Los Angeles, Calif. — For all the talk about Fedor Emelianenko’s retirement fight at Bellator 290 tomorrow night (Sat., Feb. 4, 2023), the other half of the headlining bout, Ryan Bader — the actual Heavyweight champion of the organization — is being somewhat ignored this week.

But, “Darth” has no issue with Emelianenko hogging all the mixed martial arts (MMA) media spotlight this week. He understands the magnitude of the moment. And if it wasn’t him stepping into the cage with the Russian legend, he would be rooting for him to go out on top, too.

“No, he deserves it — he’s a legend of the sport,” Bader said during a recent press conference (highlights). “I respect that man, and he’s a good human being. Don’t get me wrong, I know, walking in there that I’d be doing the same. If I’m watching Fedor’s last fight I am cheering for him. I like to do that — I like to see these legends go out on top.”

That’s the reason Bader is in a tough spot because he would love nothing more than to see “The Last Emperor” go out with a win in any other circumstance, but he has to do all in his power to retain his belt.

“I know people are gonna be rooting for him,” Bader said. “But, on the flip side, I have a job to do and my job is to go out there, spoil that party, go out there, and do what I came here to do, retain that belt, win that fight, and move on. All the best. There will be respect there no matter what.

“Me going out there doing my job and winning, you know, I’m the bad guy taking that away from him,” Bader added. “But, I’m in that position, like, what am I gonna do? Just go in there and fold up for him? I’ve got to do my job. I respect that guy a lot, what he’s done in this sport, also as a person. But I’ve got a job to do at the end of the day.”

Nothing personal, just business.

With another win, Bader will go up 2-0 on “The Last Emperor” and earn his third title defense. And if it means fight fans might be upset with him for a little while, then so be it. will deliver coverage of Bellator 290 tomorrow evening on CBS right here. To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.