For more than a decade, fight fans worldwide have been captivated by the sheer destructive force of Fedor Emelianenko.
Arguably one of the greatest heavyweight champions of all time, "The Last Emperor" has approached his career with a style and grace that will not be duplicated.
Debate will rage on regarding the dominance of this Russian star, but what is not debatable is the fact that Fedor Emelianenko provided us with moments of unmatched athleticism, unrivaled power and explosiveness, as well as various signature statements including how tough and resilient this undersized heavyweight truly is.
Please follow along as I detail the 15 most captivating moments of Fedor "The Last Emperor" Emelianenko's career.
From a former fighter and lifetime fight fan, thank you Fedor for your brilliance as one of the best mixed martial artist I may ever have the privilege and honor of watching.
I welcome your comments.
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A millionaire many times over, Fedor Emelianenko still prefers to train at his humble beginning in Stary Oskol, Russia.
Stary Oskol is a small mining town in the Belgorod region of Russia, located 385 miles south of Moscow. The city sits on one of the largest iron ore deposits in the world.
This mining town's weather can be brutal. During the dead of winter, it is covered in a thick layer of snow. Although there is a small airport in the city, it is rarely used throughout the year, and never in the winter.
Everyone in the town knows Fedor and praises his signature humility. Locals say that the 235 pound powerhouse is the most humble person they know, despite his great talent and success.
Fedor still lives in the same apartment and drives the same Toyota given him by town officials in honor of his achievements.
The humility he embraced during his early years was his signature throughout his career and something that he still conveys today.
Amongst the glitz and glory of the corporate funded training facilities throughout the United States including Extreme Couture and Warrior, Fedor removed himself from these luxuries and kept his facility a grass roots complex proving that success is not manufactured by deep pockets, it is developed through hard work, dedication and a devotion to what is truly important.
Stoic in his facial expression, head down, walking with a purpose; these are all features of Fedor Emelianenko's entrance to his fights.
With the Russian voice serenading this superstar, "The Last Emperor's" humility shines bright yet again.
Just as Quinton "Rampage" Jackson's howl is a signature moment prior to his fights or Wanderlei Silva's intense stare down during the referee's instructions typifies his match-ups, Fedor's lack of pageantry is another signature moment in his illustrious career.
No flash, no "look at me" moments, nothing that would draw attention to the greatest fighter on the planet; Emelianenko's plain entrance will resound through the mixed martial arts community for decades to come.
The introduction of Fedor Emelianenko to the mixed martial arts community began on May 21, 2000 in Ekaterinburg, Russia.
Earning a guillotine choke submission victory over Martin Lazarus while fighting in the Rings promotion, Fedor Emelianenko's first professional MMA fight marked the beginning of his storied career.
There is no denying that Fedor's management team, M-1 Global and more specifically, Vadim Finkelchtein, have been at odds with a variety of promotions including the UFC and Dana White.
Within minutes after Emelianenko's TKO defeat to Antonio Silva during the quarterfinals of Strikeforce's heavyweight tournament, Dana White ripped M-1 Global for their mismanagement of their superstar.
"He was INCREDIBLY mismanaged!! Worst management in fight history," White tweeted.
Referencing M-1 Global not coming to an agreement with the UFC and having Fedor sign with Strikeforce instead, rumors escalated as to the millions of dollars that were left on the negotiating table for Emelianenko and his team.
This case of ill-fated negotiations was not an isolated situation between the sport's biggest promotion, the UFC and M-1 Global.
In the end, the feud between M-1 Global and Dana White prevented the sport's biggest star at the time from joining the sport's biggest promotion.
Such a tragic case of egos clashing and machismo rearing its ugly head.
In Osaka, Japan, an inadvertent elbow delivered by Tsuyoshi Kohsaka reopened an existing cut on Fedor Emelianenko forcing a doctor's stoppage and Fedor's first defeat in his fifth professional fight via TKO.
Most consider this stoppage and subsequent TKO loss as more of a fluke victory for Kohsaka and not "technically" a loss for Emelianenko.
Regardless of the public's judgment on the outcome, the cut proved that Fedor was human after all and could bleed and receive punishment like every other fighter.
On February 15, 2002, Fedor defeated Chris Haseman winning the Rings Absolute Class Tournament heavyweight championship belt.
A flurry of punches by the Russian superstar forced a referee's stoppage saving Haseman from further damage.
