Source: Sherdog

After his first-round knockout of Pedro Rizzo on June 21 in St. Petersburg, Russia, the greatest heavyweight MMA to grace MMA, Fedor Emelianenko, hung up his well-worn-and-pounded gloves and called it a career.

The news was no surprise, as it had been rumored that “The Last Emperor” would announce it was his last hurrah prior to the bout. More curiously, just as fast as the 35-year-old legend withdrew from the sport, rumors arose that suggested Emelianenko would fight again. As it stands, few in the MMA world believe that the man who ruled the heavyweight division with an iron fist for an unprecedented seven years is really, truly, 100 percent done with MMA. However, given Emelianenko’s all-time greatness and uniquely fascinating persona, we at would’ve been remiss to not reflect on his career.

No fighter ever had an entire mythology to themselves quite like Fedor Emelianenko. His career unfolded in a classic dramatic fashion, replete with strange characters, heroic triumph and eventually, crushing defeat. Emelianenko established a new standard of achievement and dominance in MMA and was the Atlas figure of MMA’s heavyweight division for a decade. Inside the ring, he was an emotionless tormentor, almost to a cinematic degree. Outside of it, he was a consummate sportsman and ambassador the sport, a man whose international popularity as a mixed martial artist is to date, unrivaled.

And, like so many transcendental greats, Emelianenko never shied away from controversy, confidently moving to the beat of his own drum. His business and career decisions, from his early dealings with Russian Top Team and Rings to his infamous promoter M-1 and their co-promotional efforts with a host of players, were hot-button MMA topics that polarized the sport and only reinforced Emelianenko as a larger than life, yet undeniably aloof sportsman.

Few fighters have given us so much to remember them by, and perhaps that’s why the MMA community finds it so hard to believe that a simple dispatching of a faded Pedro Rizzo is really the end of Fedor Emelianenko. However, even if we’ve seen the last of “The Last Emperor,” we’ve been left with no shortage of vivid memories.

Mike Fridley: Hardcore fans knew of the quick heavyweight prior to his Pride debut and christening against lanky Dutchman Semmy Schilt, but it was his jaw-dropping destruction of the durable Heath Herring that opened many eyes to his potential greatness. Never before had such power striking been displayed on the floor at the sport’s highest levels, and with all due respect to Mark Munoz, Fedor’s ground-and-pound may never be equaled. The oldest Emelianenko brother is a once-in-an-era talent, and has left his mark on mixed martial arts for generations to come.

Tim Leidecker: It is really hard to single out just one memory of the Last Emperor, as his whole run in Pride was a human highlight reel. However, his first bout with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira stands out. Before the encounter, “Minotauro” had been on a 13-fight win streak. The Brazilian had gone 7-0 in Pride, finishing six of his opponents using his unparalleled submission skills. The BJJ black belt was considered simply too technical for the opposition. He also possessed an iron chin, which promptedBas Rutten to dub him “superhuman”.

Emelianenko destroyed Nogueira with
his vaunted ground-and-pound.

Was this stocky Russian really going to pose any serious threat to Nogueira? Hardly, people thought. They were wrong. In what was considered a big upset at the time, Fedor took down Nogueira at will and pounded on him for the entire 20 minutes of their fight, snatching the championship from him in an epic battle.

What was even more impressive, though, was the fact that Fedor completely shut down the Brazilian’s highly dangerous submission game. Fedor defended every submission Nogueira threw at him and unleashed some of the heaviest ground-and-pound in the history of the sport. He found the antidote against Minotauro’s poison and became one of just two fighters to beat Nogueira in his prime.

Jeff Sherwood: I had the pleasure of shooting Pride 25 ringside, which was pretty unusual for an American media member. I always found it amazing how stone-faced Fedor Emelianenko was inside the ring. He never seemed to even have an elevated heartbeat. This fight was no different as Fedor entered the ring as the underdog against the champ Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

Fedor was able to sit in Nog’s guard and punish him in round one. Nogueira was unable to mount any type of offense. Fedor hurt the Brazilian worse in a single round than anyone else in Nogueira’s career to that point. However, rounds two and three only got worse.

The final 10 minutes of this fight was host to some of the worst violence I have ever witnessed in a ring or cage, and most of it happened to take place two feet from my face. I have tried to explain this before, but it’s hard to put into words. That night, I was hearing things that were actually disturbing and shocking to my ears and eyes. The loud thuds as Fedor’s fists pounded on Nogueira’s face, Nog making low grunting sounds every time he ate a big shot (and there were plenty of them). I looked away twice in this fight, both times thinking, “Damn, Nog is too tough for his own good. Maybe this fight should be stopped.”

