Fedor Emelianenko, The Last Emperor, will be calling it quits after the final fight of his long and illustrious fighting career this weekend against Ryan Bader at Bellator 290.
For those of you that do not know, Fedor is a mixed martial arts legend. He is, not just one of the greatest Heavyweights of all time, but one of the greatest fighters this sport has ever seen.
This weekend in Inglewood, CA, Fedor will be celebrating his amazing career in front of family, fans, friends, and other legends of the sport, as we watch him compete for the final time.
Today, we are going to celebrate some of these moments, and either explain how significant The Last Emperor’s career was to the casual fan or remind the hardcore why this man deserves to be in the GOAT conversation.
After a long career in PRIDE and Affliction, Fedor made his Strikeforce debut against the undefeated, rising prospect Brett Rogers. Rogers had his moments early, landing a punch that caused a huge cut on the nose of Fedor. Bleeding profusely, Fedor rallied, and scored a second-round knockout, extending his unbeaten streak to 28 and his overall record to 33-1-1.
Back in February of 2002, Fedor was still competing in the Japanese RINGS promotion, where he made his MMA debut back in 2000. Once a 9-1 professional, Fedor had a memorable career with the promotion, winning the 2001 World Title. In the 2002 tournament, Fedor earned wins over Ryushi Yanagisawa and Lee Hasdell to earn a spot in the finals against Chris Haseman. Fedor made quick work of Haseman, stopping him in just under three minutes to become the 2002 RINGS World Champion again. This was the last tournament the promotion ever had.
After winning the RINGS World Title at the Grand Final, Fedor began his PRIDE FC career, where his career started to take off. The competition was fiercer, the stakes were higher, and this was the beginning of Fedor’s immaculate run. His first opponent, Semmy Schilt, was a good test for his arrival, but Fedor took the decision and moved on.
After winning the PRIDE Heavyweight title, Fedor went back to the RINGS promotion where he started his career and then eased his way back into PRIDE. His opponent, Kazuyuki Fujita, was very popular on the Japanese scene. He owned wins over the likes of Mark Kerr and Ken Shamrock. During the fight, Fujita landed a massive right hand that wobbled The Last Emperor badly, and Fujita swarmed him. The fight went to the ground, but it looked like the beginning of the end. Fedor managed to recover, take the fight back to the feet, and with a huge cut on his face, he turned the tide and dropped Fujita himself. He sank in a choke, and the Japanese star tapped out. This fight truly tested Fedor, it was the first time he was really in any sort of trouble in his mixed martial arts career.
In October of 2006, Fedor was in the midst of a remarkable undefeated run. At this time, he hadn’t lost since 2000, six years ago. Unfortunately, the promotion he was fighting for, PRIDE, was in some serious trouble. A lost TV network and serious criminal accusations and activity had the promotion on its last legs until Lorenzo Fertitta purchased the crumbling promotion, and later on, dissolved it altogether. Throughout these struggles, PRIDE made its way outside Japan for the first time, coming to the United States. This was the start of Fedor’s career in America, entering a new phase of his career. His opponent, the former UFC Heavyweight champion Mark Coleman, was a real test. He went on to defeat him by submission. This was just another fight where Fedor proved he belonged amongst the best Heavyweights on the planet.
At the time, arguably the two best Heavyweights in the world were Fedor Emelianenko and Mirko Cro Cop. Cro Cop, the Croatian kickboxer, was one of the scariest strikers in MMA history with unbelievably fast, and powerful kicks. As the saying goes, “right leg hospital, left leg cemetery,” truly describes the impact of Mirko’s kicks. This fight between the two, at the PRIDE Final Conflict in 2005, was monumental for Fedor’s career. It was longly anticipated, one of the biggest fights under the PRIDE banner, and Fedor proved that he is the best Heavyweight in the world. After getting his nose broken, and his ribs badly bruised due to the kicks of Cro Cop, Fedor was able to take the fight to the ground and landed some massive shots, and rallied. After a lot of adversity, Fedor got the unanimous decision to win the fight.
Fast forward to the year 2009, Fedor’s PRIDE career was over but was starting a new path in Affliction MMA. Affliction had the potential to be a premier fighting organization and had a lot of legitimate Heavyweights on their roster. After defeating Tim Sylvia, who was a former UFC Heavyweight champion, Fedor faced another former champion, Andrei Arlovski. Arlovski was an elite talent in the division, and Fedor made quick work of him just like he did with Sylvia. After Arlovski attempted a flying knee, Fedor threw a massive counter that put him down and out in the first round. Many called it one of the best knockouts of the year and was a huge win for Emelianenko.
As stated before, Fedor’s first fight in the new Affliction promotion was against Tim Sylvia. Sylvia was a former two-time UFC champion, and one of the best Heavyweights on the roster. UFC president Dana White had a lot to say about Fedor and questioned whether or not he could hang with legitimate fighters like Tim. In the octagon, Fedor proved him wrong with a quick and easy submission over the former champ in 36 seconds. This was easily one of the biggest wins of Fedor’s career. A win over a two-time UFC champion, one of the best fighters in the world, with ease, just proved to the world that Fedor Emelianenko is the best Heavyweight in the world.
If you’ve ever watched those old PRIDE highlight tapes, you’ve probably seen Fedor Emelianenko getting slammed on his head by another fighter, and then acting as if nothing happened. This occurred during the PRIDE 2004 Heavyweight Grand Prix in the second round of the tournament. Kevin Randleman was also a former UFC Heavyweight champion, and a Division I All-American wrestler at The Ohio State University. “The Monster” as Randleman was referred to, was a unique opponent that tested the grappling of Fedor. During the fight, that slam came in the first round. Fedor was dropped on his head, and everyone in the arena’s jaws dropped at what they just witnessed. Fedor was unfazed, unaffected by the slam, and immediately rolled the All-American wrestler over and submitted him with a kimura just moments later.
The most iconic moment of The Last Emperor’s career. In March of 2003, Fedor was on an immaculate run. He became the RINGS World Champion, and just entered the deep end of the PRIDE Heavyweight division. At PRIDE 25, he faced Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Big Nog, was the guy. 19-1-1, unbeatable according to many, and some of the best jiu-jitsu on the planet. It was a dominant performance from Fedor, getting the better of him in the standup, and survived every submission attempt the black belt offered. In the end, the judges declared Fedor the PRIDE Heavyweight champion.
40 wins, 6 losses, a 21 year long martial art career. One of the greatest Heavyweights of all time, the former RINGS World Champion, and the former PRIDE Heavyweight champion, wins over a long list of Hall of Famers in their own right, including Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, Mirko Cro Cop, Mark Hunt, Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski, Frank Mir, Chael Sonnen, and Rampage Jackson. Fedor Emelianenko will say goodbye to the sport of MMA this weekend at Bellator 290, where he will face the current Heavyweight champion, Ryan Bader.
Win, lose, or draw, everyone around the world will be watching live, or on TV to see a legend of the sport fight one last time.