Reporters reflect on the legacy and impact of Fedor Emelianenko

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There was a time when an physical appearance by Fedor Emelianenko was as significant as it received in mixed martial arts. From mid-2000, when the Russian initial competed as a pro, through the close of 2009, Emelianenko fought 32 moments and misplaced only after, by a dubious doctor’s stoppage. During just one extend, generally in the vaunted Pleasure Combating Championships, he was unbeaten in 28 bouts whilst using on numerous of the best heavyweights of the working day.

Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic. Kevin Randleman. Mark Coleman (2 times). Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (a few times). Andrei Arlovski. Tim Sylvia. All but “Cro Cop” were former UFC heavyweight champions, and Emelianenko mowed down every single one of them. Lots of enthusiasts and pundits — primarily aged-time followers who’ve noticed a total whole lot of MMA — keep up Fedor as the heavyweight GOAT.

But now? Emelianenko is 45 several years aged and in new yrs has not looked like a legend for the ages. He is appeared like an aged legend.

Even now, he’s Fedor.

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On Saturday, Emelianeko (39-6, 1 NC) faces Timothy Johnson (15-7) in the main celebration of Bellator 269 (Showtime, 3 p.m. ET primary card). If the mere existence of Fedor does not include sufficient luster, the setting must assist make it truly feel unique. The struggle card is staying held in Moscow. The Russian followers will get a rare peek at their legendary countryman, born in Ukraine but the pleasure of Stary Oskol, a couple hundred miles south of Moscow, because he was 2 several years previous.

This will be the sixth Bellator MMA fight for Emelianenko. Soon after his wonderful operate in Delight, he bounced amongst numerous promotions before retiring in 2012 on a night time in Russia when he knocked out 3-time UFC title challenger Pedro Rizzo. A few and a 50 percent years afterwards, Emelianenko returned to fighting. And by 2017 he was in Bellator, working for his aged buddy Scott Coker, who’d been his promoter with Strikeforce.

It’s been a wild run in Bellator for Emelianenko. All five of his fights have ended in first-spherical knockouts. He was completed by Matt Mitrione and Ryan Bader, the latter in 35 seconds in a Bellator Heavyweight Environment Grand Prix last in 2019. Fedor was the past male standing in fights towards Frank Mir, Chael Sonnen and, most not long ago, Quinton Jackson.

Emelianenko’s knockout of “Rampage” Jackson took spot at Saitama Super Arena outdoors Tokyo, which yrs previously experienced been the setting for the two men’s most important moments in Delight. This was no coincidence. The December 2019 struggle was billed as the start out of a Fedor retirement tour. The idea was for him to compete one final time in 3 locales of private importance: Japan, Russia and the United States.

Approximately two yrs afterwards, is the retirement tour nonetheless a point? There has been no sign that Emelianenko will lay down his gloves in the centre of the cage following Saturday’s combat, but more than enough time has passed for us to ponder irrespective of whether Fedor will retain going.

Either way, now is as superior a time as any to remember the moments that have defined the profession of the man known as “The Previous Emperor.” ESPN MMA writers Marc Raimondi, Carlos Contreras Legaspi and Jeff Wagenheim recount their memories of the excellent Fedor.

Raimondi: Eventually, validation for Fedor

Fedor Emelianenko lived up to the hype by crushing former UFC heavyweight winner Andrei Arlovski at an Affliction celebration in 2009. Getty Photos

By the time Pride FC was sold to the UFC in 2007, there was now revisionist record getting penned in the West about Emelianenko and his accomplishments. Certain, Emelianenko was a major heavyweight, some UFC lovers have been indicating, but glimpse at some of those people names on his résumé. Hong Person Choi? Zuluzinho? Yuji Nagata? Some have been questioning just how terrific Emelianenko was inspite of his obtaining long gone undefeated for nearly a 10 years.

It really took Emelianenko’s shorter operate with Affliction to make him plain as a fantastic, at least in the eyes of many Western followers. (Even now, there is a section of UFC admirers who never give Emelianenko sufficient regard.) At the Affliction event in July 2008 in Anaheim, California, Emelianenko blasted Sylvia and choked him out in 28 seconds. Even UFC president Dana White, famously a Fedor detractor, could not support but be impressed, stating that Sylvia, 1 of his firm’s previous heavyweight champions, was a “actual dude.”

Six months afterwards, also in Affliction, Emelianenko stopped Arlovski with an tremendous suitable hand in 3:14. Arlovski, whom Sherdog experienced ranked as the No. 2 heavyweight in the entire world at the time, experienced a five-fight successful streak and was also a former UFC heavyweight winner. “The Pitbull” looked wonderful early in the to start with spherical in opposition to Emelianenko and appeared to be on the verge of tuning him up. Nope. Arlovski went for a jumping knee and Emelianenko unquestionably crushed him with a appropriate hand, turning his lights out.

The poise, the timing, the system, the explosiveness. That was Emelianenko in a nutshell. And beating Arlovski also gave the Russian legend bragging legal rights — he conquer just about all of the most effective heavyweights of his generation. For me and other supporters who watched Satisfaction (I was incredibly significantly just a supporter again then), there was a particular perception of validation that Fedor was who we explained he was.

