Fedor Emelianenko (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

One Last Reign: What Does the Rumored Return of Fedor Emelianenko Mean for MMA?

Who is the best ever?

That question is a frequent point of discussion in any sport around the world. Mixed martial arts is no different. From sports radio to podcasts, it is a constant topic. We are fascinated with the idea of a single player or fighter being the best at their respective sport.

When the issue arises in the MMA world, there is always one name that is generally on everyone’s list. That fighter’s name is Fedor Emelianenko.


It seems like most, if not all, respected MMA figures have the Russian sambo champion in the conversation as the best fighter the sport of MMA has ever seen. Even some of the pundits who did not watch MMA during the Pride FC glory days have Emelianenko in the conversation of the greatest ever. That goes to show the high regard for Emelianenko in the MMA sphere.

Like many of his athlete peers, Emelianenko’s fall from grace was, at times, sad to watch. As he progressed his career from Pride FC to Affliction and then over to Strikeforce — and even though he was still beating top heavyweights up — it was evident that some of his past wars were starting to catch up with him. Then, on June 26, 2010, everything changed. The man many thought would never lose became the man who got tapped by current UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum. The loss started a downward spiral that led to a horrible three-fight losing streak. The defeats came in brutal fashion, and it all concluded with the Russian legend calling it a career in June 2012 after a TKO win over pioneer Pedro Rizzo.

Let’s fast-forward to July 2015 and, in what should be no shock to us all considering the trend with fighters, Emelianenko is strongly suggesting he will indeed fight once again. Fedor has nothing left to prove to anybody, but still here we find ourselves, a little over three years after he announced his retirement, staring at another possible Emelianenko fight. Now the question shifts. It’s no longer a question of who’s the greatest ever. Instead, it’s about whether we care.

Since a TKO loss to middleweight Dan Henderson in Strikeforce, Emelianenko fought three more times. The three fights did not garner much media attention, though. Yes, they were all wins, but by then the entire spectacle of watching an Emelianenko fight was severely missing. It is just too hard to look beyond the terrible beatings he took in his final three fights inside the Strikeforce cage and focus on the Russian piling up victories over mid-tier competition. The entire mystique surrounding Emelianenko was one of the main reason’s why he resonated so much with fans and the media, but that mystique had dissipated. And it’s long gone by now.

Will people tune in to watch the man many once thought was the baddest fighter on the planet? Sure. That doesn’t imply he is still a relevant force, however, especially given how different the landscape is now in this ever-growing sport. If we go by his last fights in Strikeforce — the last time he fought a somewhat relevant guy — we do not need to see what happens if Fedor fights again. We have UFC Fight Pass for that, and — spoiler alert — it isn’t pretty. Sadly, it appears that Emelianenko has his heart set on making a comeback. It’s a safe bet that Bellator President Scott Coker is salivating on getting his hands on the once dominant champion, too.

Could it be possible that in 2015 we finally get the answer to the question that the entire MMA world has been asking for almost 10 years. Will we finally know what would happen if Randy Couture and Emelianenko fought? It sounds crazy to think that this is a possibility in 2015. But, hey, Ken Shamrock fought Kimbo Slice just a few weeks ago. So anything is possible, right?