to fade to black and roll the credits.
“As an MMA fan, we’ve got to get up the next day and we’ve got to push forward. But it’s hard to do when some of the heroes go, man, and this is the leader of the pack.”
👀 @ChaelSonnen feeling the emotion as the GOAT bows out.
We're just 1️⃣ day out until #Bellator290 where Fedor Emilianenko challenges @ryanbader for World Heavyweight gold 🔥
Watch #Bellator290 LIVE on @bbciplayer this Saturday 📺 pic.twitter.com/eviq9S6vPt
— Bellator Europe (@Bellator_Europe) February 3, 2023