"The one who does not fall never stands up. It happened that people made me an idol, but everyone loses. I'm just a human being. If it is God's will, next fight, I'll win."
Fedor Emelianenko, 26 June 2010
In the moment that the preceding phrase was spoken, my opinion of Fedor Emelianenko did a complete turnaround. Emelianenko, who is known to mixed martial arts fans as, "The Last Emperor," had just suffered his first defeat in nearly a decade. After dominating every opponent who was placed in front of him since his debut in 2000, it took less than a minute and a half for Fabricio Werdum to submit Fedor in the very first round of their fight on the aforementioned date in 2010.
On that night, I was actually rooting for the relatively unheralded Fabricio Werdum to be the man who put a stop to Fedor's reign of terror. I was tired of hearing all of the so-called "hardcore fans" (read: those slightly muscular, wildly drunk, tough-guy-tattooed, silly haircut fellas you always see at the local watering hole) going on and on about how Fedor was the undisputed king of all heavyweight fighters. How Fedor could beat this guy, that guy, or both guys at the same time. How Dana White and the UFC were afraid to sign him because they knew he'd demolish any of their golden boy fighters.
It's amazing, I know, but those fanboys made me hate "The Last Emperor" before I ever really had anything more than a passing interest in him. I wanted Werdum to win, and I wanted him to win for the sole purpose of laughing at those same people.
I wanted Fabricio to win, that is, until he actually did.
Once the bout was over, followed by Fedor making that most epic post-fight quote ever, I immediately wanted him to start winning again. Needless to say, that's not what happened.
Since the match against Werdum, Fedor Emelianenko has yet to win a single fight. He's come up short on two more occasions, being stopped early by both Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva and Dan Henderson. What was once thought impossible, Fedor on a three fight skid, has now become a sickening reality. The cherry on top of it all is that he's since been cut by Strikeforce.
Cut! Fedor Emelianenko! Those words just don't go together. You know what else doesn't go together? Fedor and Mike Whitehead, who is apparently slated to be Emelianenko's next opponent. Not only is the former "greatest heavyweight of them all" fighting a nobody... he's fighting a nobody on a nothing-special card in Russia sometime around the end of 2011.
No Strikeforce. No UFC. No pay per view. No nothing. Seriously? That's Ken Shamrock territory, sure, but it's surely not Fedor territory. At least, it's not supposed to be. Is it? Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
As I mentioned earlier, I wasn't always a fan of Fedor's. However, since his fights have become readily available here in the states, I've taken quite a liking to the guy. He seems like a genuinely nice, humble human being, and he's always been one of the most consistently exciting fighters I've ever had the pleasure of watching. I've been checking out many of his older fights lately, not to mention doing a lot of research on his entire career as a whole, and there is one unfortunate circumstance that seems to be the root of Fedor's downfall: his management, M-1 Global.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that M-1 Global is responsible for Emelianenko losing his last three fights. Our favorite athletes are bound to decline at some point, no matter how much we hate to see it. What I am saying, however, is that his entire legacy would be totally different if it wasn't for their borderline-retarded management techniques.
If it wasn't for M-1, Fedor would have most assuredly gone on to compete with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The two sides negotiated in 2009, but it was obviously just for show on M-1's part, as they turned down what was called the "biggest contract ever offered" in the history of mixed martial arts.
If M-1 wasn't at the helm of Fedor's career, he probably would have signed with the UFC the second Pride collapsed. We would have finally gotten to see "The Last Emperor" go head-to-head with the biggest names in MMA, and received an answer to the ever-present debate about who he could and couldn't defeat in the prime of his career.
Instead of seeing some of the biggest fights ever, we got a few mediocre bouts for a few mediocre promotions. Instead of getting some of the biggest questions answered, we were forced to live with eternal question marks, as now, Fedor Emelianenko's prime has passed right before our eyes. It's a sad fact, but a fact nonetheless.
This fan's look at a tarnished legacy has led me from one timeless quote at the start, right into another timeless quote at the end: Don't hate the player, hate the game.
Fedor's career may not have panned out as his fans expected, but we can't hold it against the man himself. He has donated a significant portion of his adult life in the name of our entertainment. He fought his heart out when he could, where he could, against whomever he could, and for as long as he could. The man has earned every single ounce of respect he's gotten over the course of his career. In the end, it wasn't up to him where he went, nor who he fought.
So, the next time you start cutting into his supporters about what Fedor Emelianenko didn't accomplish during his MMA career, try thinking about what he did accomplish within the boundaries he was given, and just let it be. There are no longer any meaningful arguments to be made, for or against him, and I guarantee you that "The Last Emperor" is no happier about where his career wound up than the rest of us.
Thanks a lot, M-1...thanks a lot.