BELLATOR 290: Bader vs. Fedor 2 Press Conference Quotes

BELLATOR Heavyweight World Champion Ryan “Darth” Bader (30-7, 1 NC) and “The G.O.A.T.” Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko (40-6, 1 NC) previewed their anticipated main event showdown ahead of BELLATOR MMA’s landmark CBS Network Television and Paramount+ debut at a press conference Wednesday in Los Angeles.

The historic event takes place at the Kia Forum in Inglewood, CA this Saturday, Feb. 4 and will air live on CBS and on the Paramount+ streaming service at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.

The BELLATOR 290 main event will see reigning titleholder and No. 6 pound-for-pound athlete Ryan Bader seeking to become the first man to ever defeat the legendary No. 3-ranked Fedor Emelianenko twice in the icon’s final fight of what has been an unrivaled heavyweight combat sports career. In the co-main event, newly crowned BELLATOR Middleweight World Champion Johnny Eblen (12-0) will look to make his first title defense against Anatoly Tokov (31-3). Eblen and Tokov were both also on hand to preview their fight at Wednesday’s press event.

Welterweight fan-favorites Sabah “Sleek Sheik” Homasi (17-10) — the division’s No. 8-ranked contender — and “Irish” Brennan Ward (16-6) will make history as the first BELLATOR fight to air on CBS and Paramount+ in their must-see main card opener.

The preliminary portion of the card will kick off at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT and can be viewed live and free on the BELLATOR MMA YouTube channel and Pluto TV.

Here is what Bader, Emelianenko, Eblen, Tokov and BELLATOR President Scott Coker had to say Wednesday:

Ryan Bader: BELLATOR Heavyweight World Champion

“No, I’m not frustrated that the talk in the buildup to this fight is all about Fedor. He deserves it. He’s a legend in this sport, and I respect that man and what he’s done for the sport. He’s a good human being. Don’t get it wrong. I know walking in there that I’d be doing the same watching Fedor’s last fight; I’d be cheering for him. I like to do that. I like seeing these legends go out on top. We’ve seen a couple of them retire in this last month. Make no mistake, I know people are going to be rooting for him but on the flip side, I have a job to do, and my job is to go out there and spoil that party and do what I came here to do which is retain that belt, win that fight, and move on. There will be respect there no matter what.”

“There are a few things I can take away from our first fight, but it was 35 seconds. There was one punch thrown. You can’t take much. This is a whole new fight. Every fight, I go out there thinking I’m fighting 25 minutes and my opponent is the best he’s ever been. That’s the way to approach a fight. I’m not resting on what happened last fight. I can’t bring that fight into this fight. I picked up a little, like his quickness and everything like that. But it’s a whole new fight, 35 seconds is not much you can take away.”

“Being on CBS was a big factor for me taking this fight. I started to think through it a little bit and anytime you’re in a Fedor fight, it’s a huge fight. I’m proud to be part of his legacy and have him be part of mine. I came to this company for opportunity, like the Heavyweight Grand Prix and these kinds of big fights. It’s hard to turn down a Fedor fight. I didn’t necessarily know it’d be his last one right at the beginning, but it’s one of those things where I got more excited about it and when I finally put pen to paper, I was all in. I can’t wait for it to be on CBS. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, and I’m excited to be back in there with a legend.”

“I’ve fought for a title almost every fight I’ve had in BELLATOR, besides a couple of Grand Prix fights. I walk into that cage the same every single time. That guy wants to go out there and beat you. It doesn’t matter if I beat him and he comes back and wants more revenge. What is that? They’re going to go out there and come at you hard. We’re fighting at the top of the top. We’re fighting for belts, right? There’s nothing more on the line. Every time I step out there, I feel that. So, I just keep my head down and do my job. These storylines don’t affect me at all. We show up on February 4, we throw down, and whatever happens, happens. I can’t take past belts and he can’t take his career into that cage with him. It’s just whoever is better on that night.”

