Standing at just 6-foot tall and hardly tipping the scale at more than 240 pounds, Fedor Emelianenko still managed to have an unprecedented run as a heavyweight in MMA in the early 2000s. He is, without a doubt, in the conversation for the greatest of all time, but can he be considered the best without ever competing in the premier MMA organization?
In December 2000, Emelianenko suffered his first professional loss to Tsuyoshi Kosaka. He would not lose again until June 2010. Overall, Emelianenko went on a 29-fight unbeaten streak, which is an accomplishment few have ever come near.
No matter the opponent, Fedor disposed of them, often in a quick and violent manner. Many tried to dethrone “The Last Emperor” along the way. There was Ricardo Arona, Renato “Babalu” Sobral, Heath Herring, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Gary Goodridge, Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, Mark Hunt and Andrei Arlovski. All were worthy combatants, but all succumbed to the greatness of Emelianenko.
Perhaps the only knock on Fedor’s resume is that he has never competed in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. There were a few times when it appeared as if UFC President Dana White was going to close the deal on the most highly touted free agent in the sport. It never happened.
So, all things considered, is Emelianenko the G.O.A.T.?
As fight fans, we were cheated out of some iconic fights in the early 2000s. During Fedor’s amazing run, the UFC had stars like Chuck Liddell, Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir and Cain Velasquez. We were teased with an Affliction bout between Randy Couture and Emelianenko, but those darn contracts got in the way.
At this point, we can only speculate on what could’ve been. It’s safe to say that for a period of time, Emelianenko was the G.O.A.T. However, it only took Fabrício Werdum 69 seconds to end the Russian’s run. Once Werdum defeated Emelianenko and made him look mortal, the floodgates were open. Emelianenko took the loss hard, and he would lose two more fights in succession, against opponents Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and Dan Henderson.
Champions are judged on how they handle adversity. “The Last Emperor” eventually built himself back up, winning five straight fights en route to signing with Bellator MMA. Now, the table is set for Emelianenko to ride off into the sunset. On June 24, Emelianenko will do battle with Matt Mitrione. Regardless of what happens on that night, Fedor’s place in MMA lore is forever preserved in the minds of millions of fans. UFC or not, he really is the greatest to ever compete in the sport.
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