Living With The Fedor Backlash

Few men have caused so much trouble by doing so little. In the past year Fedor Emelianenko has sparked controversy and debate, provided the impetus for the creation of one new company and strained relationships within another, and all while barely maintaining an active career as a pro fighter.

We of the MMA media are more than a little complicit in all this. We’ve hailed Fedor as the greatest, then lambasted him when he dared to chase a paycheck instead of carrying the mantle we had thrust upon him. Now that he’s seemingly come to his senses and is leaving M-1 for greener pastures, we have to find something else to get upset about.

Don’t worry. If it’s one thing MMA writers and fans alike are good at, it’s manufacturing discontent.

A recent article by Sherdog ace Jake Rossen got the ball rolling. In it, Rossen takes aim at, among other things, Fedor’s position atop the rankings. The support for this criticism comes primarily from Fedor’s inactivity, which is fair. In the last fifteen months Fedor has fought a circus freak, a middleweight, and a K-1 kickboxer with a limited ground game. Then again, he beat them all in the first round. If the sharpest complaint you can level at him is that it took him a few minutes longer than expected to finish opponents who he far outclassed, you have to wonder how much you really have to gripe about.

But let’s be honest, most of the Fedor-hate these days doesn’t have anything to do with his fighting ability. It’s about his business decisions. To be more specific, it’s about his decision not to fight in America, for American audiences. Spurning an offer from the UFC was the first step. Dana White claimed publicly that Fedor was overrated, which doesn’t explain why he offered him millions to fight for the UFC or why he’s now trying to hype two-time Fedor victim Mark Coleman, but still.

The point is that complaints about Fedor’s recent opponents are legitimate, but not as a criticism of his abilities as a fighter. All Fedor has ever done is beat whoever was put in front of him. Granted, he may not have made the best choices about who to trust as a manager or promoter or matchmaker — and he wouldn’t be the first fighter to be taken advantage of in that regard — but it doesn’t mean he isn’t the best heavyweight in the world.

What this is really about is sour grapes and hurt feelings. That goes for those on the production and promotion side, such as the UFC, as well as for fans and the media. Because Fedor is unbeaten, it’s easy for us to say he is untested. And if we say he’s untested, well, we demand to see him tested. Fedor’s admittedly poor business decisions of late have denied us that opportunity, and so we lash out at him. We try and take back the title that we gave him — world’s best fighter — as if it might somehow convince him to come to America just to placate us.

Odds are Fedor doesn’t care what we say about him. Maybe he doesn’t even know. There’s a good chance that all he cares about are the zeros on his paycheck, and if you don’t think that’s an honorable enough motivation you should bring it up with Randy Couture and see what he tells you. All the talk about who’s the best in the world doesn’t mean much at the end of the day, so it’s hard to criticize a guy for not placing as much importance on it as we do.

Whatever we may say about him when our feelings get hurt, the truth is that Fedor has been nothing short of dominant in his career as a fighter. He’s beaten everyone he’s faced, even if his list of opponents of late isn’t what we’d like it to be. He’s still Fedor. His abilities — once the match is finally set and the opening bell rings — are still unassailable. We know this. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t spend so much time arguing about him. And then what would we do? Nothing that’s this much fun, that’s for sure.

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4 Comments

Filed under Fedor Emelianenko, MMA, Sports, UFC

4 responses to “Living With The Fedor Backlash

  1. Vrax

    While I certainly agree that Fedor’s ability to remain fun to argue over while not fighting is truly unassailable, I also think that there are some very valid arguments against him be the world’s top heavy weight right now. I know that you will not pull punches, should you choose to tear each and every point I attempt to make to shreds, which makes this the perfect place to try and make said points.

    The whole PRIDE vs. UFC thing has finally happened, except for Fedor, obviously. Yet, his peers have not done at all well against their UFC counterparts. Sure, Big Nogs pulled off a win, but he wasn’t fighting the actual champ.

    The argument for Couture really is that simple; Gonzaga destroyed Cro Cop, who went to decision with Fedor. And Randy owned Gonzaga, wayward headbutt or no.

    Forrest Griffin, Cheick Kongo, Gabe Gonzaga, freakin Jake O’Brien! It makes one wonder about the steroid testing, rather the complete lack of steroid testing, for fighters in Japan. I, personally, wonder if the presence of steroid testing is a factor in Fedor’s avoidance of fighting in America.

    I really don’t want to think that’s it. He is quite obviously a brilliant talent. I’m sure he doesn’t need drugs. But yet, I wonder. And with Randy Couture, I have no question.

    So those are the two things, I look at shared opponent’s opponent’s, and I wonder about the strangely terrible performances of certain PRIDE stars competing in the UFC.

  2. The Fighting Life

    Vrax, you make some good points, and you seem to be both a gentleman and a scholar, so I won’t tear your arguments to shreds, though I will, respectfully, offer these counterpoints.

    First of all, I think you’re falling into what I term the Transitive Property Fallacy of MMA. That is, if Fighter A beats Fighter B, and Fighter B beats Fighter C, then Fighter A is better than both Fighters B and C.

    As we’ve seen in the past, that doesn’t hold up. For instance, Randy Couture lost to Chuck Liddell, who lost to Keith Jardine, who was destroyed by Houston Alexander. Does that mean Alexander is better than Couture? Nooooo way.

    Also, if we’re taking into account method of victory, Couture beat Tim Sylvia by decision while Big Nog subbed him. And Fedor beat Big Nog twice. Again, it proves very little.

    As for the drugs, I’ve seen this brought up in a couple of different instances and in some cases it holds water. I mean, just look at Phil Baroni’s career path, or Sh0gun Rua’s.

    But look at Fedor. Nothing about his physique says steroids. And I know that also proves very little, so let me add another point: HGH. If a guy is looking for an edge and he has the money (as both Fedor and Couture and a number of others do) they could just as easily use HGH, since they don’t test for it.

    Something to think about, anyway.

  3. Dan

    Here’s a fun thought experiment: If Fedor Emelianenko were retired, would you say he was the best heavyweight of all time? I know I would, if for no other reason than he’s undefeated. What other heavyweight out there, or not out there anymore, is undefeated at over a ten fights?

    I think that, weirdly, most people would agree that Fedor is the best heavyweight ever, but popular opinion has turned against him as the best heavyweight currently fighting. That’s probably because, um, he’s not currently fighting. But it seems to me that the argument is really over whether or not Fedor is retired. If he had seized the mic after Hong Man Choi and let somebody translate his backwards-speak into “This is last fight. Thank you all my fans, who have been loving me,” agreement would be unanimous. If you accept that line of reasoning, you’ve got to admit there’s a contradiction at work: Fedor is the best ever, but he’s not the best right now?

    Why do all the playa haters hate Fedor? Because he’s still fighting, a little.

  4. Vrax

    Haha, ok you got me with that Houston Alexander Transitive Property Fallacy thingamajiingy. And I have no doubt that Fedor could defeat the court case place holder champion yet again.

    Now I am not exactly sure why you’d say there’s nothing about Emlianenko’s body that looks like steroids? I mean I know the guy has a naturally sort of puffy face, but, well, it could easily be ‘roid cheeks. The swelling at the upper cheeks is a common sign of steroid use. You can watch the WWE guys go on and off their cycles by watching their cheeks.

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