Fedor Emelianenko is back with his old boss Scott Coker, who revealed the Russian has signed a multi-fight contract with Bellator.

‘The Last Emperor’s first bout is set to be against Matt Mitrione on February 18th at the SAP Center in San Jose, California, which will headline Bellator 172.

The announcement means one of the greatest heavyweight MMA fighters of all time will make his return to US soil after a five-year absence at the same venue he famously lost his near 10-year undefeated streak to Fabricio Werdum in 2010.

“I’m very happy to be back in America and to be back in San Jose,” said Emelianenko, who has just turned 40. “I’m very happy to have a chance to continue our relationship with Scott (Coker). We have a very long relationship with Scott, and with Bellator as well. 

“I visited Bellator several times as a guest. So several times we had autograph sessions where a lot of fans asked me to come and fight in Bellator. I can say the best fighters are here. I was watching all the competition in Bellator and I’m very grateful to Scott for giving me the opportunity to perform in Bellator. We have a multi-fight deal and I will try my best to win.”

Speaking at the Bellator 165 post-fight press conference, Coker was full of praise for the former Pride heavyweight champion. 

“It’s great to be back in business with Fedor,” Coker said. “The man is a legend both inside and outside of the cage and I’m elated to bring him back Stateside for the American MMA fans to witness him fight Matt Mitrione in San Jose. He and I go quite a way back, and I look forward to continuing to build our partnership here in Bellator MMA.”

Mitrione couldn’t stop smiling at the prospect of fighting Emelianenko, but described the process of getting the deal done with the promotion as unusual.

“I can’t wait, man,” Mitrione said. “I’m so excited. It was the most unique invitation to a fight I’ve ever had. Like, ‘Hey, look. Sign this. We’re not gonna tell you who, when, where. We’re gonna get down on this thing. But trust us. It’s worth your time.’ And I said ‘All right. Let’s do it. Let’s get dirty.’”

Emelianenko added it was the strength of his relationship with Bellator President Scott Coker that eventually clinched the deal.