The new year is upon us and Bellator MMA is ready to kick things into high gear right off the bat. The promotion begins the 2023 campaign with a loaded fight card set for Saturday night in Inglewood, California. The action is anchored by a heavyweight title rematch between champion Ryan Bader and challenger Fedor Emelianenko. The event also marks the debut for the promotion on CBS.
Emelianenko, 46, is set to make his final appearance as a combat athlete on Saturday night when he rematches Bader. "The Last Emperor" is considered among the best MMA fighters of all time thanks to an incredible run with PRIDE in the early 2000s. Emelianenko failed in his only attempt to win the Bellator heavyweight crown against Bader in the Grand Prix final in 2019.
"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," Emelianenko said this week.
"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."
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There's another championship fight on the card as undefeated Johnny Eblen defends his middleweight title against Anatoly Tokov. The fight is Eblen's first defense since winning the belt with a dominant performance against Gegard Mousasi in June 2022. Tokov has won seven straight since debuting in Bellator, five of those wins coming by stoppage.
Elsewhere on the card, Sabah Homasi and Brennan Ward are sure to get the blood pumping for fans around the world when they open the main card. Homasi has built a reputation as a madman inside the cage with five of his last seven bouts ending in a finish. He enters on a two-fight win streak with hopes of joining the short list of title contenders at welterweight. Ward, meanwhile, returned from a five-year absence in 2022 as he battled drug and alcohol addiction. He scored a pair of TKO wins as he has finished 11 of the 16 opponents he has beaten in his career.
"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," Bellator president Scott Coker said. "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."
Check out the rest of the fight card below as well as how you can catch the action from the Kia Forum.
Bellator 290 fight card
- Ryan Bader (c) -330 vs. Fedor Emelianenko +260, heavyweight championship
- Johnny Eblen (c) -300 vs. Anatoly Tokov +240, middleweight championship
- Sabah Homasi -190 vs.Brennan Ward +160, welterweight
- Neiman Gracie -280 vs. Dante Schiro +230, welterweight
- Mukhamed Berkhamov -200 vs. Lorenz Larkin +170, welterweight
- Akhmed Magomedov -575 vs. Henry Corrales +425, featherweight
- Steve Mowry -130 vs. Ali Isaev +110, heavyweight
- Chris Gonzalez -195 vs. Max Rohskopf +165, lightweight
- Karl Albrektsson -140 vs. Grant Neal +120, light heavyweight
- Alejandra Lara -130 vs. Diana Avsaragova +110, women's flyweight
- Nikita Mikhailov -140 vs. Darrion Caldwell +120, bantamweight
- Jornel Lugo -300 vs. Jaylon Bates +240, bantamweight
- Isaiah Hokit -380 vs. Peter Ishiguro +300, featherweight
- Yusuf Karakaya -150 vs. Ethan Hughes +125, welterweight
Bellator 290 info
- Date: Feb. 4
- Location: Kia Forum -- Inglewood, California
- Start time: 9 p.m. ET (Main card)
- How to watch: CBS
Bellator 290 countdown
- Staff predictions and expert picks for the main card
- Campbell: Emelianenko gets the chance for a storybook ending to legendary career
- Mahjouri: Eblen trying to make a quick run at a legacy reign
- Brookhouse: Fedor ready to walk away for good after title fight
- Campbell: Three biggest storylines set for Los Angeles