This belt signified Emelianenko's rise to the top and became his first major promotion's heavyweight championship belt.
At nearly seven feet tall, Semmy Schilt was the largest opponent that Fedor had faced to that date.
In classic Emelianenko style, Fedor unloaded a barrage of strikes upon Schilt wearing away at the Dutchman's foundation. Complimenting his relentless stand-up, Emelianenko easily took the tall kick-boxer to the ground where he unloaded an arsenal of ground and pound upon Semmy.
Effortlessly passing Schilt's guard, Emelianenko dominated his opponent in the eyes of the judges ultimately earning a unanimous decision victory.
You can view this match-up on YouTube.
Not only was the difference in size between Schilt and Emelianenko a captivating moment in Fedor's career, the fact that this fight was promoted by Pride Fighting Championships would be an introduction of the Russian star to the Pride FC promotion as well as serve as a launching pad for Fedor's career onto the global arena.
Fedor Emelianenko would go on to compete an astounding 15 total times in Pride Fighting Championships.
In Pride 26: Bad To The Bone, Kazuyuki Fujita delivered a thunderous right hook to Emelianenko's jaw leaving the Russian superstar on wobbly legs, erupting fans from their seats.
Grasping to hold on so as to clear the cobwebs, Emelianenko clinched in desperation providing time to recover from near defeat.
On the brink of defeat and Fujita's biggest victory in his mixed martial arts career, Emelianenko gathered himself and picked apart the Japanese fighter with a variety of punches and kicks.
Damaged from the attack, Fujita found himself the victim of a rear-naked choke applied by "The Last Emperor."
Hanging in the balance of defeat, this fight proved that Emelianenko could not only take a solid punch, he had the instinctual ability necessary to fight while hurt, recover from the onslaught that was delivered, and win through any means necessary.
This was a tremendous moment in the career of Fedor Emelianenko.
Eye popping moments in sport's history are increasingly common. Defeats occur in glorious style all the time in mixed martial arts. However, a moment that will be remembered for generations comes along rarely.
Kevin Randleman's monster-plex of Fedor Emelianenko at Pride Critical Countdown: 2004 at Saitama, Japan is one of those moments that will be remembered for a lifetime.
Coming out of a scramble from half guard, Randleman was able to take Emelianenko's back delivering an explosive, overhead suplex-slam in which Fedor landed directly on his head.
Not phased by the impact, Emelianenko went on to secure a kimura forcing a tap-out of Randleman and providing a moment in MMA history that will not be soon forgotten.
New Year's Eve, 2004 in Saitama, Japan was the setting for one of the greatest performances of Fedor's career.
A very durable and extremely talented Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist from the vaunted Chute Boxe Academy in Brazil, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, stood in the way of Emelianenko and his second major championship within the heavyweight division.
Not only is Nogueira a wizard on the ground, he possesses excellent boxing skills and a very solid chin.
Attempting to secure a take-down, Nogueira found himself on his back being decimated by a continuous ground and pound assault. Constant pressure by Fedor equated to a savage beating upon the jiu-jitsu ace.
Unable to lock in a submission, Nogueira was laid victim to Emelianenko's rabid pace and eventual destruction.
Head snapping punches by Emelianenko in Nogueira's guard left the Brazilian scrambling to protect himself and mount an offense.
In the end, Fedor Emelianenko would not only win the 2004 Pride FC Heavyweight tournament, he would unify the promotion's heavyweight belts never to lose those coveted titles.
Pride Conflict 2005 was the setting for this epic battle between two of the sport's best fighters.
Mirko Cro Cop came into the fight riding a seven fight win streak; of which four of those victories were by knockout.
A lethal striker with dynamite in his left leg, Cro Cop's kick-boxing skills were at the top of the Pride FC heavyweight division.
In classic Emelianenko style, the calm demeanor prior to the opening bell was transformed into an explosive assault upon the Croatian.
Defending the various leg strikes from Mirko, Fedor countered with powerful hooks and successful take-downs. With a limited ground game, Cro Cop was dominated on his back eating punch after punch.
Cro Cop would begin to find his range with his punches, but Emelianenko continued to grind away at the Croatian with a relentless assault on the ground. Passing Mirko's guard at will, Fedor transitioned from dominant position to dominant position.
