LOS ANGELES – This Saturday, Feb. 4, BELLATOR MMA will make its landmark CBS network television and Paramount+ debut from the Kia Forum in Inglewood, CA. In the historic Heavyweight World Championship main event, reigning titleholder and No. 6 Pound-for-Pound athlete Ryan “Darth” Bader (30-7, 1 NC) seeks to become the first man to ever defeat the legendary No. 3-ranked Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko (40-6, 1 NC) twice in the Russian icon’s final fight of what has been an unrivaled combat sports career.
BELLATOR 290: Bader vs. Fedor 2 will air live on CBS and on the Paramount+ streaming service at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. Following the live event, the broadcast will be available on Paramount+ on an on-demand basis and streaming on the BELLATOR MMA channel on Pluto TV. BELLATOR 290 will also be available on SHOWTIME streaming service and SHOWTIME On Demand later in the month.
In the co-headlining bout, undisputed and undefeated World Middleweight Champion, No. 5 Pound-for-Pound talent Johnny “The Human Cheat Code” Eblen (12-0) will aim to earn his first title defense against Emelianenko protégé, No. 3-ranked Anatoly Tokov (31-2). Welterweight fan-favorites “Irish” Brennan Ward (16-6) and No. 8-ranked contender Sabah “Sleek Sheik” Homasi (17-10) will make history as the first BELLATOR fight to air on CBS and Paramount+ in this must-see main card curtain-jerker.
As the hugely significant event rapidly approaches, here are some fight-week highlights and notes to usher in BELLATOR’s first event of 2023:
FEDOR EMELIANENKO, ONE OF MMA’S GREATEST EVER, IN FINAL FIGHT
Unquestionably one of the greatest mixed martial artists to ever grace the cage, Russia’s Fedor Emelianenko will seek a storybook ending to his legendary career on February 4 when he tries to capture the World Heavyweight Championship against rival Ryan Bader. The former PRIDE FC Heavyweight Champion amassed 16 devastating knockouts and 15 submissions over world-class opponents during his two-plus decades atop MMA’s heavyweight division. That Emelianenko specifically sought to rematch Bader, the reigning titleholder, rather than take an easier matchup in his retirement fight reflects his mythical valor and unquenchable championship aspirations.
- This World Heavyweight Championship bout marks Emelianenko’s seventh BELLATOR MMA appearance and his sixth main event with the promotion. It will be Emelianenko’s second effort at the World Heavyweight Championship.
- Fighting out of Stary Oskol, Russia, Emelianenko was a two-time Olympic torchbearer and holds a Masters of Sport in judo and sambo.
- Emelianenko was named “Fighter of the Decade” for his 2000s exploits by numerous sport-specific media outlets, also earning such awards for “Fight of the Year” and “Fight of the Decade” for his victory over Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipović.
- Emelianenko will continue his significant impact on the sport through the success of his pupils, among them World Light Heavyweight Champion Vadim Nemkov (16-2), No. 1-ranked heavyweight Valentin Moldavsky (11-2, 1 NC), and World Middleweight Championship challenger and BELLATOR 290 co-headliner Anatoly Tokov (31-2).
RYAN BADER PURSUES HEAVYWEIGHT HISTORY, LEGACY-DEFINING WIN
At BELLATOR 290, Ryan Bader will look to become the first fighter in history to score a second victory over the iconic Emelianenko, defending his World Heavyweight Championship in the process. Entering his rematch with “The Last Emperor” on February 4, Bader will already hold BELLATOR records for the longest heavyweight title reign and most heavyweight title defenses, but he will hope to widen that gap with a second emphatic victory over Emelianenko. Bader knocked out the Russian in 35 seconds during their first meeting in 2019, earning the vacant championship in the finale of the BELLATOR Heavyweight World Grand Prix. The former simultaneous two-weight titleholder has legacy on the mind as he tries to spoil Emelianenko’s last professional outing.
- Bader’s rematch with Emelianenko will be his twelfth BELLATOR appearance and his ninth headlining opportunity. It will mark his eighth title fight with the promotion.
- Prior to joining BELLATOR, Bader won Season 8 of the arduous, hit reality-TV competition The Ultimate Fighter and became one of the UFC’s highest-ranked light heavyweight contenders.