Even as he dished out massive punishment, Fedor seemed so calm and natural that it was scary. It reminded me of movies you see, how they portray serial killers doing terrible things and thinking nothing of it. Fighting was clearly Fedor’s calling.

The craziest part was seeing Fedor a number of times outside the ring after that night in Yokohama. He is so happy-go-lucky, always joking around with whomever he was with, in spite of any language barrier. It was amazing how he could turn it off and on, from smiling to stone-faced when the occasion called for it.

When Emelianenko took his Pride title
ther legend was on hand.

The end of Fedor Emelianenko’s career wasn’t what anyone expected or wanted, but none of that mattered to me. I will always remember what I saw — and heard — on March 16, 2003, inside Yokohama Arena.

Bobbie Clark: When I first heard whispers of a Russian fighter who could feel no pain, the rumors about Fedor Emelianenko were rampant: he was created in a lab by the Russian government, he trained with bears, he was a cyborg. Ridiculous, I thought, especially after seeing pictures of the man. He was chubby, with a round face and even rounder features. He looked more like a writer than a fighter.

I watched his bout against Kevin Randleman, who outwrestled the Russian and even viciously slammed him on his head. Undeterred, he scrambled, gained side control and locked on a kimura, forcing Randleman to tap. For me, it was Fedor’s lack of emotion through the whole fight that was most impressive.

Fedor kept the same expressionless demeanor throughout the bout, even as he was being slammed on his head. For Fedor, it wasn’t personal — it was strictly business. When he stepped into a ring or cage, it was time to go to work. He clocked in, inflicted as much damage as possible, clocked out and collected a check.

Mike Sloan: In the end, the one moment or situation regarding Fedor that sticks out the most was when he dueled the great Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira for the third time. Their second battle ended via lousy no-contest because of the accidental head clash and ensuing nasty gash, this after their initial encounter was that epic battle won by the Russian in 2003.

When all the stars aligned and the MMA world was given the gift of their third bout — when Pride’s cards were the absolute greatest MMA events on the planet — what transpired was nothing short of magical.

While it wasn’t the greatest fight in the history of the sport, it was easily one of the heavyweight division’s finest hours. We were given clearly the world’s top fighter taking on who was considered the second-best heavyweight around and his natural rival. It was the perfect matchup for every possible reason, and the Last Emperor came out on top.

Fedor went on to win for many years until his reign ended, but on that night in 2004, he proved he was the greatest heavyweight on earth and was without peer, which is why for me, it still ranks as his most shining moment. It’s debatable whether Emelianenko is still the greatest fighter in MMA’s short history because of how he never stepped into the UFC’s Octagon, and those three losses towards the end hurt. But, when he ruled the sport and toppled his greatest threat in “Big Nog” for the second time, it was perhaps the truest testament to Fedor’s brilliant career.

Brian Knapp: When dealing with a transcendent athlete like Fedor Emelianenko and his place in history, there are so many memories to draw upon, from his surviving Kevin Randleman’s ridiculous slam and Kazuyuki Fujita’s heavy hands to his encounters with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic. In many ways, he became an anti-establishment figure for his refusal to succumb to the UFC’s advances. Whether or not that decision affects his legacy remains to be seen. The man was undefeated for a decade. Need we say more? Personally, I will remember the stoicism with which he approached his profession. There was no mean mugging, no spiking the air with his fist during pre-fight introductions, no disrespectful trash talking. He walked into the ring with an expressionless face and one goal in mind: to beat the other man. Today’s fighters can learn a lot from his approach.

Fedor took it to Filipovic
on the feet.

David Lethaby: With Fedor, I always admired his persona as much as his fighting skill. The baddest man on the planet was also the most humble. In the United Kingdom, Pride coverage was non-existent; I waited three days to get a copied “Final Conflict 2005” DVD off eBay. I have never felt so excited for a bout as I was for Fedor-“Cro Cop” on that card.

Fedor was a master of game plans, but as a fan I was nervous. How was he going to approach the vicious striker? He stood with him in the first round and dominated. I was in sheer awe and disbelief. After the win? No fist pumps, no cheering, but after the belt presentation, he managed a quick look to the camera to give a wink and a half-smile. Class as usual from the real people’s champion.

