By Josh Stein on Jun 28, 2010
There has been a lot said about the fight between Fedor Emelianenko (32-2-0-1 MMA, #1 IWMMAR) and Fabricio Werdum (14-4-1 MMA, #9 IWMMAR). We know that Fedor was magnanimous in defeat, that he believes it is part of God’s plan for him and that he hit Werdum pretty damn hard before Werdum caught the submission. We’ve heard about the technical side of the submission, and we’ve heard arguments for and against an immediate rematch.
There is not much to add to the discussion at this point in the life cycle of this story, but I’m going to add my two cents anyway, as well as a short note I jotted down following the live coverage.
Passing by Scott Coker after the press conference, I heard him mention something about Fedor that cocked my ear. I don’t carry a tape recorder, and I didn’t write this down right away, but he said something to the effect of: “Fedor regards this [his career as a fighter] as a spiritual journey… he’s a warrior in the very traditional sense. I’ve always respected that about him.”
Those who like to talk about Fedor, who find his personality interesting, understand that part of what makes him interesting is the mystery surrounding his mental state, and his personality. This insight, though, has been visible in his defeat, and some of that mystery is going to disappear when people acknowledge that the loss is the result of a huge blunder (actually, a couple of huge blunders; but the major one is the decision to dive into Werdum’s guard in the first place). But we’ll see this as it unfolds.
But what bothered me was the discussion of Fedor’s invincibility. I couldn’t believe how many journalists I respect, and even look up to, were absolutely shocked at the loss. We all watch so many fights, we see so many fighters walk into triangles like Fedor did, that I was surprised not just by the outcome of the fight, but by the reaction of the people around me. I understand that there’s a deification of Fedor, that there’s talk that he didn’t make mistakes, and that he wouldn’t make a gameplanning error like going to the ground against a multiple-time world champion in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
There are those who deify fighters, and those who read the blogosphere know that plenty in the media (myself included) do it far more often than we should. But I’ll say this: I’ve stopped being shocked that great fighters lose to less skilled opponents.
A tangential story:
When I was a kid, I thought that Mark Kerr (who was 11-0 without a decision, at the time) was the Mike Tyson of MMA. In a lot of ways, he was. He was (and is) stocky, powerful and dominant. There wasn’t a competitive fight on his record, and I didn’t expect the Ukranian he was stepping in the ring with to put on much of a fight. Igor Vovchanchyn had gone 27 fights without a loss, but when a 220 pound kickboxer steps in with a shredded, 265 pound wrestler, the eyes are always on the big guy.
The fight with Vovchanchyn was to Mark Kerr what the Buster Douglass fight was for Mike Tyson. It wasn’t his last win, but it was the moment when his aura of invincibility disappeared. Fedor’s aura of invincibility lasted for ten years, far longer than the time that many of the folks in the crowd that night had been familiar with MMA, but it was going to happen.
If you fight enough in MMA, you’re going to lose one. If you fight often, and at a high level of competition, you’ll probably lose more than one. Even when Pat Miletich was the top welterweight in the UFC, he dropped multiple fights in other organizations. Competing regularly, against fighters who have solid backgrounds, means the possibility of losing multiple fights. When guys have skills, there’s a legitimate threat of being caught, even if its of the form of Anderson Silva vs. Ryo Chonan.
There are no gods in MMA. There are no immortal figures who will build a great legacy without a loss. There will never be a Rocky Marciano in MMA. There are too many ways to lose. There are too many mistakes to make and too many places to attack. There are legends, and Fedor is the greatest among those legends in the brief (though rich) history of the sport, but he was never immaculate, only the greatest man in the ring each and every time he entered.
Filed Under: MMA
About the Author: Joshua Stein is a writer and editor for MMA Opinion. He has worked as a photographer and journalist and has a number of print journalism credits. He also works as a moderator for MMAForum.com and a grappling columnist (covering judo, collegiate wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and submission grappling) for profighting-fans.com.