DXL Magazine puts Fedor on cover


Interview with Fedor ‘The Last Emperor’ Emelianenko
MMA’s Heavyweight Champion of the World

Reprinted From DXL Magazine
By Jay Swing
Photos: Eric Williams / DR Photo Management

For casual fans of Mixed Martial Arts in North America, Fedor Emelianenko is yet to become a household name. For most, the MMA begins and ends with UFC. Everyone knows ‘The Iceman’, ‘Captain America’, and ‘Rampage’, but the same can’t be said for ‘The Last Emperor’.

Unless your name is Dana White, there isn’t an MMA enthusiast who doesn’t recognize Fedor as the world’s P4P #1 fighter. His 28-1-0 record tells the story on it’s own. His one and only loss was due to a cut – and Fedor avenged that loss with a TKO when the referee wouldn’t allow his opponent to continue.

From former UFC Champ Tim Sylvia (36 seconds of the first round) to current UFC Interim Champ Minitauro Nogueira (3 times), nobody has been able to defeat Fedor. The former Pride and current WAMMA Heavyweight Champion has out classed everyone who has been put in front of him, earning his rep as the Baddest Man on the Planet.

When did you start taking Mixed Martial Arts serious as a career?

My fight career started as a Judo and Sambo fighter. After that I went to Rings in Japan. Rings at that time was like Pancrase. It was the first serious promotion and it developed the beginning of MMA. After the Rings Championship, I stepped into the real world of the MMA. Pride was, in my opinion, the most ultimate MMA promotion of all time. Their way of producing a show, presenting the fighters and the high level of participants was, and for a lot of fans it will still be, the real thing. For me my real MMA career started in Pride.

You are considered by most to be the #1 pound for pound fighter in the world. How do you maintain that ranking and what did it take for you to get there?

The pound for pound system is a system of ranking made by people. They look at the results of fighters, and it’s made up of fighters from different weight categories. I might be considered as the world’s most devastating Heavyweight, but I know there are a lot of good fighters around me. For me it does not mean much. I just make my fights and take challenges one by one.

What other fighters in MMA today do you feel belongs on the P4P list with you?

Just to name a few…Gegard Mousasie, my brother Alex, and Ricarado Arona. Although he didn’t fight for a long time I still consider him as a top fighter.

Are there any fighters that you are training that you feel have the potential to accomplish what you have in MMA – to be a Champion and the #1 P4P fighter in the world?

To make a prediction about the future of upcoming fighters is difficult. Mikhail Malutin, Mikhail Zayats, and Kiril Sidelnikov all have a very good chance to become good and famous fighters. What will actually bring them the Championship is trust in their trainers and fellow training partners. And by not only being a good fighter but also being a good human being who gives and gets respect. These are all ingredients for upcoming Champions. A good example is Gegard Mousasi, who recently won the DREAM Championship at Middleweight. He is only 23 years old. I can see a great future for him. He is relaxed, has a good game plan and besides all of that, he has a good attitude.

What is a typical day at the gym like for you?

At this time my training is not at the highest level. I am shooting a movie with some very famous actors like Michael Madsen, Rutger Hauer and my Red Devil teamate Gegard Mousasi.

What about the strategic aspect of preparing for a fight? Do you put a game plan together for each opponent, or do you go into every fight with roughly the same plan?

Every opponent needs a specific plan. Every time I prepare for the fight, the physical training is generally the same. But it does depend on my game plan. A stand up fight will require different preparation than a planned ground fight. I make my game plan the minute I agree to fight my opponent.
Over the past few years you have received a good amount of criticism for not fighting the #1 contenders.

What do you say to your critics?

In this game, one mistake makes the difference between losing or winning. I take every opponent seriously. Of course I have a lot of critics. But I like to fight the best. It might be Arlovski and Josh Barnet in the future for the Affliction/M1 promotions.

Which of those two fighters do you feel represent your toughest opponent?

I think both fighters are very dangerous in their own way so I can’t make a decision. Arlovski is known as a ground fighter but I think his stand-up is very good. Josh Barnett is a very smart and an all around fighter. The game plan for both fights would be very different.

Do you think the Tim Sylvia fight dispelled the negative way of thinking by some critics?

Tim Sylvia was the former UFC Champion. I just did my thing and did not give him space to carry out his strategy. We both wanted to win. I was fortunate and won. My next fight will also include a former UFC champion Andre Arlovski.

Of course we have to talk about the UFC and the Randy Couture fight that you both have been trying to make happen. First of all, how do you feel about UFC president Dana White talking poorly about you and saying that you are not worthy of your #1 P4P status?

Dana made mistakes in the past. It is his way of talking. As you know, it did not touch me in the past and it will not do anything to me in the future. I think Dana sometimes does not remember what he said. I forgive him. He is also a human being.

You forgive him? So I assume that means all the bad words wouldn’t keep you from fighting in the UFC?

The bad words don’t really bother me. Like I said, that’s just his way of talking.

Now that Randy Couture is back in the UFC it looks like that is where this fight will have to take place if it going to happen in the next year. Would you consider signing a UFC contract that wouldn’t allow you to fight in Sambo competitions or with any other organizations?