In the end, Mirko Cro Cop would deliver tremendous strikes upon Fedor while standing. However, he had no answer for Emelianenko's take-downs and vicious attack on the ground.
Winning a unanimous decision victory, Fedor Emelianenko successfully defended his Pride Fighting Championship heavyweight belt raising his overall MMA record to 23-1-1.
On July 19, 2008, Fedor added another major promotion's championship belt to his impressive list of titles.
Destroying the former UFC heavyweight champion, Tim Sylvia, in just 0:36 seconds, Fedor's WAMMA heavyweight championship in the Affliction promotion was his third major championship in three different promotions.
The fight's introductions took longer than the fight itself.
Exploding like a cobra, Fedor brutalized the much taller Sylvia with vicious hooks and uppercuts. Falling to the ground, Tim Sylvia could do nothing to prevent Fedor Emelianenko's submission victory by rear-naked choke.
Three heavyweight championship belts in three different promotions is an accolade worth praising.
The 2010 Upset and Submission Award of the year went to Fabricio "Vai Cavalo" Werdum for his triangle arm-bar submission victory over Fedor Emelianenko.
Competing under the Strikeforce banner in San Jose, California on June 26, 2010 fight fans witnessed the biggest victory of Fabricio Werdum's career.
A two-time ADCC world champion, a two-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion, as well as the European jiu-jitsu champion, Fabricio Werdum's mastery of submission grappling is unrivaled in the sport.
In classic Emelianenko style, Fedor rocked Fabricio with a right hook sending the Brazilian to the ground. Following "Vai Cavalo" to the mat, "The Last Emperor" made one tactical error allowing Werdum to secure the submission.
Tapping out, "Big" John McCarthy stepped in to save Fedor Emelianenko from permanent damage and awarded Fabricio Werdum the victory.
Suffering his "first" loss as an ultimate fighter, Fedor Emelianenko commented humbly in the post-fight interview stating that losses occur inside the Octagon and that he would go back to train harder for his next match-up.
Unbeknown to fight fans at the time, his next match-up would ultimately be his final fight inside the cage.
A favorite to win the Strikeforce Grand Prix heavyweight tournament by many analysts, Fedor Emelianenko found himself at the receiving end of a savage beating by the hands of Antonio "Big Foot" Silva on February 12, 2011.
Equally trading punches on their feet during the first round, Silva successfully completed a double leg take-down at the beginning of the second round landing in Emelianenko's guard.
A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with an incredible size and strength advantage over Fedor, Antonio began to impose his will in Emelianenko's guard.
Landing tremendous power shots, Silva easily transitioned to more dominant positions and found himself mounted on top of Emelianenko. Like a grizzly bear, "Big Foot" mauled "The Last Emperor" with vicious strikes including unanswered hammer fists. Punishing Fedor from the mount, Antonio's punches found their mark on the Russian's face closing his right eye from the swelling.
Surviving the second round is a strong testament to Emelianenko's resolve. However, the beating he endured for more than four minutes left the Russian exhausted and with an entirely closed right eye.
Unable to continue, Fedor Emelianenko's championship hopes in this tournament had come to an end. Antonio Silva was awarded a TKO victory due to doctor's stoppage.
Following his Strikeforce tournament loss, Fedor stated in his post-fight interview that he would be contemplating retirement.
As of today, I believe this statement to be true. What the future holds for arguably the best heavyweight fighter of his time is uncertain.
What is certain, however, is that Fedor Emelianenko has captivated fight fans for more than a decade.
His accomplishments as an ultimate fighter can not be debated nor can the style in which he approached the fight game and his match-ups.
Humble, class, a consummate professional; all words to describe Emelianenko outside the cage or ring.
Explosive, relentless, talented, vicious; all words to describe Emelianenko's fighting style.
This author realizes full well that many will find fault in Fedor because of his last two defeats. Additionally, his place as one of the greatest heavyweight fighters will be scrutinized continuously.
As a former fighter, please allow me to say that Fedor Emelianenko approached each one of his fights with a level of professionalism and dedication that awarded him an overall 32-3-1 mixed martial arts record. Who he has competed against is outside of his control. The era in which he has competed was also outside of his control.
What he did control was who stood across from him at fight time. And Fedor decimated some of the biggest names in MMA at that moment.
I wish Fedor Emelianenko all the best in his decision and I am thankful and grateful to witness one of the legends of this sport compete at his highest level for so many years.