At the Bellator Dynamite! event back in September, it was revealed that legendary heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko will return to MMA competition on New Year’s Eve — in an event to be presented by former PRIDE head Nobuyuki Sakakibara.
The event was not a Bellator event, but Sakakibara, who has since dubbed his new promotion “Rizin,” will work with them and the event will be televised on Bellator’s home of Spike TV.
Naturally, lots of MMA fans got excited for the return of Fedor — the man we know as “The Last Emperor.” He hasn’t been seen in competition for three years, and struggled in a few of his last bouts. But Fedor is still many a fan’s choice for the greatest fighter of all time; mostly for his dominant run in the golden era in Japanese MMA in the early to mid 2000’s.
Still, details were few about the event. Sakakibara, who was confusingly introduced as the founder of PRIDE (he isn’t), didn’t even name Fedor’s opponent.
We got a few steps closer in the last few days.
The first edition of Rizin will occur over two nights at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan: December 29 and 31. The shows will feature the return of Fedor as well as a bout between two legends of Japanese MMA: Shinya Aoki and Kazushi Sakuraba. It will also have an eight man MMA tournament, which will include Bellator star Mohammad “King Mo” Lawal; and also the MMA debut of jiu-jitsu standout Gabi Garcia. Garcia will face pro wrestler Lei’d Tapa, who is also making her MMA debut.
In addition to Bellator, MMA events around the world have partnered with Rizin for the event, including Brazil’s Jungle Fight promotion.
Spike will broadcast the December 31 portion of the event beginning at 10 am US Time (Pacific & Eastern times). This represents a short delay for the East and a bit longer one for the West.
As for Fedor, he will fight in the show’s main event on Dec 31, but his opponent still hasn’t been announced.
“Fedor’s return is receiving global attention, and we want to give our fans the chance to see it New Year’s Eve morning with minimal delay,” said Jon Slusser, Senior Vice President, Sports and Specials, Spike said in press release. “What better way to end the year than waking up with Fedor.”