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As if unearthing and unleashing a beast within him, he usesthe striking, judo and Russian fighting art of Sambo as if he had been selected from on high to represent fight culture. ‘The Last Emperor’, who went 28 fights unbeaten between 2001 and 2009 beating a succession of great rivals, is back. For his feats, though, over the decade in which the UFC was ferociously building its brand, Emelianenko was doing his thing, becoming the longest reigning heavyweight lineal champion in MMA history.His legacy in the sport and his impact in MMA, particularly with long time observers, and well known fight figures even Mike Tyson is a self declared fan has seen him compared to the likes of Muhammad Ali in boxing, Pele in football and Wayne Gretzky in ice hockey. Fedor has never been signed by the UFC. But they have tried to secure him several times. Perhaps Fedor was ahead of his time, but he has always been his own man. But Bellator MMA, on the strength of the relationship between the Russian fighter and Bellator’s CEO Scott Coker, have secured him for what will most likely be the last few fights of his career. Coker had also managed to have Emelianenko on the new defunct Strikeforce organization, which was bought out by the UFC five years ago. So one of the most highly anticipated heavyweight battles in Bellator MMA history sees the legendary Russian fighter 36 wins, 4 loses, 1 no contest make his debut on the Viacom owned mixed martial arts franchise when he face Matt Mitrione, a former NFL player and a former UFC heavyweight record 11 wins, 5 losses headline the main card at Bellator 172. Fedor had a period away from the sport when he worked for the Sports Ministry in his home country. Following back to back wins since his return from a three year retirement, Fedor will look to extend his winning streak to six straight with a victory over Mitrione. Spending time with the Russian this week, he speaks little, offers a 1000 yard stare when asked questions into an imaginary abyss, before offering a few words in response. His fight hero is Prince Alexander Nevsky. Google him, he says to me.
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Of course, Nevsky was an aristocratic warrior. But there is a quiet, understated humour surrounding the fighter, too. Like his ‘sweater’, knitted for him by an aunt, and which, by any standards unspectacular, and the kind of sweater one might leave on the unwanted Christmas present pile, it has become part of his mythical status. It is a send up, too. Opponent Mitrione, whose father is a plastic surgeon, and who has even suggested he may go into ocular surgery himself once his fighting days are over, offered up the fact that if he defeats the Russian on Saturday night, the sweater could be his.«When I first faced off with Fedor, he came out in that sweater. It had an effect. It really did. I’d fight to have that sweater as the trophy,» japed the big American, who weighs in at Jerry Millen, the Russian fighter’s manager and publicist, who has been around him for 15 years, told Telegraph Sport that the most alarming, and indeed, endearing characteristic of the mysterious mixed martial artist, is that «he has never