I don’t know what happened. One day things were as per normal in the internet MMA community, the next thing people have gone certified insane. Maybe the blame should go to Josh Barnett for starting off this chain reaction that has led to Fedor Emelianenko being (unjustly) the most vilified MMA star this side of Gilbert Yvel. Things have moved quickly and Barnett has become merely an afterthought in the UFC/M-1 mamushka.
Hardcore, computer friendly MMA fans are constantly reminded how we make up a small portion of the larger MMA network. While that may be true, we consider ourselves educated and often superior to the casual rubes. We turn our collective noses up at the notion that many so called MMA fans are actually UFC fans. No doubt they are the ones calling it “Ultimate Fighting” as well.
Maybe I’ve been buying into this self gratifying back patting myself. Sure there are online MMA communities that are stereotypically filled with TUF N00bs (as if that’s a bad thing) such as the quintessential punch line Sherdog forums. Yet there are plenty of places to go for high brow insight and conversation above such petty squabbling over who’s really the biggest Penn nut-hugger. The Underground, Bloody Elbow, Five Ounces of Pain. Unfortunately this latest Fedor saga has brought out the worst in the MMA community and shown just how irrational and bias many of the so-called MMA elite really are.
After Fedor’s announced signing with Strikeforce many fans were livid at Fedor’s refusal to fight in their favorite organization. And don’t be fooled, that is what this boils down to. People have been unwittingly caught up in the UFC hyperbole and are projecting their anger on Fedor in ridiculous jumps of logic. “Fedor is scared and is ducking the UFC’s heavyweights.” “Fedor needs the UFC to cement his legacy.” “Fedor is fighting scrub competition by not signing with the UFC.” Let’s look at this one by one.
Fedor is scared and/or ducking the UFC’s heavyweights. Out of all the arguments leveled at Fedor this is the most asinine. How fans can assume to know what is going on in Fedor’s head is beyond me. Mind you these charges are being leveled at a man who is 30-1, beat Nogueira twice, defeated Cro Cop when he was at his peak, beat both Sylvia and Arlovski when it meant something, and was scheduled to take on the number one contender to his crown until Barnett failed a drug test. Spend any time listening to Fedor in interviews and it should be readily apparent that fear or attempting to avoid the best are not on Fedor’s radar.
Fedor needs the UFC to cement his legacy. Certainly success in the UFC would enhance Fedor’s legacy and bring him to the attention of legions of more fans but his legacy is as secure as his past accomplishments. No one accomplishment would put Fedor on the map like a victory over UFC bad boy Brock Lesnar. Still, the victories in Fedor’s already storied career compile a better resume than any heavyweight in mixed martial arts short history. Fedor’s legacy is secure and it’ll take one helluva run to top it.
Fedor will be fighting lesser competition by fighting outside of the UFC. This is the most valid of the arguments being made although still somewhat inaccurate. The heavyweight division has been in flux after several years of dominance by Fedor, Nogueria, Cro Cop, Barnett, Arlovski, Couture, and Sylvia rotating in and out of the top spots. Now over the course of the past year Nogueria has had some poor showings raising questions over how much he has left, Cro Cop has become mortal, Arlovski and Sylvia have plummeted while Couture is in an ever present battle against the clock. It’s a changing of the worldwide MMA heavyweight division guard. And while many of the would-be usurpers are signed with Zuffa, several are not. A rejuvenated Overeem could cause Fedor fits. Brett Rogers is quickly making a name for himself. Jeff Monson is riding a seven fight win streak. Obviously none of these match ups carry the same luster as Fedor/Lesnar and short of Overeem no one would have a respectable shot of pulling the upset… something due to Fedor’s dominance as much as anything. Non Zuffa fights are overall not as fresh or marketable as Couture or the winner of Carwin/Velasquez but respectable all the same.
Still, with all that said, I am disappointed Fedor didn’t sign with Zuffa. I think it’s better competition, more interesting fights, and would most likely do more for his wallet. But who am I to say what the man should have done? Fedor obviously has different priorities from most of us, some potentially so culturally different from the western capitalist mentality that it’s hard to fathom. We can lament his decision to sign for Strikeforce but let’s try to be reasonable without getting caught up in the hysterics. Just because we’d have taken the Zuffa deal doesn’t mean Fedor or his management are wrong for going another direction with the second largest American MMA organization that happens to have a good reputation.
Who knows, maybe we’ll as fans be lucky and Fedor will divorce himself from M-1 at the end of his current contract with them (rumored to be three more fights) giving Fedor much more personal freedom in his career. And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to opine for an undefeated year and a half for Mr. Emelianenko and Mr. Lesnar culminating in Fedor’s eventual signing with the UFC in an epic showdown at Madison Square Garden.
A man can dream, can’t he?