This is a big deal. The NYT is considered the paper of record by almost every journalist in the country. Here's the lede from the article:
MOSCOW — Fedor Emelianenko has been described as superhuman: as the No. 1 mixed martial arts fighter in the world, he has never been knocked out, and he often defeats opponents in a matter of minutes with a hale of thundering punches, never breaking his stony, stoic air.
Nicknamed the Last Emperor, Emelianenko has thousands of fans across Europe, North America and Japan. YouTube has more than 1,000 videos of him pummeling opponents from Orange County to Osaka in a sport that combines the spectacle of professional wresting with the violence of a barroom brawl. Each clip has tens of thousands of views, and many have gone viral, topping a million.
But they also pour a little cold water on accounts of his being a huge star in Russia:
Yet, in Emelianenko’s native Russia, a country that honors athletic heroes almost as highly as its greatest wartime generals, few will probably be watching.
"Emelianenko is a huge star, on par with Sharapova and Ovechkin," said Pavel Lysenkov, a journalist with Sovietsky Sport, Russia’s premier sports newspaper, referring to the tennis star Maria Sharapova and the N.H.L. star Alexander Ovechkin. (Comparisons with Mike Tyson of the 1980s also abound.)
"But I’m very surprised that in Russia very few people know him."
Lysenkov and others said that this was probably because television coverage of mixed martial arts is practically nonexistent in Russia and that the sport, which came to St. Petersburg in the mid-1990s, remains largely confined to Russia’s northern capital.
The article also has an interesting take on Fedor's lifestyle and personality. At one point they say his lifestyle resembles that of a traditional Russian peasant! Pretty stark contrast to the Westernized Belorussian Andrei Arlovski who lives the Chicago big city lifestyle to the hilt.