It was almost like Fedor Emelianenko turned back the clock.
The Russian’s legendary hand speed was front and center in the Bellator 269 headliner, as he knocked out former interim heavyweight title challenger Timothy Johnson 1:40 into the opening round at VTB Arena in Moscow. It was Emelianenko’s fourth victory in his last five outings in Bellator, but there was something different about his most recent performance.
“That was really special,” Coker told assembled media after the event. “I’ve been in the fight game a long time and for him to really deliver in his hometown in front of all of his fans, it was really fun to watch. It was a real special night and like I said, being a promoter for so long there’s a few times that just capture that moment in time and really this was that night.
“I was like, wow, at 45 he can still bring it. He threw combinations at Tim that I haven’t seen for a little while, honestly. I think the pressure of him being at home really helped him. When I saw him yesterday he seemed so focused and I think a lot of it was riding on the line for him. He’s here and he’s proud to be here, all his people here, it was just an amazing night. Wow. Unbelievable.”
Johnson was coming off a five-round decision loss to Valentin Moldavsky in an interim title bout at Bellator 261 this past June. Prior to that defeat, the 36-year-old Extreme Couture representative authored a three-bout winning streak with victories over Tyrell Fortune, Matt Mitrione and Cheick Kongo.
“I can’t remember the last time Tim was knocked out or if he’s ever been knocked out like that,” Coker said. “Fedor, he threw some combinations at Tim that I was like, man, his hand speed is still there. His twitch speed is still there. He proved it. He proved to me he’s still the greatest of all time.
“I was sitting around [Bellator Europe executive] David Green, and [American Kickboxing Academy coach] Javier Mendez, and Khabib [Nurmagomedov], and we were just talking about how, ‘Jesus. Unbelievable at 45 he can still bring it like that.’ It’s unbelievable, it’s like time just stopped for him.”
Emelianenko just turned 45 last month, but after Bellator 269 he seemed to indicate that another fight is likely before he retires. That is in line with the Russian’s previous sentiments, when he expressed a desire for a three-fight farewell tour with bouts in Japan, Russia and the United States. Thus far, nothing is set in stone.
“I’ll tell you, I haven’t talked to Fedor about it,” Coker said. “I just want to enjoy this moment and I think he just wants to enjoy this moment. So talk to us in maybe two or three weeks and we’ll have an answer for you.”