Todd Martin: “Say hi to Fedor. He’s a nice guy.”

Mark Coleman, his face battered beyond recognition, scooped up his two sobbing young daughters and carried them across the cage to meet the man who turned their daddy’s face into hamburger meat moments earlier. Fedor smiled at them without a hint of menace, but the young girls still seemed terrified. It was an iconic moment at Pride’s U.S. debut, Fedor unintentionally devastating these two children.

And it was a perfect reflection of Fedor Emelianenko as a fighter. Because he is a nice guy. Unflappable in the cage, he would deliver punches without mercy and keep pushing forward through punches, takedowns or submission attempts. But at heart, he was a quiet, humble and unassuming warrior. He did his job and he went home to a traditional orthodox lifestyle. There was no fronting or manufacturing of image. The contrast between Fedor’s gentle demeanor and the violence of his fights in the ring and cage was never more evident than it was at Pride 32. It’s how I’ll always remember the man.

Freddie DeFreitas: Prior to the arrival of Fedor Emelianenko, MMA had never been blessed with an athlete who possessed a mythical aura of invincibility. Boxing had the good fortune of breeding the types who captured the hearts and minds of fans and still remain relevant when the words “greatest ever” are uttered. Think of Rocky Marciano’s 88-percent knockout ratio during the “Brockton Blockbuster’s” 49-0 run from 1947 to 1956, or Cuban Olympian legend Felix Savon’s 362-21-0 amateur record and three gold medals. These men turned heads and sparked the imaginations of onlookers.

For me, Emeliankenko’s tenure in Pride was, at that point, the closest we came to an athlete achieving legendary status in MMA. When the pudgy fellow who could easily be mistaken for your next door neighbor arrived in Japan with minimal fanfare, little did we know it would be the birth of a future legend. Emelianenko’s hostile takeover of the Pride heavyweight class is still unrivaled in terms of divisional dominance. While many today are all-too-happy to bring up that he never fought in the UFC, there is no denying that from 2001 to 2006, Pride was home to the best heavyweight division in the sport, and the Last Emperor was its conqueror.

Mick Bower: Ringside for Fedor’s bout with Matt Lindland in St. Peterburg, April 2007: Silvio Berlusconi and Vladimir Putin. Berlusconi: media mogul, money man behind the all-conquering AC Milan team-turned-politician, the man who made ‘bunga bunga’ parties a subject for political discourse. Putin: judo black belt and former KGB Bureau Chief who became leader of Russia. In the lawless mess of post-communist Russia, he was the only person with the clout to keep the warring factions in order.

The Italian beamed at the dancers in red satin mini-skirts as Putin was deep in conversation with Jean Claude Van Damme. The scene was a distillation of many things: the politician-celebrity crossover, the power of patronage, the rush to open markets and buy favor. It was also emblematic of the hype that surrounded Emilianenko’s later career. The great and not so good gathered to see a mismatch against a middleweight.

Fedor was still the consensus top heavyweight, but in terms of power, ruthlessness and filling his opponents with dread, he was at best in bronze medal position for baddest man in the room that night.

Jack Encarnacao: For me, the performance that will forever symbolize what Fedor Emelianenkomeant to MMA took place in Anaheim in 2008, the night he dismantled Tim Sylvia in 36 seconds.

Some Fedor foes left something
to be desired.

It was the most electric thing the stout Russian ever did in an MMA ring, because it seemed to validate every ounce of praise heaped upon him by his fans, perhaps of the most maniacal in the history of the sport. At the time, Fedor was getting guff for fighting overmatched and shopworn opposition since his battle with Mirko Filipovic in 2005. It was easy to frame him as ducking top fighters in pursuit of easy bouts that would keep the gravy train rolling.

Then, he came to Anaheim and made a recent UFC champion look like he was fighting for the first time.

To see Fedor so utterly dominate a man who’d never been knocked out in the UFC lent credence to the enchanting idea that his dominance knew no bounds, that he occupied a world all his own.

Tristen Critchfield: When Fedor Emelianenko knocked out Andrei Arlovski with a single punch atAffliction “Day of Reckoning,” it cemented his status among many fans as the greatest heavyweight of all time. Never mind that the defeat marked the beginning of a tailspin that would ultimately knock the intimidating Belarusian off the sport’s most prominent cards within two years. At the time, “The Pitbull” wasn’t that far removed from his reign as UFC heavyweight champion, and he entered the bout riding a five-fight winning streak which included triumphs over the likes of Fabricio WerdumBen Rothwell and Roy Nelson.

