CHICAGO (AP) — When Frank Mir received the call from Bellator he didn't anticipate fighting one of the most prolific men in MMA history after a two-year layoff.
Mir (18-11) will be making his Bellator debut against Fedor Emelianenko (36-5, 1 no contest) in the first round of the 2018's Bellator Heavyweight World Grand Prix on Saturday night in Rosemont.
Emelianenko, 41, 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 straight losses before his decade of dominance.
"At first when I first got the call, honestly, I didn't want the fight. First fight back. Two-year layoff. I'm also a strategist. It didn't seem like a good idea. I wouldn't mind a softball, an underhand pitch for the first swing, you know," Mir said. "It would be nice if it worked out we were in the finals together, but there are six other guys that don't want to cooperate with that process, and they are going to try to screw this up, so it made sense if I want this fight it had to happen now."
Mir, 38, also enjoyed most of his success between 2000-10. The former UFC heavyweight champ was knocked out by Mark Hunt on March 19, 2016. Mir was suspended for two years by USADA for taking a banned substance after in-competition test. Mir has denied knowingly taking the banned substance.
Mir and Emelianenko has been a fight in the making for nearly 20 years and Bellator is finally putting it together.
"One of the things I have learned in this business, when you can make a fight, you make the fight because there are no guarantees that fight will happen later," said Bellator President Scott Coker.
Emelianenko is also done waiting.
"I couldn't be happier than to meet Frank in this fight because it's been a long time that people have been waiting for this fight, since we worked at different promotions, so that's why it wasn't possible," said Emelianenko through a translator.
Another fight on the card, will feature Dillon Danis in his MMA debut versus Kyle Walker (2-4). Danis, is the training partner of Conor McGregor and will be fighting at 170 pounds. Danis made name for himself by dominating the jiu-jitsu circuit.
Danis, just like McGregor, does not lack confidence. When asked how he feels about being on the same card as Emelianenko, Danis responded.
"I wonder how he feels, you asked him, to be on the same card as Dillon Danis?"
Danis, 24, who trained in Ireland for the fight with John Kavanagh, received expertise from McGregor on his striking game.
"One hundred percent, he is the best striker in the world, so, he's definitely helped me. He helps me in every aspect, mental, physical, he is a very good mentor and I'm happy to have him as a friend and training partner," Danis said.
Danis is not sure if McGregor will be in attendance for the fight.
"He is kind of a guy that is last minute. But he is definitely going to watch it."