INGLEWOOD, Calif. – When it comes to his association with Fedor Emelianenko, Scott Coker has very few regrets.
But he does have some, and chances are good they’re shared by the bulk of longtime MMA fans.
If Bellator president Coker had his druthers, he’d have been able to witness, as we all would have, a fight between Emelianenko and former two-division UFC champion Randy Couture. And while we’re at it, Coker would take a Fedor vs. Josh Barnett heavyweight matchup, too.
Emelianenko (40-7 MMA, 4-3 BMMA) set down his gloves inside the cage at Bellator 290 following a first-round TKO loss to heavyweight champion Ryan Bader (31-7 MMA, 9-2 BMMA) in their main event rematch.
Bader took out Emelianenko halfway through the first round. The first time the two fought in 2019, Bader knocked out “The Last Emeperor” in just 35 seconds to win the then-vacant title.
Emelianenko knew in advance that his one last shot at a Bellator title would be his last fight. So Bellator packed cagegside at Kia Forum near Los Angeles with all kinds of former Emelianenko opponents and is contemporaries from the early era of MMA. And with Couture and Barnett among those former fighters on hand for Emelianenko’s swan song, Coker couldn’t help but wonder.
“Would I have liked to see him and Randy fight? Sure. Him and Josh? Of course,” Coker said after Bellator 290. “But if you look at the string of fights he had in PRIDE during his hey-day run, it was just incredible.”
Emelianenko went unbeaten from late 2000 until mid-2010, almost all for PRIDE in Japan against some of the best heavyweights in the sport’s history, the majority of whom fought for PRIDE at the time and not in the UFC, which was still under its first ownership group when Emelianenko was getting started on a run that eventually hit 27 straight victories.
Although Emelianenko was sent into retirement with a loss, at 46, he seemed content with his decision. And Coker would co-sign on it.
“Fedor has already done it all,” he said. “He didn’t need to do anything. So any time he fights another fight, I think for the last three or four years, it’s a special occasion – it’s an event. You can feel it. When he fights, it’s an event. He doesn’t need to prove himself. To me, he’s the greatest heavyweight of all time.
“… I was telling him when he left, ‘It’s an honor for me to promote you,’ … He’s a real true champion, and to me he’s the GOAT.”
Check out Coker’s full post-fight interview in the video above.
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for Bellator 290.