When he began his fight with Emelianenko, Arlovski looked like he would be able to accomplish what his former UFC rival, Tim Sylvia, could not some six months earlier. Arlovski beat the Last Emperor to the punch and connected with solid leg kicks in the opening round before inexplicably attempting a flying knee that Fedor countered with a right hand, knocking Arlovski cold. I had the opportunity to ask Arlovski about that fight approximately a year and a half ago, as he prepared for his entry into the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix.

“I saw that my kicks and my punches hurt him, and, for some reason, I jumped because people started screaming, ‘Pitbull,’” Arlovski told me. “It was cool when I did the flying knee against Ben Rothwell, but it doesn’t work against Emelianenko.”

The point? Even a former champion like Andrei Arlovski tends to get caught up in the moment when he’s fighting against a legend.

Yael Grauer: My favorite Fedor moment had to be his knockout of Andrei Arlovski at Affliction “Day of Reckoning.” For some reason, I thought Arlovski actually had a chance. He looked sharp at first with great footwork, a speed advantage, landing some leg kicks and punches. Fedor, on the other hand, looked sluggish and was swinging and missing time and time again. He immediately capitalized when Arlovski went for a flying knee and left his chin exposed for a millisecond that wasn’t even apparent to the naked eye. Fedor countered with a straight right, and that was all she wrote.

Tony Loiseleur: I first got to meet Fedor Emelianenko when he was set to make an appearance at M-1 Challenge’s April 2009 show in Japan. There was a moving poise and calm to him that I’ve never seen in another fighter, even to this day.

edor fights made for some
strange bedfellows.

Even speaking through a translator, talking to Fedor was like talking to royalty. The quiet, matter-of-fact way he spoke, the gracious allowances he gave for my rushed, impertinently direct line of questions, and the dignified answers he gave in return; Fedor responded like a man of distinction and class, rather than “the baddest man on the planet.”

While longtime MMA fans will ostensibly remember Fedor like that — for pounding people’s brains into the canvas, for surviving suplexes from hell, for finishing dudes with lightning quick submissions, and for doing it all with an ice-cold, distant gaze — this MMA fan will always remember him as the greatest of all MMA nobles — the Last Emperor, indeed.

Tomasz Marciniak: I remember Fedor better from the perspective of fights that did not get made than the battles he fought. When he was beating the likes of Mark Coleman and Mark Hunt in Pride’s dying days, I pined for another landmark Emelianenko fight that would stand the test of time. It never materialized. Promoters kicked around clashes with Randy Couture back when it was “the fight” to make in the MMA world. Maybe even a fight with the surging behemoth Alistair Overeem would have been enough to satisfy my desires, but that one didn’t materialize, either. When the night came for Fedor’s career to take its turn against Fabricio Werdum, us Poles couldn’t even bear witness, with no way to watch it live in the middle of the night.

Ryan O’Leary: Fedor seemed to have come from and exist in some alternate universe. He grew up in Russia, made his name in Japan, and soon after was hanging out with Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. The small, pudgy prize fighter never showed emotion as he made a habit of violently smashed bigger and more athletic opponents. When I think of the legend’s career, I remember the Cro Cop and Big Nog battles, the cartoonish Zuluzinho and Hong Man Choi match-ups, dispatchings of wrestlers Randleman and Coleman, the Couture and Barnett showdowns that never materialized, and the right-hand bombs against Arlovski and Rogers. “God’s will”… wow.

Chris Nelson: Nothing felt right the night Fedor lost for the first time. (Well, not the first time, but you know.) For some reason, I was watching the fights by myself. Ever since my younger brother had pulled me back into MMA by way of Pride, we’d made it a point to get together and watch Fedor’s fights live whenever possible. Randy CoutureAnderson SilvaB.J. Penn — these guys were special, too, but a Fedor fight always felt like a happening. Anyway, the fight started and things felt normal momentarily when Werdum put his head down to throw wild punches and Fedor dropped him, but that was the end of that. The first armbar looked tight; Fedor pulled out of it. The second looked deep, too, but it wasn’t until Werdum cinched up the triangle that I understood what I was watching. Werdum had baited the trap and now he had his prey.

