Fedor Emelianenko: The Greatest Ever?

A third consecutive loss probably signals the end of Fedor Emelianenko’s career. However, rather than dwell on what the former Pride FC heavyweight has become, let's take a moment to reflect on his considerable achievements.

Fedor represents a bygone era in MMA. He didn’t look like a fighter, he certainly didn’t act like a fighter and he had no interest whatsoever in the media. Fedor didn’t hype fights. He just won them. Fedor would get on with the task of destroying opponents with the sort of quiet determination more befitting of a lowly paid physical labourer then the greatest mixed martial artist on the planet.

Here he is making short work of former UFC Heavyweight Champion and giant, Tim Sylvia:

Notice the complete lack of a celebration from Fedor in the aftermath of his victory. Defeating an enormous opponent really was just all in a day’s work for the unimposing Russian.

The mystique surrounding Fedor was only enhanced by his determination to remain true to his Russian roots. The popular perception was that while other mixed martial artists were worrying about new fangled concepts such as nutrition and sports science, Fedor was practising with more primitive methods and probably honing his technique by wrestling bears in the Russian woods.

You cannot question the results. Fedor remained undefeated for almost an entire decade and, while there is some debate as to whether he is the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, there is no doubt that he is the greatest ever heavyweight.

Some would argue that, at the age of 34, Father Time has finally caught up with Fedor, but the reality is that while other mixed martial arts are constantly improving ‘The Last Emperor’ has not managed to move with the times. He stopped evolving.

The man who stopped Fedor at Strikeforce, Dan Henderson, is actually six years older than him. So why is Henderson still going strong while the Russian appears to have reached the end of the road?

Some athletes age better than others, but it is difficult to escape the suspicion that Fedor’s refusal to embrace modern methods might have ultimately caught up with him. He did train outside of Russia and has spent some time in Holland, but he stubbornly clung to his heavyweight status while his competitors were busy discovering just how much weight they could safely cut.

Prior to the recent Strikeforce fight with Fedor, Henderson had done most of his fighting at middleweight. The two men are actually almost exactly the same size in terms of body frame. The fact that Fedor spent his entire career as a heavyweight makes his achievements all the more impressive.

Mixed martial arts has changed beyond all recognition since Fedor made his professional debut in 2000. Nowadays fighters not only need to be well rounded and cross-train in every major discipline such as Muay Thai, BJJ, Boxing, and Wrestling, but they also have to take advantage of all the available assistance now at their disposal such as new training techniques, nutritional supplements, or advances in sports science.

Because Fedor’s methods worked so well for the best part of a decade, he has been understandably reluctant to alter them. Ultimately this lack of evolution might have had an adverse effect on his ability to continue fighting at an elite level.

We will never see the likes of the ‘Last Emperor’ again, and if he does retire mixed martial arts, we will have lost one of its greatest ambassadors. Fedor’s achievements stand for themselves and his place in history is secure. However, the speed of his recent demise is testament to just how rapidly the sport is evolving. Any fighter who fails to move with the times is likely to get left behind.

His career is a reminder to all of us that the key to long-term success in any field is continuous self-improvement. If you don't progress and EVOLVE, your competition will pass you by...

Evolve Mixed Martial Arts® is Asia's premier brand of MMA academies. With World Champions in Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Mixed Martial Arts, Boxing, and No Gi Grappling, Evolve MMA is the top martial arts training organization in Asia. It ranks among the best martial arts academies in the world.