In Part 1, we looked at The Last Emporers rise to the championship, and his battles in Pride. Now let’s take a look at his career post-2006.
Before Fedor Emelianenko’s fight with Mirko Filipovic, he was considered the best fighter on the planet. After defeating the “Cro Cop” he became something else. Fedor reached an almost mythical status among MMA fans, and there were some that believed the Russian fighter would never be defeated.
Emelianenko would go on to win three more fights in PRIDE before the UFC purchased the organization and the rights to most of the fighters. Fedor had a special clause in his contract that allowed him to compete in other organizations, but many MMA analysts were predicting he would sign with the UFC in an attempt to unify the heavyweight titles.
Instead, Fedor would continue to fight in other promotions. His first fight was in the Bodog Fights against Matt Linland, whom he defeated in less than three minutes. The Last Emperor then took a fight with 7’ 2” kickboxer Hong Man Choi, and proved that Bovada’s odds of -700 were justifiable by finishing the Japanese fighter with an armbar 1:54 into the first round. These two fights were a key reason as to how Fedor Emelianenko is still regarded as the best heavyweight fighter ever.
Fedor Signs with Affliction
After defeating Hong Man Choi, Fedor was the most expensive free agent in MMA. Every organization wanted to sign him, but few could actually afford to offer him a contract. Speculation was high as to where he would sign, until US gambling news broke that Emelianenko would fight in the first ever Affliction event.
Affliction was known primarily as a clothing brand at the time, but in 2008 they officially entered the MMA promotion industry. Their first event was stacked, with a number of high-profile fighters on the card. Leading the event was the legendary Fedor Emelianenko taking on the former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia.
Sylvia was thought to be one of the toughest tests that Fedor had faced in years. He was coming off a loss, but was still widely considered one of the best heavyweights in the world. Even some online sportsbooks in the US such as Bovada listed Sylvia as just a slight underdog at around +225.
It was expected to be a competitive fight, but in just 36 seconds, Emelianenko finished Sylvia with a rear naked choke. For many, this was the height of Fedor’s reign as an athlete. He would go on to fight once more in Affliction, taking on Andrei Arlovski and winning by KO in the first round, albeit in a more competitive fight.
The Up’s and Down’s of Strikeforce
Fedor was again scheduled to fight with Affliction in August of 2009, but his opponent, Josh Barnett, failed a drug test for steroids and the entire organization subsequently died out. Once again, the world’s greatest fighter was left without a promotion.
At this point, the UFC was practically begging Fedor to join their promotion. This was while Brock Lesnar was the champion, and a fight between Fedor and Lesnar was thought to be the biggest fight in the history of the sport. The UFC offered Emelianenko $2 million per fight, as well as massive PPV money, but he turned them down after their refusal to co-promote with his management company M-1 Global.
After months of negotiations, Fedor signed with the San Jose based promotion, Strikeforce. His first fight came against Brett Rogers, a 10-0 fighter with all his bouts coming via KO in the first round. Emelianenko entered the fight as a -800 favorite, according to Bovada, and for good reason. Fedor took out Rogers by KO with a massive right hand in the second round, how was able to defeated such large opponents during this time is still a discussion MMA fans love to have.
The Losing Streak and Retirement
Six months later, Fedor returned to the Strikeforce cage to take on his fellow PRIDE veteran Fabricio Werdum. Emelianenko was expected to make easy work of the jiu jitsu expert. Even a bingo parlor in Manila would have put money on a Fedor win, but things took a different turn. He started the fight off by knocking Werdum to the ground, but after a brief grappling exchange, Werdum locked in a triangle choke and finished The Last Emporer. For the first time in 33 fights, Fedor had legitimately lost a fight.
To most, this loss was seen as a fluke. It wasn’t as if he was being dominated. He was winning the fight handily, but a simple error (and technical wizardry by Werdum) cost him everything. He was quickly rescheduled to fight Antonio “bigfoot” Silva, and once again entered as a massive Bovada favorite with odds of -600.
This fight was different. Fedor finally seemed vulnerable to the massive size of Silva, and was eventually beaten down in a 2nd round TKO. The Russian legend took one more mega-fight against Dan Henderson, but was quickly defeated by KO in the first round. The Last Emporer had taken 3 straight losses, and everyone was left wondering how Fedor Emelianenko could ever return to fight.
Make sure to stay tuned for Part 3 of How Fedor Emelianenko became the greatest fighter in history, and tell us what you think by leaving a comment below!