Retiring MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko said he is looking forward to bringing the curtain down on his stellar career, but said he wouldn’t be walking away from the sport completely.

Emelianenko was talking at the pre-fight press conference ahead of Bellator 290, where he will challenge for the heavyweight title against reigning champion Ryan Bader at the Kia Forum in Inglewood, California.

And “The Last Emperor,” who will be competing in his 48th career bout, shared his final thoughts ahead of the last bout of his career.

“The only extra motivation for this fight is that I will be very happy to finish it,” he said.

“I can remember all my fights, no matter how fast they were. Some of them ended quickly, some didn’t. The most important and the first one that I remember still is the first fight with Antonio Nogueira for the belt in Pride.”

A host of MMA legends will be in attendance to pay tribute to Fedor for his legendary career, and the introverted 46-year-old said he was happy to see that his career had brought so many big names to his final fight.

“I’m really thankful that all these legends and all these guys that I’ve known for years are going to come and support me on Saturday night,” he said.

“I’m really happy about that. I’m going to be very happy to see and talk to my friends who I’ve competed with inside the cage.”

It may be Fedor’s final bout, but he’s hoping to go out on top, with a championship belt around his waist. He said that he has looked after himself during his career, and that attention to his wellbeing has been crucial in his longevity.

“I’m surprised myself that I’m still able to fight at this level after all these years,” he admitted.

“I’ve preserved myself pretty well. And, of course, thank you to my team because they support me all the time. I had a pretty good career and a pretty good package of different skills so I tried to preserve those skills until my later age.”

That longevity came after he started his career way back in May 2000. Since then, he’s enjoyed one of the most remarkable careers in the sport’s history. His decade-long undefeated streak saw him capture the Pride heavyweight title, win the Pride Heavyweight Grand Prix, and defeat a who’s who of Pride heavyweight greats.

“When I first started my career, I had just switched over from judo competitions to professional fights,” recalled Emelianenko.

“It was just the beginning, going to the gym. I had to learn what to do because it was all new to me.

“I was watching VHS tapes from the last tournaments of MMA. When I watched the champions, I figured out that I was going to be able to compete with them at the highest level.

“It wasn’t something I couldn’t do; I just had to work hard. I never expected or imagined that I would have the career that I had. I just was trying to fight and be prepared as best as I could and win every fight.”

After his stellar run with Pride, he captured the inaugural WAMMA heavyweight title and defended it twice as he transitioned from life in Pride to Bellator via short stints with Affliction, Strikeforce, M-1 Global, Rizin and Fight Nights Global.

Since joining Bellator, he reached the promotion’s heavyweight World Grand Prix final, where he lost to Bader for the vacant heavyweight title. Now, three years on from that defeat, Fedor will face Bader again, with heavyweight gold up for grabs once more. Win or lose, “The Last Emperor” will call time on his career at the end of the night.

For longtime fans, Fedor will go down in history as one of the greatest fighters in the sport’s history. But, rather than his incredible championship run in Pride, or his legendary fights with the likes of Kevin Randleman, Minotauro Nogueira and Mirko Cro Cop, Emelianenko just hopes that he’ll be remembered for his no-frills approach to the sport and performances inside the ring and the cage.

“I want to be remembered by MMA fans as an athlete who gained his popularity and his fanbase based on his skills,” he said.

“Based on his fighting skills, not based on his trash-talking or any of that nasty stuff that’s popular right now. That’s how I want to be remembered.”

Fedor’s legacy will extend beyond his accomplishments inside the cage, however, with “The Last Emperor” now helping guide the careers of a new generation of Russian fighters, including current Bellator light heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov and middleweight contender Anatoly Tokov, who will challenge for the Bellator 185-pound title in the co-main event of Bellator 290, before his mentor makes the final walk of his career.

“It’s awesome to see my younger teammates having so much success,” he said.

“All this time, I’ve competed at the highest level, and now there’s a new generation of fighters coming over and winning belts and having good careers. There’s a legacy that I’m leaving behind.

“I am watching MMA stars start to compete in boxing. I have thought about whether I could do that too, but I want to be done completely fighting,” he continued.

“But I will still be involved in MMA because I have my team. These guys are like my family and no matter what, I will always be next to them all the time. I’ll try to do my best and help them any way I can.

“I’ve been in sports all my life, and this sport is part of my life. No matter what I do, I’m going to share my experiences and my knowledge in this sport. This sport is in my blood.”