As we head into the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix semifinals, go inside the training camps and lives of fighters Fedor Emelianenko and Chael Sonnen in the first episode of Bellator 208: Countdown.
The two square off next Saturday night live on Paramount Network.
Despite some of Sonnen’s trash talk regarding the legacy of Emelianenko, “The Last Emperor” still holds his opponent in high standing.
“I have a great respect for Chael Sonnen,” he said. “He has fought and beaten the very best. I have nothing but respect for him. I know how hard you have to work to fight at this level. I know how much blood and sweat gets spilled in the gym.
“That is where real courage comes from.”
Sonnen enters off a decision win earlier this year over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and has won two in a row with his 2017 victory to Wanderlei Silva. He is a former UFC light heavyweight and middleweight title contender, having lost his championship matches to Jon Jones and Anderson Silva.
Emelianenko is far removed from his incredible multi-year win streak, but the 42-year-old did score a first round finish vs. former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir in the opening round of the grand prix this past April. He dropped his Bellator debut via first round knockout to Matt Mitrione, but is 6-1 over his last seven fights.
The winner between Emelianenko and Sonnen advances to the finals against either Ryan Bader or Mitrione for the heavyweight title.
Bellator 208 Fight Card
MAIN CARD (Paramount Network/9 p.m. ET)
Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix Semifinal
Fedor Emelianenko vs. Chael Sonnen
Middleweight: Alexander Shlemenko vs. Anatoly Tokov
Lightweight: Benson Henderson vs. Saad Awad
Heavyweight: Cheick Kongo vs. Timothy Johnson
PRELIMINARY CARD (ParamountNetwork.com)
Bantamweight: Tommy Espinosa vs. Suhrob Aidarbekov
Featherweight: Frank Buenafuente vs. James Gonzalez
Middleweight: Jeremy Puglia vs. Eric Olsen
Welterweight: Mike DiOrio vs. Andrews Rodriguez
Bantamweight: Zarrukh Adashev vs. Christian Medina
Lightweight: Ryan Castro vs. Dennis Buzukia
Welterweight: Robison Gracie Jr. vs. Peter Nascimento
Lightweight: Jerome Mickle vs. Nick Fiore