Tim Johnson is the last person the MMA community expected as the next opponent of Fedor Emelianenko in Bellator’s debut in Russia.
On Oct. 23 in Moscow, Emelianenko and Johnson will lock horns. The announcement revealed a few weeks back gave fans and the fighters alike time to fantasize about possible matchups with Josh Barnett, Junior dos Santos, Alistair Overeem, and even Anderson Silva. So what happened?
“We started taking these names and Fedor was really thinking about it,” Bellator President Scott Coker told MMA Junkie. “When he came here for the [Valentin] Moldavsky fight, he said to me, ‘If Moldavsky loses, I want to fight Tim Johnson.’ In his mind, I think he already had a focus on somebody that’s ranked – somebody that’s relevant in today’s fighting. Maybe he could’ve got that shot against [Ryan] Bader in that sense, right? He wanted to fight Tim Johnson if he won, but he lost. I think in his mind, he had this fight in his mind.
Coker gives Fedor Emelianenko a lot of credit for his decision to not take an easier fight than the recent interim title challenger in Johnson. As mentioned by the boss, Ryan Bader is still the heavyweight champion – a title he claimed by knocking out Emelianenko in 2019.
“He went home and thought about it,” Coker continued. “We gave him all the names and it was really up to him. To me, he deserves to be able to choose who he wants to be able to fight in his last couple of fights. He’s going to retire after he fights this fight and then he’s got one more and he’s going to retire. To me, he’s the greatest heavyweight of all time. He’s accomplished so much [and] done so much for the sport.”
“The Last Emperor” last fought in December 2019 when earning a first-round knockout against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.