Fedor Emelianenko. The invincible force of nature that provided fans with some of the greatest moments in the history of mixed martial arts. A man who has become an emotional attachment to fans. A fighter so beloved that Saturday night's defeat at the hands of Antonio Silva brought tears to the eyes of grown men who nervously bit their nails as Fedor stood toe-to-toe with six-and-a-half foot, two hundred and sixty-five pound mountain of a man. Fedor's time as the king of the mountain may have ended with Fabricio Werdum, but the idea that he is still one of the top three fighters in the world has passed.
While many fans still feel that there are upper-echelon fighters out there who would crumble at the power of Fedor, the "Last Emperor" said it best himself, "Maybe it's time to leave". The 34-year-old Ukranian-born legend of the sport hinted at the possibility of retirement over the course of the last couple of years, but the sight of his completely swollen shut eye and the knowledge that Fedor is one of the most humble fighters to ever grace the ring made me feel as if the words were on the tip of his tongue. Sure enough, Fedor spoke with class and dignity, telling fans that the end may be near.
Fedor has given us moments of joy over the course of his incredible ten-year career. The shocking destruction of Heath Herring at PRIDE 23 was his coming out party, and the brutal beating that he laid out on Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at PRIDE 25 opened up the world to the idea that Fedor may be the most feared man on the planet. But the Russian Sambo practitioner wasn't finished.
He continued to dominate the landscape of the heavyweight division, proving that he was not only the best fighter in the world, but that he was had the resiliency and survivability to surface thoughts that he might be invincible. Kevin Randleman's crushing suplex, Mark Coleman's mammoth size from top control, Mark Hunt's enormity, Kazuyuki Fujita's powerful hands, all survived by Fedor. And not only survived, but eventually overcame by Fedor's incredible skill.
The time has come for Fedor Emelianenko to ride into the sunset. To walk into the darkness and live his life as the soft-spoken man who once dominated a sport that is far from filled with humble characters. For Fedor, the sport has never been about prestige or triumph over the best fighters in the world, but rather a means to providing for his family. Fedor has never begged for the spotlight, and his only aim when he was in the spotlight was to thank God and thank the fans who loved him most.
In an era in which we've seen countless fighters hang on to hope that their careers will suddenly turn around, it's time for the class act to shine. Some fans would say that Andrei Arlovski, Jens Pulver, Tim Sylvia, Randy Couture, and many others have prolonged their careers to a point in which a retirement announcement would only garner laughter from the peanut gallery. This sport has a way of bringing out the ruthlessness in fans, but Fedor Emelianenko is one of the only fighters in the sport who has garner respect from every fan out there.
The sport has changed, and Fedor, at 34 years of age, is beginning to slow down. It's inevitable. Some fans will mock my words as premature, but I'm not a fan who wants to see a legend of this sport exit on the lowest point possible. I want to see the legendary Fedor leave on a high note, or at the very least, a very close second to the highest point. We all hoped that Fedor would run through this tournament like a freight train, but the end has to come at some point. It's a sad day in mixed martial arts for those who clung onto the idea that Fedor would stand back to his feet and crush the opposition, but sometimes in life -- those who have fallen simply move on.
If Fedor decides to return in the future, rest assured that I will watch nervously hoping he shows a glimmer of the young Russian who dominated the PRIDE era. But there is a part of me who hopes that Fedor walks into the darkness and never comes back, happy with what he's accomplished in life and hopeful of what the future holds.