Fedor Emelianenko. Photo courtesy of BodogFight.
Amsterdam, Holland - While WAMMA heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko’s recent two wins over former UFC heavyweight champions Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski have taken place on American soil, he first earned his reputation as being the world’s pound-for-pound best fighter while competing in Japan.
Despite having made a name for himself in Japan, Fedor has not competed in the Land of the Rising Sun since recording a first round submission victory over 7’2’’ Goliath Hong Man Choi at “Yarrenoka” on New Year’s Eve 2007.
But Fedor will end his hiatus from active competition in Japan on Wednesday, April 29 at Shinjuku Face in Tokyo during the third edition of the 2009 “M-1 Challenge Presented by Affliction.” Fans in attendance will be treated to a special five-minute sparring exhibition between Fedor when he returns to the ring for a five-minute special sparring exhibition against WAMMA lightweight champion Shinya Aoki.
Aoki, 20-4, is one of the leading jiu-jitsu practitioners in all of MMA with 12 submission wins to his credit. The 25-year old has forced his opponent to tap out in his last three victories with a notable heel hook submission over Eddie Alvarez during FEG’s “Dynamite!!” event this past New Year’s Eve at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama.
Fedor is a multi-time World Combat Sambo champion who is 30-1 lifetime in MMA. A former PRIDE heavyweight champion, he has recorded historic victories in Japan over the likes of former interim UFC heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Japanese combat sports icon Kazuyuki Fujita, K-1 standout Semmy Schilt, and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, just to name a few.
Complete rules of the Fedor vs. Aoki sparring exhibition are still being negotiated, but it will be presented as a special attraction during a 19-bout event scheduled to feature head-to-head M-1 Challenge matchups between host country Japan vs. England, Team USA West vs. South Korea, and Spain vs. France.
South Korea, which upset defending M-1 Challenge Champions Team Imperial during the ‘09 M-1 Challenge opener in Tacoma, Wash. in February, will look to maintain its slim lead over Team USA West in Group B. Like South Korea, USA West is 1-0 following its upset win over Brazil Naja in the opener but trails in the first tie-breaking category of individual victories.
Despite the strong showing vs. Brazil, USA West team owner Roy Engelbrecht and Steve Bash have changed three fifth’s of their roster, turning to Affliction veteran Fabio “Negao” Nascimento along with former EliteXC veterans Giva Santana and Shane Del Rosario.
While Japan will be making its ‘09 season debut, England will be making its M-1 Challenge debut after not fielding a team in 2008. Led by owner Andy Lillis, the Brits will feature Ian Butlin at lightweight, Simon Phillips at welterweight, middleweight Matt Thorpe, light heavyweight Tom Blackledge, and heavyweight Rob Broughton.
Group A participants Team France and Team Spain will also go head-to-head with much anticipated matchups taking place at lightweight between France’s Makhtar Gueye vs. Spain’s Jose Luiz Aguirre and at light heavyweight with Christian Mmpumbu of Team France vs. Enoc Solves of Team Spain.
Additionally, the event will also feature a “Superfight” between French striking phenom Karl Amoussou and IFL veteran Kazuhiro Hamanaka.