Legaspi: The GOAT, in accordance to Cain Velasquez

Fedor Emelianenko defeated a lot of terrific heavyweights throughout a ten years of dominance, together with Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic in a 2005 Pleasure bout. Tomokazu Tazawa/Getty Visuals

Staying a fan of MMA in Mexico 17 decades back was not straightforward. There had been no legal ways to view dwell functions. If you were being blessed, you could obtain UFC or Pleasure DVDs while on a journey, or it’s possible get them by catalogue supply 6 to eight months soon after their release.

I began covering MMA in 2010, when Cain Velasquez grew to become the UFC heavyweight champion. Mainly because he is Mexican-American, that is the moment when the activity turned a matter in Latin America. As I followed Velasquez, I listened to him remedy the exact same problem dozens of occasions: His heavyweight GOAT was Fedor without the need of a doubt, and Velasquez anticipated to struggle him at some stage in purchase to establish himself to be the best.

Simply because of Velasquez’s praise for Emelianenko, I bought hooked on observing “The Past Emperor.” I viewed his Pride times pretty much a decade soon after those fights transpired, on tape. My beloved kinds occurred concerning 2004 and 2006, when Fedor defeat arguably the greatest class of heavyweights in the heritage of the division. He went on an wonderful streak.

I won’t be able to say I have a favourite unique Fedor memory. It was just a standard adore for how he fought — the violence, the tempo on his hanging for a modest heavyweight, the electric power on his floor-and-pound and the easy transitions on the floor to armbars or kimuras. These are factors that make his primary several years feel exclusive even now, with the heavyweight division now showcasing the awesome ability of Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane’s outstanding standup strategy.

Velasquez vs. Fedor was a desire fight, and it’s possible it’s a fantastic factor that it stayed like that. It would have been tricky for a battle to reside up to the anticipations of a matchup amongst all those two in their primary.

Wagenheim: The aura of a cult superhero

Fedor Emelianenko was on the getting finish of the beating for a improve, when he met Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix in 2011. Esther Lin/Zuffa LLC by means of Getty Pictures

Through his ten years-very long run of greatness, Fedor was a hazy, legendary determine for me. Which is for the reason that virtually each effectiveness through his 28-struggle unbeaten streak took place in Japan, mostly in Delight FC. Back then, it was complicated plenty of for a fan in the United States to hold up with the way-out-on-the-sports activities-fringe UFC, much considerably less a combat card halfway all over the planet. When I did control to catch a Fedor fight, it was both on a perpetually buffering center-of-the-evening stream or on a DVD or even VHS tape rented at the movie shop in my community numerous months immediately after the bout took location.

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Inspite of all of this, and most likely in some approaches because of how difficult he was to observe, Fedor experienced the aura of a cult superhero. So when the chance lastly arrived to see the guy complete in human being, I could not pass it up. It was 2011, and by then Emelianenko was in Strikeforce, set to compete in a Heavyweight Grand Prix event. The placing was the Meadowlands in New Jersey, which held own significance for me as a longtime Giants time ticket holder. I experienced experienced lots of glorious sporting activities times in these swamps, and viewing Fedor at the arena proper across the parking large amount from the football stadium was likely to insert a single much more major a person.

A lot less than 7 months before, Emelianenko’s unbeaten operate experienced come to a surprising close when Fabricio Werdum submitted him in hardly a moment. Fedor had just obtained caught. That was the prevailing narrative, in any case. And the continuation of that Fedor-centric narrative posited that he now was returning to reclaim his supremacy amid heavyweights. His opponent, Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, was in for a beating. Or so we considered.

It was a beatdown, all right, but Fedor was on the receiving end. Silva was a more than 5-to-1 betting underdog, but the much more telling range arrived at the weigh-in: “Bigfoot” was the bigger person by 34 lbs. And on combat evening the brawny Brazilian employed each and every ounce of that gain to trap Emelianenko beneath him for a ground-and-pound battering that by the close of Round 2 remaining Fedor’s proper eye puffy, purplish and completely closed. The battle was waved off. In that inconceivable immediate, the crowd of 11,287 at Izod Centre (now Meadowlands Arena) went from boisterous to surprised silence. The great Fedor hadn’t been caught this time. He and his aura had been smashed.

Saturday’s comprehensive Bellator 269 battle card

Showtime, 3 p.m. ET
Heavyweight: Fedor Emelianenko vs. Timothy Johnson
Heavyweight: Vitaly Minakov vs. Claimed Sowma
Catchweight (160 lbs .): Usman Nurmagomedov vs. Patrik Pietila
Middleweight: Anatoly Tokov vs. Sharaf Davlatmurodov
Bellator/Showtime YouTube channels, 12 p.m. ET
Heavyweight: Kiril Sidelnikov vs. Rab Truesdale
Light-weight: Vladimir Tokov vs. Aymard Guih
Flyweight: Darina Mazdyuk vs. Katarzyna Sadura
Flyweight: Irina Alekseeva vs. Stephanie Ielo Web site
Bantamweight: Brian Moore vs. Nikita Mikhailov
Welterweight: Grachik Bozinyan vs. Alexey Shurkevich
Men’s featherweight: Aiden Lee vs. Alexander Osetrov
Men’s featherweight: Gadzhi Rabadanov vs. Alexander Belikh