Fedor Emelianenko knows all about being in a shark tank. Before the McGregors and the Rouseys of the sport turned aficionados starry eyed, before viral escapes with mini videos and posed pictures next to bank vaults stuffed with cash, and long before it was really a mainstay sport, ‘Fedor’ was the man in mixed martial arts. Not just the man. But ‘The Last Emperor’.
We are seeing the last throes, the dying embers of his fighting career as the 40 year old passes into Wholesale hockey Jerseys
a new life just a few years away. But a legend has grown up around the man. And today, ‘Fedor’ is just as impressive in the flesh, and just as intriguing as the stories and profiles written about a person who very rarely opens up. It is no ruse. Fedor is a modest, quiet man. But an icon for so many, the first real star of a sport in which blood, flesh and bone are on the line. So many stories abound on him.
Ice cool, the martial artist would settle down for a snooze in his dressing room before walking out to a cacophony of sound against the hardest, biggest, most impregnable giants of the fight world. The mystique grew as he took to the woods to complete caveman training, chopping logs, running through the forests, and even catching salmon with his bare hands. Well, maybe not the salmon. But you get the picture.
Little wonder Fedor has become a sports idol for President Vladimir Putin, who is a friend and fan, and, moreover, US President Donald Trump has followed the fighter during his son’s promotion of MMA. ‘Fedor’ has never promoted the image of himself. He’s God fearing, modest. He just went out and fought. As if flicking a switch between night/day.
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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