“It’s been four years since the first fight, but it feels like it was a year-and-a-half ago. You get those déjà vu feelings but mentally, I’m approaching it the same way. Good for me that it was a happy experience, and I hope to replicate that. But it’s a new fight, and I have to keep my head down. I had a great camp. Just go in there, do my thing, and leave with the belt. That’s the plan.”


Fedor Emelianenko: No. 3-Ranked BELLATOR Heavyweight

“The only extra motivation for this fight is that I will be very happy to finish it. I can remember all my fights, no matter how fast they were. Some of them ended quickly, some didn’t. The most important and the first one that I remember still is the first fight with Antonio Nogueira for the belt in PRIDE.”

“I’m really thankful that all these legends and all these guys that I’ve known for years are going to come and support me on Saturday night. I’m really happy about that. I’m going to be very happy to see and talk to my friends who I’ve competed with inside the cage.”

“I’m surprised myself that I’m still able to fight at this level after all these years. I’ve preserved myself pretty well. And of course, thank you to my team because they support me all the time. I had a pretty good career and a pretty good package of different skills so I tried to preserve those skills until my later age.”

“I want to be remembered by MMA fans as an athlete who gained his popularity and his fanbase based on his skills. Based on his fighting skills, not based on his trash talking or any of that nasty stuff that’s popular right now. That’s how I want to be remembered.”

“It’s awesome to see my younger teammates having so much success. All this time, I’ve competed at the highest level, and now there’s a new generation of fighters coming over and winning belts and having good careers. There’s a legacy that I’m leaving behind.”

“When I first started my career, I had just switched over from judo competitions to professional fights. It was just the beginning, going to the gym. I had to learn what to do because it was all new to me. I was watching VHS tapes from the last tournaments of MMA. When I watched the champions, I figured out that I was going to be able to compete with them at the highest level. It wasn’t something I couldn’t do; I just had to work hard. I never expected or imagined that I would have the career that I had. I just was trying to fight and be prepared as best as I could and win every fight.”

“I am watching MMA stars start to compete in boxing. I have thought about whether I could do that too, but I want to be done completely fighting. But I will still be involved in MMA because I have my team. These guys are like my family and no matter what, I will always be next to them all the time. I’ll try to do my best and help them any way I can. I’ve been in sports all my life, and this sport is part of my life. No matter what I do, I’m going to share my experiences and my knowledge in this sport. This sport is in my blood.”

Johnny Eblen: BELLATOR Middleweight World Champion 

On Anatoly Tokov’s Impressive Record: “This is just another challenge for me. Another step in the right direction, and it’s the reason I called [Tokov] out in the first place. I knew about his record. I knew he was 7-0 in BELLATOR, and I know he’s really good. So, I want to take him out and put on a show in front of all the fans and those tuning in on CBS.”

“This is a wonderful opportunity. The fact that I’m a part of this card on CBS, fighting on the same card as the legend Fedor and Bader… this is a big card. A lot of eyes are going to be watching, and I’m excited to put on a performance and have fun.”

On Fighting Alongside Teammate Sabah Homasi: “This is really cool because me and Sabah like to fight on the same card a lot. Fight week is always fun. We’re just hanging out, having a blast making jokes. It’s always awesome to be on the same card as a teammate, especially on a main card like this. His fight [with Brennan Ward] is going to be a banger right before mine. I can’t wait to see Sabah get a knockout and then [have him] watch me do my thing after him.”

Anatoly Tokov: No. 3- Ranked BELLATOR Middleweight

On His 7-0 Run in BELLATOR Leading to a Title Shot: “Yes, it’s about time that I got to fight for the title.”

On Fighting Alongside Mentor Fedor Emelianenko: “I’m very happy that I have the opportunity to fight on the same card as Fedor because he’s pretty much family to me. I’m very happy to have this opportunity.”

