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MMA Fedor Emelianenko vs Ryan Bader


LOS ANGELES — Respect for Fedor Emelianenko runs so deep in the mixed martial arts community that even a fellow former world champion hesitates to pick against him.Former UFC lightweight titleholder Benson Henderson will be at Bellator 214 at the Forum in Inglewood, where he’ll corner Henry Corrales in his co-feature bout with Aaron Pico.Henderson, like so many others, became a fan of the sport during the heyday of the former longtime PRIDE heavyweight champion.So while none of the fighters asked at Thursday’s Bellator 214 media day came out and picked the 42-year-old Emelianenko to win the Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament finals against an opponent in his prime — Bellator light heavyweight champ Ryan Bader — in Bellator 214’s main event, even a fighter as levelheaded as Bendo paused to give respect for what “The Last Emperor” has accomplished in the sport.“Fedor is such a legend to me,” Henderson said at Thursday’s Bellator 214 media day. “I grew up watching Fedor, he’s a legend to me. Bader, he’s from Phoenix, he’s a college wrestler like myself, so I have a super hard time going against Bader. I will say for sure that it’s a fight fans don’t want to miss.”Emelianenko made his name as a smaller, faster heavyweight who still hit like a truck. He proved the latter still holds true in his quarterfinal finish of Frank Mir and semifinal win over Chael Sonnen. But this time out, Henderson said, he’s fighting an opponent who does the same and is younger.“[Fedor] always made his money being a more athletic, quicker, faster, agile heavyweight, and now Bader is an even smaller, faster [fighter], but strong enough to hang with the big boys at heavyweight,” Henderson said. “But he’s just as quick, just as fast, maybe even quicker and faster and more agile that Fedor is. So who knows how it might play out? Bader might pressure him the whole time and take him down, take him down, take him down. We’ll see. Who knows?”

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