Later today (or tonight depending your timezone) legendary MMA heavyweight, “The Last Emperor” and arguably the greatest of all-time, Fedor Emelianenko, will compete in what most speculate to be the last fight of his career. He will be fighting Pedro Rizzo in St. Petersburg, Russia. If this Fedor’s last fight, MMA fans can only wonder what if he was under different management? What if M-1 Global didn’t exist? What if Fedor signed with the UFC after Pride, or even after destroying two former UFC Heavyweight champions in Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski?
I don’t subscribe to the same theory that so many UFC fans blindly do, which is Fedor’s legend doesn’t carry the same weight because he never entered the Octagon. The reality is for over 9 years Fedor didn’t lose. At a time when Pride showcased the best heavyweights on the planet–Fedor beat them all (well, he never fought Josh Barnett). Fedor at times was dominant, while other times displayed amazing ability to comeback in fights it looked like he would lose.
Fedor, almost out on his feet, showed incredible intestinal fortitude to comeback and submit hard-hitting striker Kazuyuki Fujita. After being suplexed on his head, Fedor fought back and submitted former UFC Heavyweight champion Kevin Randleman. Somehow against Mark Hunt, Fedor found himself in a very tight kimura, but transformed into plastic man and escaped that submission only to finish the fight with a kimura of his own.
Fedor won fights and did it with zero emotion; barely broke a smile and even in defeat his expression didn’t change. Whether you want to say father time finally caught up to him, or if it was just a lack of respect for Fabricio Werdum’s BJJ, Fedor found himself in a triangle choke; but this time there was no escape and his reign finally came to a shocking end when he tapped out for the first time in his career.
The look on people’s faces in the crowd when he lost were that of losing a family member. I recall watching the fight and it seemed as if time stopped; it felt like a movie where everything goes into slow motion. Alistair Overeem, who was slated to fight Fedor next, was beyond himself with disbelief. Nobody gave Fabricio Werdum a chance in hell to win the fight. I still replay that fight in my head and think if only had Fedor not gone into his guard, or if he had him stand back up. Fedor was then dominated by Big Foot Silva and lost to Dan Henderson after having him in trouble.
Hopefully, this fight against Rizzo won’t be his last. At the age of 35, Fedor can still give us one more run. Albeit against lesser competition Fedor has made some adjustments in his approach. People had said for years Fedor never evolved and seldom went outside his camp to learn new things. In a recent fight against veteran Jeff Monson, Fedor avoided the ground game and just picked Monson apart with stand-up. That is still the one department Fedor hasn’t been dominated in. He is clearly not as fast but can still stand with the majority of heavyweights in MMA today.
In a perfect world, Fedor would get a deal done with the UFC and at least give us 3 fights in the Octagon before he hangs it up. It doesn’t even have to be against elite fighters like Cain Velasquez or Junior Dos Santos. I would settle for a rematch with Werdum, or another fight with Antonio Rodrigo Nogeuira. It would just be cool to hear Bruce Buffer say his name and to hear the ovation he would receive. If this fight against Rizzo is his last, words cannot describe how much this MMA fan will miss the “Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko.