By Adam Martin
On Saturday night in San Jose, California, one of the greatest fighters of all time will make his debut in Bellator when Fedor Emelianenko fights in the U.S. for the first time in six years when he takes on Matt Mitrione in the main event of Bellator 172. After returning to fighting in 2015 following a three-year retirement, Emelianenko began negotiations with multiple fight promotions, including the UFC. Ultimately, Emelianenko and his team did not reach a deal with the UFC and instead signed with RIZIN.
In a tune-up fight with the organization, Emelianenko was matched up against an absolute can in Jaideep Singh and beat him into submission in just three minutes. After that fight, Emelianenko then signed with European Fight Nights in Russia and fought Fabio Maldonado, taking an extremely controversial majority decision victory in a fight very few thought he won.
It's also a really nice fit for Bellator, who are building all sorts of momentum as of late with multiple big-name free agent signings, big fights on Spike, and the UFC seemingly losing steam since being purchased by WME-IMG. Coming off of a big card in Los Angeles headlined by Tito Ortiz and Chael Sonnen that garnered 2 million viewers, Bellator can likely expect a similar viewership number for this card. Headlined by Emelianenko and Mitrione, this event also features the likes of Josh Thomson, Josh Koscheck, and Cheick Kongo. This is one of the best cards Bellator has put together, and it will likely do great numbers for Spike, which makes it even more likely they will continue to do these big cards in the future.
Regardless of what happens, however, Bellator has a huge star in its ranks with Fedor Emelianenko, and it's further proof that the fighters are buying what Coker is selling. Emelianenko's return is a huge deal for the company, and if he has a good performance this weekend it will give Bellator even more momentum going forward in 2017.