When Fedor tapped out, my face was as expressionless as his. I wasn’t so much sad that a fighter I liked had lost as I was sympathetic for this man. Despite being a killer in the ring and a relatively bland interview outside of it, Fedor always seemed like genuinely decent human being who just wanted to fight and provide for his family, and whose only crime was having loathsome management. In that 69 seconds, he didn’t lose a fight, he’d shed his mythical status and, with it, all of his bargaining power. It didn’t feel right.

Werdum’s triangle shocked MMA.

As I write this, it’s been exactly two years since his loss to Werdum, and already the pendulum of public opinion seems to be swinging toward “He was overrated.” This is often punctuated by something about how he “never fought in the UFC,” and then sometimes talk of how he “ducked” tough competition. Of course, most anyone who’s been around long enough — and plenty have been around much longer than me — knows this wasn’t the case. Political issues aside, maybe MMA simply passed him by, but give this to Fedor: he didn’t go out on a losing streak when it would have been easy to do so, and he went out on his own terms. It will be a long time before we see any heavyweight do what Fedor did, and until they do, he’ll remain the Last Emperor.

Wojek Rysiewski: Putting Fedor’s remarkable sporting accomplishments aside, what always amazed me throughout his career was the cult following he acquired with many fans all over the world. In light of the difficult relations between Poland and Russia, Emelianenko’s huge popularity among Polish MMA enthusiasts is even more astonishing. The Last Emperor’s sportsmanlike behavior, peaceful demeanor outside the ring and aggressive, cutthroat style of fighting earned him a unique breed of fans, the kind of devoted followers who would in masses watch all his U.S. fights in the middle of the night and then argue in his honor for hours on message boards.

No other foreign fighter has ever been more popular in Poland and no current UFC star attracts even half as much attention as the Russian heavyweight did in his heyday. I am pretty sure that Fedor will be remembered in the Polish MMA community for many years to come.

Lutfi Sariahmed: I never really felt intrigued by Fedor’s allure like so many other MMA fans had been. It’s not that I ever doubted his skill; I knew he was great. As a sports fan, however, I wanted to see him fight the best in the post-Pride era. I couldn’t understand the fervor and attachment after he had balked at facing the best guys.

Then, Strikeforce heavyweight tournament — remember how excited we were that when it started? When “The Last Emperor” took on Antonio Silva, my fascination didn’t stem so much from the allure of Fedor as it did that the best heavyweight ever was coming off the first “real” loss of his career. How was he going to respond to something he hadn’t really previously dealt with? However, I was taken aback by the atmosphere live as the entire crowd seemed to rise and fall with Emelianenko’s every move. The whole card was one of Strikeforce’s better efforts, but that New Jersey crowd was only there to really see one man. I didn’t really appreciate how many Eastern European fight fans there were in New Jersey until that card.

Fedor’s cult-like following sang in unison as if it were an English football crowd as he made his way to the cage. They booed and threw whatever garbage was around toward the cage after he lost. The only thing they seemed to be missing was a flare to set off in the crowd. Being part of the Fedor train that night definitely gave me a clearer idea of how far his reach is and was.

Sam Genovese: I spoke with Evgeni Kogan at an M-1 event directly after Fedor’s losses to Fabricio Werdum and Antonio Silva. He, along with others, talked about how Fedor had perhaps become a little complacent and arrogant in his training. It was one of the few times that I saw a portion of Fedor that seemed human and flawed. He was not an emotionless robot. He even had a sense of hubris which endeared me even more to one of my favorite fighters.

Few fighters have ever had
such a cult following.

Mike Whitman: How can one decide on a favorite Fedor Emelianenko moment when there are so many from which to choose? Fight fans will never forget the Randleman slam, the Fujita comeback, the Cro Cop fight, and all the others.

Rather than remembering a single moment in Emelianenko’s career, I’ll instead comment on the man. His quickness and acceleration were extraordinary. In his prime, Emelianenko could cover distance as well as any heavyweight ever has, transitioning between positions seamlessly. This quality perfectly complimented his ground-and-pound, which reminded me of a nail gun. It was clean, efficient and allowed him to inflict a continual stream of punishment upon his victims.

I will never forget the audible pop of Emelianenko’s gloves as they crashed into Antonio Rodrigo NogueiraGary Goodridge and Heath Herring. I guess I agree with original Pride play-by-play announcer Stephen Quadros: it did sound like someone hitting a buffalo with a baseball bat.

