Wanderlei Silva and Fedor Emelianenko Could Fight Under the Rizin Banner

Fightland Blog

By Tom Taylor

Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

On New Years Eve, heavyweight great Fedor Emelianenko emerged from a three-year retirement to crush an outmatched Jaideep Singh. The Russian legend did so under the banner of Rizin Fighting Federation, a new organization helmed by former Pride boss Nobuyuki Sakakibara.

Now that the first fight of Fedor’s comeback is in the books, the search for his next opponent is underway. We’ve seen what the aging heavyweight legend is capable of against an inexperienced, outmatched kickboxing export, and so it’s time for the next step: a more legitimate test.

The most likely option in this regard seems to be Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, who is the former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion and a current member of the Bellator roster. Having won Rizin’s heavyweight tournament on New Years Eve, the outspoken light heavyweight has certainly earned the opportunity, and has made no secret of his desire for a bout with Fedor in recent weeks.

Unfortunately for King Mo, however, an alternative plan for Fedor seems to be brewing—and it involves another Pride legend: Wanderlei Silva.

In 2014, Silva dodged an out-of-competition drug test, and was handed a lifetime ban by the Nevada State Athletic Commission as a result. Given that he was still under contract with the UFC, who follow the NSAC’s rule to the letter, this meant that Silva’s career was essentially over. And so, in a fairly unadvisable move, the Brazilian legend waged a war of words on both the UFC and the NSAC—digging himself deeper and deeper into the hole as he did.

Fast forward to early 2016, however, and Silva’s situation is looking significantly improved. After apologizing to the UFC for his previous comments, he’s been released by the organization. And depending on the outcome of his next hearing with the NSAC—who recently showed their leniency in reducing the suspension of Nick Diaz—Silva may actually be allowed to fight again in this lifetime.

Such an event, of course, would unfold outside the UFC. And though many rival organizations are sure to be interested in Silva, the two front-runners in this discussion seem to be Bellator and Rizin, two promotions that are linked through a connection to Viacom.

The latest development in the possible Wanderlei Silva comeback storyline comes from a conversation between Rizin president Sakakibara and Tass.ru (via Bloody Elbow). In this interview, the Rizin boss discussed his interest in Silva—particularly in the context of Fedor’s next opponent. 

"This month, I will visit the United States, where I will meet with Wanderlei,” Sakakibara explained. “This is a fighter, which is not only interesting to Rizin, but for fans of combat sports in general, and our job is to answer the wishes of our viewers. If we talk about the fight between Fedor and Wanderlei Silva, there is such a possibility. If the number of those wishing to see the fight between Fedor and Wanderlei Silva will be really great, we will make efforts to ensure that the fight takes place."

So there it is. Provided Silva is able to clear things up with the NSAC, the Rizin president is interested in making him Fedor’s next opponent.

Of course, this news is not likely to go over well with King Mo who, once again, has been quite vocal in his urge to fight Fedor. The news is also likely to come as a bit of a bummer for Bellator welterweight Paul Daley, a brick-fisted striker who has been calling for a bout with Silva since the legend’s potential comeback was announced.

All that being said, however, a pairing of Fedor Emelianenko and Wanderlei Silva might just be the the best option of the bunch for the fans, for Rizin, and for the two fighters themselves.

From the standpoint of a viewer, a potential collision of Fedor and Silva will always be exciting. The two fighters stand out as two of the best and most ferocious produced by the Pride era, and a fight between them would be steeped in history. This, of course, implies solid viewership ratings for Rizin—far more than a Fedor vs. King Mo or Silva vs. Daley bout would generate.

Finally, and most importantly, a Fedor vs. Silva bout makes sense for the two legends themselves. While their comebacks are both very exciting in principle, only the most optimistic (naïve) fans believe either man is still capable of hanging with the best. Sure, Fedor would be the bigger man in the ring with King Mo, and Silva, who has spent much of his career at light heavyweight, would tower over Daley. In these prospective fights, however, both men would face a real risk of having their lights shut off by younger, faster, less war-worn fighters—and we really don’t need to see anymore of that.

In a fight against one another, however, Fedor and Silva would meet on more level ground as two slowing legends from the same, long-gone era of fighting. The potential fight would certainly be a dangerous one for both fighters, but it would also be a fair one. For that reason alone, Sakakibara’s recently-announced interest in a Fedor vs. Silva bout is a truly exciting possibility. Here’s hoping it happens. 


Check out these related stories:

Rizin Continues to Bet Big on Fedor

Rizin and the Return of MMA Madness

Recap: Rizin FF Proves That the MMA World Still Loves a Freakshow