The mixed martial arts (MMA) world currently awaits the return of legendary heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko after the “The Last Emperor” declared his plan to end his retirement earlier this year.
Emelianenko showed up looking svelte and in shape, and then he appeared to be packing on even more mass in an effort to return to the top. It’s unknown which promotion Fedor will fight for and against who he’ll make a return, but with Fabricio Werdum set to take on Cain Velasquez for a second time next, the biggest rematch on the table for Emelianenko is currently on the shelf.
But with a few recent appearances for Bellator, Fedor might not even end up in the UFC, although his manager Vadim Finkelchtein said there is ‘a big chance’ that he mends the fence with Dana White and finally makes his way to the octagon.
If and when he does, Fedor is apparently taking his return very seriously. He’s been training with a team of talented Russian martial artists brought into his camp to help him prepare, including Bellator heavyweight champ Vitaly Minakov. In an interview with Russian site FightNights.ru (via Bloody Elbow), Minakov detailed a trip to Fedor’s native Stary Oskol, where the legend showed him a wealth of new fight knowledge:
“We had a very good camp in Stary Oskol. We had a lot of heavyweight sparring partners. I learned a lot of new things and worked in tandem with Fedor Emelianenko. He gave me some useful tips and showed a few key painful methods in his arsenal such as kimuras and things like that. I absorbed all this knowledge.
“We also worked on grappling. This is exactly what I needed for the future. Once Fedor shared these moments it immediately began to turn out differently. We spent a lot of time practicing techniques on the ground. It was Emelianenko who showed us a lot of interesting things: Denying the short path, finishing moves from the middle distance. There were a lot of nuances.”’
Indeed Fedor is known for his technical grappling skills as a decorated Combat Sambo champion with a vast array of slick armbar and choke finishes to his credit. But the one submission he’d like to get back in his shocking triangle choke loss to Werdum in Strikeforce back in 2010 that ended his unprecedented 10-year unbeaten streak.
“The Last Emperor” has publicly decreed that he would like to rematch “Vai Cavalo,” who is now conveniently the UFC champ. Based on his vast improvements in recent years, most would probably side with Werdum given Emelianenko’s time spent away from the game.
It’s hard to think that the 38-year-old Fedor would return to his prime form, yet Minakov believes that he hasn’t eroded with age, and his hand speed and power is good as they continue to train:
“Now Fedor is in good shape. Technically he is still very good and has not lost anything in time. He still has very quick hands, hits very hard, and has good functional status. We are in touch with Fedor, and will interact constantly – it will be a mutually beneficial cooperation.”
With precious few details available about his return, it sounds like Emelianenko could legitimately be a threat upon his returns. Who should be the first challenge to determine if that’s actually true?