Paul Fladten: Never again will this sport find another Fedor Emelianenko. Doing things his own way, Fedor evolved into a larger-than-life figurehead of the sport while dominating the landscape of the heavyweight division. My fondest memory of Fedor’s career was that of his demolition of former UFC champions Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski. While nowhere near as important or memorable as Fedor’s victories over Cro Cop or Minotauro, the crushing conquests finally gave longtime fans of Fedor and Pride the opportunity to show the “UFC or bust” faithful what they had been missing all those years.

Jordan Breen: Everything. Bald, chubby. The low-budget Adidas shorts in Rings. The Aronacontroversy. TK’s elbow. Bobby Hoffman not fighting. Herring’s face. The punch in the Nogueira fight, you know the one I mean. Fujita fish dance. Same armbar on Coleman twice. Randleplex. Broken hands, torn skin. The 2003 New Year’s Eve scandal. Daisuke Sato’s intro for the “Cro Cop” fight. The “Cro Cop” fight. Zuluzinho and Hong Man Choi. The “rope grab” against Lindland, while hanging out with Jean Claude Van Damme and Vladimir Putin. Dana White versus Vadim Finkelstein. Tom Atencio and Donald Trump. WAMMA. Sylvia lasts 36 seconds. Arlovski ends up mounted on Dave Mandel’s wall. “Crazy Russians.” Seven years on top. The shock of Werdum’s triangle, Silva’s mount, Hendo’s haymaker. The sweater. Eating two ice creams. The funny pictures on the rollercoaster, the creepy pictures in the sauna. Strange Korean commercials. Father Andrey and his beard. The “that man has to be eliminated” quote. “Enae Volare Mezzo.” Loving Red Lobster. D-level action movies in Thailand. Jerry Millen. Dana White’s emoticon tweets. “God’s will.”

The above paragraph sounds like hysterical, stream-of-consciousness insanity, not a textual scrapbook of the greatest heavyweight MMA has seen thus far. Yet, that is what is and was magnetic about Emelianenko. His presence was constantly intriguing and polarizing because it was so confusing and curious.

Never has a fighter so detached from the sport and its machinations seemed more familiar, beloved and popular, in all kinds of unique international locales, no less. Fedor was the epitome of walking softly and carrying a big stick, a deeply religious introvert who shied away from the obsessive idolatry that his rabid fans engaged in. He was the sport’s greatest heavyweight despite not being at all concerned with a legacy, only viewing himself as a professional and a sportsman whose job was to provide for his family.

The far-ranging tales of Emelianenko’s career — his successes, failures, strange idiosyncrasies and bizarre bedfellows — are equal parts drama and comedy. For a man constantly (and foolishly) referred to a cyborg, no MMA figure has ever dominated with such a peculiar, powerful and undoubtedly human mystique.

Greg SavageFedor Emelianenko became the stuff of legend during his run in Pride FC throughout the early 2000s. The soft-spoken yet heavy-handed combatant from Stary Oskol, Russia, cut a unique image in a sport dominated by brash, outspoken characters. His unassuming appearance, his reticent demeanor with the media and his humble nature clashed heavily with how many thought the baddest man on the planet should look and act.

Sadly, all those attributes helped foster a long-drawn-out and often very public feud between Emelianenko and the UFC. It was the sad end to what is truly one of the greatest mixed-martial arts careers that the newer fans who joined the MMA explosion over the past seven years will remember him for, and that is a tragedy.

The campaign to discredit what this man accomplished over his magnificent prime has been one of the most disgusting and contrived crusades we have seen in the MMA sphere. The fact that it actually took hold in the media as well is even more disheartening. There is no doubt Emelianenko slipped towards the end of his career, but there is absolutely no way a rational person can diminish his wins over multiple former and future UFC heavyweight champions, nor his utter dismantling of any and all competitors in what was the pinnacle of the sport at that time.

Two wins over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and a career-defining masterpiece against Mirko Filipovic were the highlights during a 28-fight unbeaten streak. Sure, there were some less-than-stellar opponents along the way, but Emelianenko can only be compared to his contemporaries and that comparison is mighty one-sided.

So whether or not “The Last Emperor” is really set to ride off into the sunset, if you weren’t fortunate enough to see what he was able to accomplish before the UFC and the sport of MMA took flight, do yourself a favor and go back and watch this artist of violence craft the masterpieces that built his legacy.

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