I will never feel free in the UFC. This way of working does not fit me. I don’t need to be owned by an American fight promotion that has only America in mind. The UFC owns their fighters, so they would interfere in a long relation between me and Sambo, the game and the people. If I want to make a Sambo fight it should be possible.

What exactly are your conditions to sign with the UFC and do you think it realistically has a chance of happening?

As I Said before I don’t want to be owned by UFC, so it must be a non-exclusive contract. I still want to compete in Sambo and they have to make good arrangements with M-1. It can be possible, but then the UFC has to open the door. My management has had several meetings with the UFC lately.

Couture lost his UFC Heavyweight title to Brock Lesner at UFC 91. Does this make you want that fight any less?

For me it makes sense as a sport man to fight another champion. But when Randy made his choice to go to the UFC he also gave his rights away and I doubt that the UFC will give him this fight now because they know our conditions.

You sound disappointed that Couture decided to go back to the UFC.

Yes, I am. I think that the chance to fight him is now smaller then it was before. And I was really looking forward to fighting him. Business wise, I don’t know what the UFC offered him so I can’t judge it.
Who do you feel is the #1 Heavyweight contender for your title?

Randy was the man to beat. Josh is a good friend. Arlovski I feel a kind of relation with because his background is Sambo and he started in St. Petersburg with his first MMA fights. At the end of the day I will fight anybody.

When do you think the ‘end of the day’ will be for you? How many more years do you have in you as a competitive fighter?

I really don’t know. I will be competing in MMA as long as I am physically and mentally capable to compete with the best.

5 years ago Japan was the center of the MMA universe, but since then the power of balance had shifted to the US. What do you think the MMA landscape will look like in 5 years?

It will be global. From China to Timbuktu. From St. Katharinaberg to South Africa. Will the development of the sport also bring financial progress as in the States? I don’t know. Once America starts the rest will follow. At that time I hope to be a successful trainer and perhaps promoter.

A promoter? What will be your ultimate goal as a promoter – running shows in Russia, or a worldwide promotion?

I really have my mind set on a worldwide promotion, but that’s all for the future
Why do you think the MMA scene in Japan has declined recently?
It is going in the right direction. After Pride a lot of fighters left Japan and looked for their fortune in the USA. Not so many succeeded. I don’t know why. Japan now is working with Dream. I saw some great talents come through. Aoki, Nakamura, Hansen, Mousasi, Overeem and Kharitonov will make their name again. Oh I almost forgot to mention Alex. He will be in too.

Would you ever consider fighting your brother?

In Sambo I could. In MMA it will never work.
Since they came to the US, fighters such as Cro Cop and Shogun haven’t had the success that they enjoyed in Pride. You mentioned that you don’t know why but it can’t be a coincidence, can it?
It is hard for me to explain. I did not discuss this with them, next time I meet them I will ask for clarification but I think they have to get used to fighting in the cage. The use of elbows and perhaps personal reasons may be why they did not succeed until now.

Who has your toughest opponent been so far? Cro Cop or Minotauro?

They both were very heavy to fight and they both came at a different time. Minotauro was my third fight in Pride and he was the Champion so I wanted the status and I wanted the win. The Cro Cop fight was during my Championship so I had to defend my title against him. He was powered up by the Japanese organization to be the next champion. That was also a reason for me not to lose.

What do you mean by Cro Cop was ‘powered up’ to be the next Champion? Do you think Pride wanted Cro Cop to beat you? Were they showing favoritism to Cro Cop?

I am sure Pride wanted Cro Cop to win. This was also pushed by his Japanese manager I guess. But I just focused on the fight. The fight is in the ring and no one can predict the outcome there. The Cro Cop promotion was just another good motivation. He also beat my brother so I was just extra motivated by all this.

What has been your greatest career moment so far?

I have had a few that gave me satisfaction, but fighting Cro Cop at that time happened in a hype. The fight got so much attention that I was lifted out of the usual way of approaching my fights. At that time I lived in Holland to train with the best stand up fighters.
Vladimir Putin has showed up to watch you fight in the past, which is something that I just couldn’t see George Bush doing in the US at the time. What is your relationship like with Putin?
It is a human relationship. Vladimir Putin made a very relaxed and solid impression on me. The meeting with him after my fight in St. Petersburg might have some influence on my career after sports. Perhaps I go in politics. Just joking! (laughing)

So which former President would win if they met in the Octagon – Putin or Bush?!
Definitely Putin.

You mentioned earlier that you are filming a movie. How is that experience? Are you playing a tough guy fighter?

It’s my first time and I am really learning a lot. It’s very nice to be in a film with such a big setup. I am indeed playing a fighter.

Is acting something you would like to continue to do? An alternative career option so to speak?

My main objective is still fighting and be one of the best fighters in MMA, but of course I am open for all suggestions and offers.

What are you doing when you are not fighting?

Taking a rest, looking after my friends and family and training young up and coming fighters. And as you know a lot of promotion stuff will pass by. Right now I am filming the movie. After that I plan to go to Holland and train with Ernesto Hoost.

One last question. If you were a betting man, which organization do you see yourself fighting come 2009 – UFC, Affliction, or Dream in Japan?

I don’t bet, but Affliction in the States and Dream if it will be in Japan.

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