In case you haven’t heard, Fedor Emelianenko won his circus fight with Korean giant Hong Man Choi in the Yarennoka New Year’s Eve show. The outcome was never really in doubt, especially when you consider that Yarennoka changed the rules for this bout to ban knee strikes, one of Choi’s best and only weapons.The fight took less than two minutes and resulted in a fairly comedic but utterly meaningless armbar.
Now that it’s over, I can’t help but wonder what’s going through Fedor’s mind. Is he sitting around some Japanese hotel room right now, watching senseless game shows and trying to avoid looking at himself in the mirror? Does he periodically feel sad for no explainable reason, and does this sadness linger until he checks his bank account balance? What does he tell himself about what he’s become?
It’s not that I don’t understand why a Russian fighter who grew up so poor he had to share a coat with his brother would sell out the first chance he got, which is what Fedor has done, let’s just admit it. As The Million Dollar Man used to say, “Everybody has a price” (yes, most of my life philosophy comes from late 80’s-early 90’s pro wrestling).
But the difference between Fedor and the rest of us is that Fedor didn’t have to sell out to get rich. Fedor had a choice, and now he has to live with the one he’s made.
Whatever rumor you believe about how much the UFC was offering Fedor to sign on and fight Randy Couture, you have to think it was a lot of money. We’re talking somewhere in the millions, after contracts and bonuses and sponsorships are factored in. But Fedor turned that down, or rather, his management team did. They turned it down so he could fight in M-1, which was probably a better deal for his management team, and which currently only exists in the form of a Fedor rental operation.
In other words, Fedor is being used. That’s not so bad, I suppose. Every fighter gets used to some extent. It’s been that way from Jack Dempsey to Mike Tyson. But Fedor is doing it at the expense of his legacy, his reputation, and maybe his dignity.
Honestly, does anyone consider a victory over Hong Man Choi — a man with only one previous MMA bout — to be a serious accomplishment for someone who is supposed to be the world’s best heavyweight? In the post-fight press conference Fedor again mentioned how much he’d like to fight Randy Couture, but by walking away from a UFC contract he’s already essentially turned that fight down.
At some point, Fedor has to stop and ask himself how much money is enough. How much is it worth to squander great potential in matchups that amount to little more than practical jokes? How much is it worth to be remembered as the guy who might have been great? I hate to say it, but right now it looks as though greed — either on the part of Fedor, his management team, or both — is destroying what could have been a legendary career, and that’s the worst part.
If Fedor wasn’t so talented, it wouldn’t matter. He could take part in any number of matches that blur the line between pro wrestling and pro fighting, and I wouldn’t say a word. He could fight a circus bear and it would be just good clean fun.
But this is Fedor. This is “The Russian Last Emperor”. This is the one-word name that has come to mean something in the world of MMA. If things don’t change very soon, how much longer will we be able to say that?