Even before the Faceplant Heard Round the World that ended Saturday's night's Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson show, one of the buzz words going around was "legacy." Specifically, how the idea of legacy related to Fedor Emelianenko. With Dan Henderson handing Fedor his third straight stoppage victory, each one more devastating than the last, that word has started to receive even more play. And as we look at Fedor's career and where things stand for him now, we have to ask:
Is Fedor Emelianenko doomed to be forgotten?
Before you assume that he won't, consider the significant marks he has going against him:
- He is not friendly with Zuffa. After Dana White attempted and failed to lure Fedor to the UFC some years ago, White's stance on Fedor became rather negative, often calling him overhyped and undeserving of the praise he received. As the old adage says, "History is written by the winners," and in this era of MMA, Zuffa are the winners. Anyone who they want to downplay the significance of can easily be erased - just ask Frank Shamrock.
- His best era came in Japan before MMA's mainstream success in the U.S.. As we move further away from the Pride glory days, and as we watch the current Japanese MMA landscape crumble while their fighters come to the US and struggle, it's hard to resist the temptation to view Pride and the Japanese scene as little more than a fad - an old relic of the early days of MMA with little bearing on today's game. That is the place where Fedor thrived, but as JMMA's legacy dims, so too will Fedor's.
- His opponents have seen their careers spiral downward. There is a common perception that Fedor hasn't faced any tough opponents in years, maybe ever. This is simply not true. He's faced and defeated multiple highly ranked and dangerous opponents, including Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski, Mirko Filipovic, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mark Hunt. But like Fedor, and like all athletes, these men faded over time, and much of their highest exposure came during their twilight. Fans can hear how scary CroCop was all the time, but unless they witnessed some of those KO's themselves, it is hard to shake the image of him as a tentative fighter being KO'd by Frank Mir. All of these opponents were big wins at the time Fedor disposed of them, but history has forgotten their standing.
- His biggest exposure came at the end. This is the central problem faced by so many of the Pride-era stars. These great fighters were simply not seen by the majority of mainstream fans until the were at the very end of their careers. So it's all too easy to remember Fedor as the man who tapped out, who was deformed by Antonio Silva, who belly flopped to the canvas against Henderson. These are the moments more fans saw live, and they are the moments many will remember.
With all this stacked against him, the question then is, how should he be remembered? Ultimately, he should go down as the first man to hold the "Greatest of All Time" tag. Yes there were fighters like the Gracies before him, but Fedor was the first fighter in the true MMA era to wear that badge, and to wear it for many years.
In the end, is simply being the first "Greatest" enough to ensure Fedor's legacy? The Fedor fan in me fears that it probably is not. As time goes by, don't be surprised when more and more fans begin to ask why anyone ever cared about this Fedor guy in the first place.