"As for the fedor fight, I thought it was very interesting, but I thought Rogers hesitated, and I felt like Fedor got exposed a bit." -- Joe Rogan
I'm a huge fan of Joe Rogan. If I'm ever half as good at commentary as he is I could die peacefully with a real sense of accomplishment. I also find him to be insightful and clairvoyant. He often sports a very unrecognized erudition about the fight game that informs his very sound judgment. In this case, however, he's completely out to lunch. Fedor was not exposed in any meaningful way and to suggest so seems deeply, deeply misplaced.
If you listen to Jordan Breen and I talk about what makes Fedor who he is (accolades, foibles and all) from MMA Nation this past Saturday, we discussed that one of the hallmarks of Fedor's remarkable career is his perseverance. It's not that Fedor has some otherworldly ability to never be hit, never be stumbled, never be challenged. In fact, it's quite the opposite. He is often challenged or hurt or put in very compromising positions. He can be cut, rocked, controlled, damaged, scored on. In a very real sense, Fedor is profoundly human and Brett Rogers is hardly the first opponent to discover this.
But that humanity is precisely what gives Fedor his utter remarkability. In a fragile human world and in a game as punishing and unforgiving as MMA, Fedor both succumbs to the frailties of his mortal flesh while always rising above them. Fedor is not perfect; he is just exceptional at never letting his imperfections get the best of him.
In an abstract sense, Fedor has made a career out of near flawless execution. He is essentially unbeaten and has dispatched opponents with ferocity, technical acumen and even ease at times. But on the more granular level, those wins and his accolades came at the expense of truly dangerous opponents in often extremely precarious moments. The notion that Fedor's identity is defined by routinely crushing every challenge ever faced is and has always been demonstrably false. Candidly, to believe as much is intellectual laziness partially fed by the hysteria that comes from promoting his identity to the masses.
In a game where the slightest amount of error can cost you everything, Fedor has found a way time and again to never let his shortcomings dictate outcomes. It is not that Fedor never errs or that others cannot remove him from his pedestal. Kazuyuki Fujita came close; Kevin Randleman came close; Andrei Arlovski, Brett Rogers and Mirko CroCop flirted with the possibility. But Fedor, as he has always done, never lets those errors ultimately cost him in the end. In my judgment, that is the true mark of an unmistakable champion.
No one should ever be surprised that there are shortcomings to Fedor's ability or in his career. He is human, all too human. Perhaps Alistair Overeem will be the first tip the balance in his favor should he ever face the Russian. Maybe we'll be lucky enough to watch Brock Lesnar get the opportunity. Regardless, what you should look for is not whether Fedor can put them in body bags with ruthless impunity. While he could stand to fight slightly better opposition, he is not now facing also-rans who have no business being with him in the cage. As I said all last week and will repeat here, Brett Rogers was always a legitimate opponent. Instead, what you should look for from Fedor is what has always defined him: his ability to persevere. He is always focused, always thinking, always waiting for the slightest opportunity or smallest window to exploit an opponent's weakness. And from the jaws of defeat, he has yanked himself out in truly epic and career-defining performances.
Fedor is human. Fedor can be hurt. Fedor can be defeated. That's what makes his seeming invincibility so appealing: there's nothing invincible about him.
Photo by Sherdog.