Turns Out Fedor Emelianenko Is a Human Being, After All

Elton HobsonCorrespondent INovember 10, 2009

For 6 minutes and 48 seconds Saturday night, the eyes of the world were on Fedor Emelienenko.

Ok, maybe not the whole world, though the fight was broadcast to around 120 million homes in Russia. Hold your shock - I am as surprised as you are that there are 120 million televisions in Russia. All the better for watching “Magnum P.I.” reruns, I suppose.

Rather large hometown crowd aside, Fedor also reached a far larger audience then he ever had before in the good old U.S of A. The onus was on him to prove he could be a major draw in North America, both for his own sake and for Strikeforce’s, which was gambling all on the near mystical Russian heavyweight.

So how did he do?

In terms of the bottom line numbers (the only figures of interest to a major TV network) he did…alright. The broadcast drew an average of 3.8 million viewers, drawing solidly in the ultra-coveted male 18-34 demographic. Those are bigger numbers then Fedor has ever done in the U.S, but they are a far cry from the nearly 7 million people who tuned in to watch that guy from Youtube fight James Thompson’s ear alien. It was also the least watched program amongst all the networks in it’s time slot, despite it’s strongest challenge being college basketball.

So the good news: Fedor is inarguably a stronger draw then Jake Shields as a main event fighter. The bad news is he had only one shot to convince CBS he could draw in the viewers, and the result was mediocre rather then spectacular - though we may not know the full story until the specific numbers for the Fedor/Rogers bout are released, which ran past the show’s official 11:00 P.M end time (more on that later).

So Fedor didn‘t exactly kick off the start of a Russian invasion. What else did we astute and learned fans…uh…learn?

Only that Fedor Emeleianenko is a human being, after all.

In all of MMA, no one, save maybe the man himself, gets put on as high a pedestal of expectations as Fedor. No one in the sport causes more stark division amongst fans. Either you love and revere him as the greatest fighter who ever lived - or you dismiss him as protected, over-hyped, and the benefactor of a padded record. There’s rarely any middle ground.

So I guess the most frustrating thing about Fedor’s victory over Brett Rogers is that, for the umpteenth time in the Russian’s career, he did nothing to resolve the debate one way or another. For the Fedor faithful, the king came through as he always does, notching up his 11th straight victory, and making the haters eat their words once again by giving yet another opponent a premium view of the inside of their own eyelids.

Wait, though - I can hear the angry cries of the unconvinced already. Fedor, the supposed best fighter in the world, was a bloody mess less then 30 seconds into the fight. Rogers was able to press him in the clinch, negate his submission attempts, and land some big time shots of his own. The blood covered Russian was on his way to finally being exposed - at long last - when a mental malfunction on the part of Rogers spared Fedor his day of reckoning.

So, which version is correct? The truth - as it always does - lies somewhere in the middle.

Let’s get the obvious observation out of the way - Fedor can hit very, very hard. He throws big looping punches with his whole weight behind them, and he only needs one to put you to sleep. One punch from him knocked Andrei Arlovski colder then several flush shots from Rogers, and the thudding smack of the blow that ended Saturday’s fight was downright nauseating. I would give him a serious shot at being the dude to KO Brock Lesnar - he’s that effective. He was also great at negating Roger’s size and weight advantage in the clinch, spinning and throwing him with ease, which only increases his chances against Zuffa’s heavyweight monster should they ever meet.

But let’s hold on a second here because, as usual, Fedor raised more questions in his fight then he answered. His tinfoil skin came back to haunt him yet again - one glancing jab in the opening seconds of the fight rendered him bloodier then a horror movie victim. He was already breathing heavily though his mouth at the 2:00 minute mark - surely a sign of trouble for him if the fight had actually gone into deep water. And aside from that, let’s not kid ourselves - even if you’re the biggest Fedor fan on planet earth, you can’t deny that at one point Rogers was making him eat shit with both hands, not exactly the best image to leave in the minds of casual fans being told they’re watching the best ever.

Watch that gif. Again - Rogers at one point almost stink faces Fedor after rolling out of the armbar attempt. That has to redden the Russian’s face (that and the post-match Stoli) no matter what the outcome of the fight. No less an authority then Joe Rogan said Fedor was “exposed” in his match with Rogers.

So what did we learn? Only that the diehard fans are too quick with their praise, and the haters too quick with their scorn - so nothing, really. Actually, I hope we learn the greatest lesson of Fedor Emelienenko - that he’s a human being, after all.

I’ve had friends tell me that they don’t like Fedor because, to them, he just doesn’t embody that “greatest fighter ever” image. He isn’t dodging punches with superhuman speed and calm. He isn’t totally destroying P4P ranked fighters. He isn’t employing the deepest secrets of an ancient martial art. He’s just a person, solid and versatile, and unspectacular - except that no one seems to be able to beat him. So many have come so frustratingly close. All have been turned away.

Maybe the greatest thing about Fedor is that he is human - and that he finds a way to win anyways.