- Bader made his first foray into martial arts with wrestling. He joined the Arizona State University wrestling program as a two-time Nevada high school state champion and top recruit, and he went on to become a two-time NCAA DI All-American and three-time PAC-10 Conference champion as a Sun Devil.
- Bader is BELLATOR’s first simultaneous two-division World Champion. He is the only BELLATOR athlete to defend titles in two weight classes.
JOHNNY EBLEN AIMS TO PROVE HE IS WORLD’S BEST, KEEP PERFECT RECORD INTACT IN CO-HEADLINER
Ask any of the prestigious South Florida MMA gym American Top Team’s vaunted fighters, and Johnny Eblen will be the first name answered to the question of who the best middleweight in the world is. The reigning Middleweight World Champion exploded into superstardom by defeating MMA legend Gegard Mousasi (49-8-2) this past June, but his rise to No. 5 in the Pound-for-Pound rankings has been an inevitable ascent. The 31-year-old has won all twelve of his professional fights, adding an ever-increasingly dangerous striking arsenal to his world-class wrestling and unrivaled cardio. He will look to score his first title defense and prove himself the world’s best at BELLATOR 290.
- Eblen will make his ninth BELLATOR appearance on February 4, as well as his first co-main event appearance. It will be Eblen’s first title defense of the Middleweight World Championship.
- Eblen’s 12-0 record includes five knockouts and a submission victory, evidence of his powerful strikes and keen finishing ability. He will look to defeat his third straight ranked opponent at BELLATOR 290.
- Prior to transitioning to mixed martial arts, Eblen was a decorated wrestler at the University of Missouri. He qualified for the NCAA DI National Championships in 2015 and was a two-time All-MAC Academic Team member.
STACKED UNDERCARD SHOWCASES BELLATOR’S DIVERSE ROSTER OF ATHLETES AND FEATURES WEALTH OF RANKED CONTENDERS, TOP PROSPECTS
BELLATOR 290: Bader vs. Fedor 2 is a fitting introduction to BELLATOR MMA’s globally diverse roster of incredible athletes to the CBS and Paramount+ audience. The 14-fight event features athletes representing six countries, and its 28 athletes boast an impressive combined record of 347-77, 7 NC through a whopping 431 professional bouts. The card’s athletes — among which are eight ranked contenders and two undisputed champions — have combined for a staggering 235 stoppages: 133 total knockouts and 102 submissions.
No. 7-ranked welterweight contender and heir to MMA’s first family legacy, Neiman Gracie (11-4), will headline the preliminary card of BELLATOR 290: Bader vs. Fedor 2 against gritty wrestler Dante Schiro (9-4). Elsewhere, two-time title challenger and No. 8-ranked middleweight Lorenz “The Monsoon” Larkin (24-7, 2 NC) will look to make good on his return to welterweight in a rematch with Russian stalwart Mukhamed Berkhamov (14-0, 1 NC), while undefeated heavyweight and Olympic wrestling alumnus Ali Isaev (9-0) will make his BELLATOR debut against No. 5-ranked “Tall” Steve Mowry (10-0, 1 NC) in a clash of unbeaten contenders. Top Ten-ranked light heavyweights will go toe-to-toe when No. 6-ranked Grant Neal (7-1) battles Sweden’s No. 9-ranked “King” Karl Albrektsson (13-4), while former BELLATOR Bantamweight Champion and NCAA DI national wrestling champion Darrion “The Wolf” Caldwell (15-6) aspires for a return to the win column against Team Fedor’s Nikita Mikhailov (9-2).
Additional wrestling standouts will be in action, when NJCAA All-American Chris “The Lion” Gonzalez (7-2) welcomes ACC champion Max “Rated R” Rohskopf (7-1) to BELLATOR’s talent-rich lightweight division. At featherweight, perennial contender and well-reputed finisher Henry “OK” Corrales (20-6) aims to hand Russia’s Akhmed Magomedov (10-0, 1 NC) his first career defeat, while at bantamweight, undefeated Diana Avsaragova (5-0) will put her perfect record on the line against Columbia’s Alejandra Lara (9-6). In a battle between two top BELLATOR bantamweight prospects, Jornel “A1” Lugo (8-1) will take on confident unbeaten Jaylon “New Breed” Bates (6-0) in a thrilling booking.
