Bellator MMA announced the eagerly-anticipated return of living MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko on Friday and there are no shortage of potential opponents for “The Last Emperor”.
It was stated that Emelianenko’s comeback fight will take place in VTB Arena in Moscow, Russia on 23 October later this year. However, more intrigue lies in who will be his dance partner on that date.
Speaking after Bellator 261, Coker was asked about who Emelianenko will be squaring off with later in the year and three familiar names popped up: Josh Barnett, Alistair Overeem and Junior dos Santos.
Coker confirmed that those fighters are in the mix.
“Believe me, there is no shortage of opponents [for] Russia right now,” Coker said [H/T MMA Junkie]. “Listen, the managers of all the free agents are calling. Josh Barnett was texting me today. I talked to [Junior dos Santos’] manager a couple days ago. Alistair Overeem. The list goes on and on and on.”
Former UFC heavyweight champion dos Santos was released from that promotion in March on the same day as Overeem.
Overeem, who worked with Coker at Strikeforce and was champion there, recently signed a deal with Glory Kickboxing, but it’s unclear whether that contract allows him to compete in mixed martial arts on the side.
As for Barnett, he too fought for Coker’s Strikeforce from 2011 to 2013 before the UFC bought the promotion out, reaching the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix in 2012.
Barnett hasn’t competed in MMA since 2016 when he signed off his latest UFC run with a victory over fellow veteran Andrei Arlovski, but he confirmed that he is more than up for a long-awaited crack at Emelianenko.
Emelianenko and Barnett were supposed to fight at ill-fated promotion Affliction’s third event in August, 2009. That fight was nixed after the American had failed a drug test just 10 days before the bout was due to take place.
As a result, the event was cancelled and Affliction’s MMA venture folded as a result.