Scott Coker: BELLATOR President

 “When I think about this fight and what it means, and the historical significance of this event, it’s really a special moment for myself to see Fedor finish out his career. He fought on PRIDE and with different organizations before we started working together, but since 2009 we’ve done ten fights together. To see his career over all those years — and I just recently went back and watched him fighting Mirko [Filipović] and Kevin Randleman and [Antônio] Nogueira and Andrei Arlovski — the ten-year undefeated run where he was fighting the baddest people on the planet… it’s very impressive.”

“Ryan has been on a tear. He’s been doing great things in the heavyweight division to be the two-belt champ at one time and win our tournament. This is going to be a rematch that we’re really looking forward to.”

“This event is monumental. It just shows and reinforces all the hard work we’ve put in for the last five or six years. This is the best fight roster we’ve ever had. The deepest fight roster; the most talented. I’m really proud of our bantamweight tournament which is ongoing right now. We just announced our lightweight tournament, which I believe is going to be an unbelievable tournament with AJ [McKee] and Usman [Nurmagomedov] and [Patricky] Pitbull. There’s a lot of talent in there. So, if you look at this company, from top to bottom, the roster is really healthy. These guys can compete against anybody in any league. I believe we have some of the best fighters on the planet. We went to RIZIN, and we had a great outing there in December. It’s just one victory after another, and I think it starts with the roster and it took four or five years to build that roster. Now that it’s here, we’re able to put on these great fights and this is going to be another great fight on Saturday night.”

“We went through about four or five different names and presented them to Fedor, and he kept saying, ‘I want to fight Ryan Bader. I want to fight for the title and go out and see if I can still fight at this level and test the best in the world.’ So, he kept bringing Ryan Bader’s name back up. That’s what the catalyst was, and eventually we made the fight.”

“We could have done this fight anywhere in the world, but we knew that we had an opportunity to be on CBS and I just felt that this was the right fit. We’ve been at the LA Forum before and done very well there. To be in a major television market and media market like Los Angeles just seemed to make a lot of sense.”

“When you talk about heavyweights, Fedor’s body of work has been amazing. Pound-for-pound or in the legacy of what he’s done, I haven’t seen anybody out there who’s done more. That’s just how I feel. You’re talking about a fighter that’s still explosive, that’s still fast, that’s still dangerous. He’s proven that in his last several fights to get to this point where he deserves this shot. Is there somebody else who has done more in this sport? I’m not sure.”


CBS and Paramount +
Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023 — 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT

Heavyweight World Title Main Event: #C-Ryan Bader (30-7, 1 NC) vs. #3-Fedor Emelianenko (40-6, 1 NC)

Middleweight World Title Co-Main Event: #C-Johnny Eblen (12-0) vs. Anatoly Tokov (31-3)

Welterweight Bout: #8-Sabah Homasi (17-10) vs. Brennan Ward (16-6)


BELLATOR MMA YouTube Channel | Pluto TV
6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT

Welterweight Bout: #7-Neiman Gracie (11-4) vs. Dante Schiro (9-4)

Welterweight Bout: #8-Lorenz Larkin (24-7, 2 NC) vs. Mukhamed Berkhamov (15-1, 1 NC)

Featherweight Bout: Henry Corrales (20-6) vs. Akhmed Magomedov (9-0, 1 NC)

Heavyweight Bout: #5-Steve Mowry (10-0, 1 NC) vs. Ali Isaev (9-0)

Lightweight Bout: Chris Gonzalez (7-2) vs. Max Rohskopf (7-1)

Light Heavyweight Bout: #6-Grant Neal (7-1) vs. #T9-Karl Albrektsson (13-4)

Flyweight Bout: Alejandra Lara (9-6) vs. Diana Avsaragova (5-0)

Bantamweight Bout: Darrion Caldwell (14-6) vs. Nikita Mikhailov (9-2)

Bantamweight Bout: Jaylon Bates (6-0) vs. Jornel Lugo (8-1)

Featherweight Bout: Isaiah Hokit (2-1) vs. Peter Ishiguro (2-1)

Welterweight Bout: Ethan Hughes (3-0) vs. Yusuf Karakaya (1-0)

*Card subject to change.