ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) - A surprise visit by the FBI didn’t distract Fedor Emelianenko.
Emelianenko won by technical knockout over Frank Mir in the opening minute of the first round of the Bellator Heavyweight World Grand Prix on Saturday night.
The victory capped a whirlwind week for the Russian fighter, who was questioned by the FBI in his Chicago hotel room on Tuesday. Emelianenko has had business and other dealings with President Donald Trump, Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Emelianenko (37-5) connected with a left hand to Mir’s face, bringing him to the ground, and then pounded Mir with a series of lefts until the fight was stopped.
Emelianenko, who also had to deal with travel issues, said he leaned on his faith to get through the week.
“With God’s help,” Emelianenko said through a translator.
He wouldn’t detail his conversation with the FBI.
“Everything was great. Everything was OK,” he said.
Emelianenko was the crowd favorite at Allstate Arena, with fans chanting his name.
“He has this presence, this aura, the ‘It’ factor. It doesn’t matter if he wins or loses, honestly, he is still going to be Fedor. He is the greatest fighter to fight in the heavyweight division,” Bellator president Scott Coker said.
Mir made his Bellator debut and was the aggressor from the start by taking down Emelianenko, but Emelianenko quickly got up and threw Mir to the ground and controlled the fight the rest of the way.
The 41-year-old Emelianenko advanced to face Chael Sonnen in the second round of the Grand Prix.
Emelianenko dominated MMA in the heavyweight division from 2000 to 2010. He lost to Matt Mitrione by TKO last June in his Bellator debut, but he previously won five straight fights after three consecutive losses.
The 38-year-old Mir also enjoyed most of his success from 2000-10. The former UFC heavyweight champ was knocked out by Mark Hunt on March 19, 2016. Mir was suspended for two years by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for taking a banned substance after in-competition test. Mir has denied knowingly taking the banned substance.
Emelianenko’s manager, Jerry Millen, confirmed hours before the fight that his client had been questioned by the FBI and that the agents attended the bout.
“The FBI came to the hotel looking to talk to Fedor and they were very nice, came in to speak with Fedor for a few minutes, spoke to me, very cool guys, and that’s all I can really say about it. Again, the FBI did come to the hotel, they found us, knocked on the door,” Millen said.
Putin has attended Emelianenko’s fights, and the fighter has been photographed with the Russian president. His connection with Trump dates back to 2008, when he was signed by Affliction Entertainment, a fight league in which Trump had an ownership stake. Trump announced a joint venture involving MMA and Emelianenko at a news conference on June 5, 2008.
Affliction ended up folding for financial reasons after two events, both headlined by Emelianenko.
“I got the call this was going down, and right away my heart started racing, ‘What is going on?’ But Fedor assured me he was fine and it has nothing to do with him,” Coker said.
Cohen was Affliction’s chief operating officer. Two weeks ago, the FBI raided Cohen’s New York offices, hotel and home, seeking information about a nondisclosure agreement he brokered with porn star Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 election.
In another fight on the Bellator 198 card, Dillon Danis (1-0) made his MMA debut by making quick work of Kyle Walker (2-5). Danis took a couple of shots in the opening seconds before he brought Walker to the ground.
Danis, who previously dominated the jiu jitsu circuit, submitted Walker at 1:38 in the first round. He said he felt comfortable in his MMA debut.
“I felt great, I felt like I was at home. I wasn’t even nervous,” Danis said. “I said this before: When you are this good, you don’t feel pressure.”
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