Fedor Emelianenko is expected to fight for the last time this weekend.
The MMA legend will face Ryan Bader for the Bellator heavyweight title on Saturday night at the Kia Forum in California.
It’s a rematch four years after Bader picked up a knockout victory in just 35 seconds against ‘The Last Emperor’ who has since won back to back fights to earn another shot at the champion.
On Wednesday, Bellator President Scott Coker announced that 11 of MMA’s biggest names will be on hand to watch Emliankenko’s final fight and honor him when it’s over.
Josh Barnett, Mark Coleman, Randy Couture, Renzo Gracie, Royce Gracie, Dan Henderson, Matt Hughes, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, Chuck Liddell, Frank Shamrock and Chael Sonnen will all be at Bellator 290 this weekend.
Coker told The MMA Hour: “It happened organically. We started getting calls from different fighters who wanted to come into the fight and watch Fedor’s fight.
“So one of the first calls I got was from Randy Couture saying, ‘Hey, I’d like to watch his last fight. I said, ‘Great.’ Then Dan Henderson said, “Hey, I really wish I was there.” Royce Gracie wanted to come, so here he is. Mark Coleman will be present.
“All these sports legends who are really the roots and the foundation of MMA started calling and we said, look, this is a very special occasion.
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“We’re going to have all these OGs, legends of the era who really built MMA, why not do something special?
“It’s really the who’s who of MMA from this era. And it’s the end of an era, the page really turns to the next chapter in mixed martial arts.
“Fedor is the last emperor and this is his last fight and all these gentlemen will go in the cage because Fedor is probably saying his speech and he is going to retire and they are going to stand behind him and when Fedor gets up from put his gloves down, they will all be there to congratulate him.
“It’s a ceremony and a big send off to the greatest heavyweight of all time.”
A delighted Emlianenko spoke to talkSPORT minutes after Coker revealed a long list of former opponents and MMA legends should honor him at Bellator 290.
The 46-year-old said: “I will be really happy to see them all.
“A lot of people I spent time with in the cage and at the edge of the cage. We used to compete, if not with each other, in the same organization – legends of our sport!
Win, lose or draw on Saturday night, Emlianenko will leave MMA as arguably the greatest heavyweight fighter of all time and a top name in the endless GOAT debate.
At the height of his powers, the Russian enjoyed an epic 27-fight winning streak, became a champion with PRIDE and beat a whole host of heavyweight icons to earn his storied reputation.
He will look to add another famous win to his tally on Saturday night.