Mixed martial arts (MMA) has come a long way from its early days when it was dismissed as a low-quality sport. In the 1990s and early 2000s, MMA had a dedicated fan base that scoured the internet for fight clips and watched on low-quality VHS tapes. It was a cult-like following, attracting fans who sought something unique and unconventional. Today, MMA has become a mainstream attraction and its audience has expanded, but for longtime fans, the sport will never be the same.
This is why the upcoming Bellator 290 main event, where Fedor Emelianenko will fight for the final time, is a significant moment in MMA history. Emelianienko, also known as “The Last Emperor,” is widely considered to be MMA’s first emperor. From 2000 to 2010, he fought 33 times and lost only once, defeating many of MMA’s greatest heavyweights including Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic. Despite his impressive record, it’s his stoic walkout, dead-eyed stare, and reflective presence that sets him apart from other fighters.
In an interview with the author, Emelianenko spoke about his favorite fight, the one he fought with Nogueira for the Pride heavyweight title in 2003, and expressed his contentment with the way his career has unfolded. When asked about the fights he didn’t have with Randy Couture or Brock Lesnar, Emelianenko simply stated that he was happy with what he had been given and that one should live in the moment and be content with what they have.
This humility may be a refreshing change in a sport known for trash talking, but it doesn’t offer much comfort. MMA is known for its brutal treatment of aging stars, as seen with former UFC champs Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Frankie Edgar, who were both beaten badly in their final fights. With Fedor’s rematch against Ryan Bader, who defeated him with a two-punch KO four years ago, fans are bracing themselves for the possibility of another brutal ending to a legend’s career.
Regardless of the outcome, Fedor Emelianenko’s impact on MMA will always be remembered and his legacy will continue to inspire fans and fighters alike.