The stoic Russian stands in the emptied Izod Arena. The cage in front of him, his right eye bandaged with speckles of blood seeping through. He contemplates what seems to have been a lifetime and all he is about to leave behind. A voice, steeped with a deep Brazilian accent, speaks up "Awfully quiet, isn't it?" Fedor turns, Antonio Noguiera stands across from him.
You all remember the scene from Rocky III. Rocky, after taking a trouncing from Clubber Lang, never making that miraculous comeback he was known for, in slo mo falling to the canvas, questions everything about himself as a fighter and a man. His manager recently telling him his fights were handpicked, they were good fighters but nothing like Clubber. He questions everything about his legacy and his manhood. But, one man believed in who Rocky was as a fighter. A legend himself, Apollo Creed. He tasted defeat at the hands of the Italian Stallion and knows he is better than what he saw in his fight against Clubber. In Micky's gym he confronts Rocky with the stark reality of his life and career as a fighter. He knew he had gotten soft, he wasn't training properly, was doing nothing to adjust his style to the fierce up and coming competition. He convinces Rocky to go back to the beginning, to Apollo's hood in L.A. Paulie says that this place is beneath Rocky but Apollo knows it is exactly where Rocky needs to be. The two enter Apollo's old gym, smoke and sweat. Fighters who want what Rocky and Apollo had. There Rocky faces his fears and failure and with a push from Adrian, transforms his style from the brawler to a speed driven, technically proficient boxer. From there, he wears down Clubber to defeat, avenges the death of Apollo, and ends the cold war. That's what legends do.
I imagine Fedor might be experiencing much of what the fictional Rocky character did in Rocky III. Was he as great as he and others thought he was? Did his management over protect him? Can he retire in peace or is too much unresolved? Like Rocky, those questions will not be answered in the comforts of his home in Stary Oskol surrounded by the "Yes Men" that he keeps fed and warm. If he does feel like he has unfinished business, if he does want to find out where he stands he needs to accept an invitation from his old nemesis and join Black House. Not only join but train there for 3-6 months. Spar with the likes of Anderson Silva, JDS, and Lyota Machida, reinforce his guard work and submission skills with Big Nog, work his Judo with Ishii, wrestle with Mark Munoz. He must adjust and adapt his style to face the current brand of MMA fighters or he should just retire. There is no in between for him at this juncture. The way Antonio Silva ducked under Fedor's casting punch in the beginning of the second round and then quickly took him to the ground was the indicator that fighters know what is coming and they have adjusted. It will be impossible for Fedor to succeed by going the status quo. The great ones, in all sports, recognize the adjustments opponents have made against them and then they adjust to be successful.
In my mind's eye, I imagine that moment when Fedor walks into Black House in California, all those greats turn to see the man who once was the greatest, some who he defeated to get there, and now they will help get him back there again. That's the only path for Fedor to return to greatness and if he can't go down that path then retirement is the only sensible option. Eye of the Tiger, Fedor, Eye of the Tiger.