A STAR-STUDDED BROADCAST TEAM TO CALL THE ACTION
BELLATOR 290 will feature one of the top announce teams in all of combat sports. Veteran play-by-play announcer Mauro Ranallo will call the action alongside MMA’s most famous referee-turned-analyst “Big” John McCarthy. Additional analysis and reporting from the desk will be spearheaded by CBS Sports Network announcing mainstay Amanda Guerra and former STRIKEFORCE World Champion Josh Thomson.
BELLATOR MMA RE-SIGNS TOP TALENT, ANNOUNCES MILLION-DOLLAR LIGHTWEIGHT WORLD GRAND PRIX AND EVENTS FOR FIRST QUARTER OF EXCITING 2023 SCHEDULE
The start of 2023 has been accompanied by a large slate of key announcements from BELLATOR MMA. The promotion re-signed two of its Top 3 Pound-for-Pound talents, Light Heavyweight World Champion and No. 1 MMA Light Heavyweight Vadim Nemkov (16-2) and No. 3 Pound-for-Pound talent, former Featherweight World Champion, and No. 8-ranked lightweight contender AJ “Mercenary” McKee (20-1). Additionally, BELLATOR announced the official launch of the Lightweight World Grand Prix: the $1,000,000 tournament will feature World Lightweight Champion Usman Nurmagomedov (16-0), Benson Henderson (30-11), McKee, Patricky Pitbull (24-11), Tofiq Musayev (19-4), Alexander Shabliy (22-3), Sidney Outlaw (16-5), and Mansour Barnaoui (20-4).
The promotion also announced several key events for the first quarter of 2023. Following BELLATOR 290 on February 4, BELLATOR will return to the 3Arena in Dublin, Ireland on February 25 for BELLATOR 291: Amosov vs. Storley 2. March will feature two California-based shows, bringing a Lightweight World Championship match to San Jose on March 10 with BELLATOR 292: Nurmagomedov vs. Henderson and a card loaded with top-ten contenders to Temecula on March 31 for BELLATOR 293: Golm vs. James. Lastly, BELLATOR has announced its return to the Accor Arena in Paris, France for May 12 with BELLATOR Paris: Mousasi vs. Edwards.
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BELLATOR 290: BADER VS. FEDOR 2 MAIN CARD:
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: Sabah Homasi (17-10) vs. Brennan Ward (16-6)
BELLATOR 290: BADER VS. FEDOR 2 PRELIMINARY CARD:
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)
For more information on upcoming BELLATOR MMA events, visit BELLATOR.com.
Updated Schedule of BELLATOR Events
Fri. Feb. 4 // BELLATOR 290: Bader vs. Emelianenko 2 // Kia Forum // Los Angeles, CA
Sat. Feb. 25 // BELLATOR 291: Amosov vs. Storley 2 // 3Arena // Dublin, Ireland
Fri. Mar. 10 // BELLATOR 292: Nurmagomedov vs. Henderson // SAP Center // San Jose, CA
Fri. Mar. 31 // BELLATOR 293: Golm vs. James // Pechanga Resort Casino // Temecula, CA
Fri. May 12 // BELLATOR Paris: Mousasi vs. Edwards // Accor Arena // Paris, France
BELLATOR MMA is a leading global mixed martial arts organization featuring many of the best fighters in the world. Under the direction of veteran fight promoter Scott Coker, BELLATOR events take place in major cities worldwide and can be seen on television in over 160 countries to an available audience of over one billion people. In the United States, BELLATOR can be seen on SHOWTIME. BELLATOR is comprised of an executive team that includes top industry professionals in television production, live event orchestration, fighter development/relations, venue procurement, sponsorship creation/development, international licensing, marketing, advertising, publicity, and commission relations. BELLATOR is based in Hollywood, Calif. and owned by entertainment giant Paramount, home to the world's premier entertainment brands that connect with audiences through compelling content across television, motion picture, online and mobile platforms.