The return of 40-year-old Emelianenko was confirmed during the Bellator 165 broadcast on Saturday night. The Russian will make his debut in the promotion against UFC veteran Matt Mitrione at the SAP Center in San Jose on February 18.
“I’m happy to be fighting in San Jose – I’m happy to be fighting in Bellator,” Emelianenko told Bellator announcer Jimmy Smith.
Last December, Emelianenko came out of retirement after a three year break to defeat Jaideep Singh in the first round at Rizin Fighting Federation’s New Year’s Eve event.
He fought again in June, securing a controversial majority decision over Fabio Maldonado at Eurasia Fight Nights 50.
That victory took the veteran’s career MMA record to 36-4.
Matt Mitrione joined Bellator in March of 2016 after six years in the UFC.
The American has fought twice since then, claiming victories over Carl Seumanutafa and Oli Thompson during the summer, to take his record to 11-5 in the professional ranks.
I’m honored – I’m so excited as a fighter,” Mitrione told Emelianenko during the live broadcast of Bellator 165.
“You’re the person everybody guns for their entire career. Welcome to the family. Let’s give them a show,” he said.
Emelianenko went undefeated in the 10 years from 2000 until 2010, recording 26 straight wins. His impressive performance and remarkable technique has gained him worldwide recognition as one of the best MMA fighters of all time.
The Last Emperor is the latest big name to join Bellator as they look to challenge the UFC’s domination of mixed martial arts, with the likes of Chael Sonnen and Rory MacDonald agreeing to deals earlier this year.