Fedor Emelianenko is the number one heavyweight mixed martial artist in the world and few people disagree with that. Is he overrated? Maybe. Is he ducking top fighters? I don’t know. The fact of the matter is, he hasen’t lost in quite a long time. In a sport where staying on top is so hard and losses don’t spell the end, Fedor has kept his record clean for a long time and depending on who you ask, he has never been defeated. He has fought top fighters, maybe not in there prime, but he has a lot of wins versus a lot of quality fighters. He can lay claim to one of the most prestigous championship belts in MMA, the Pride Heavyweight Championchip Belt.
Now the UFC wants him. They don’t want him because he can draw in fans. They aren’t bending over backward and dusting off the checkbook because they think he is a great guy. They think he is the number one heavyweight fighter in the world, no matter what they say about him or what they think about his management. They don’t need him, they just want him and for that I am greatful. I want to see top fighters face off as much as the next guy, but there will always be a fight that needs to happen or a fighter that is not with one organization or another. For the short time I have been into the sport I have seen this pattern more then once. Take the long antisipated bout between Chuck Liddell and Wanderli Silva. In that case, the fighters were rabid to fight eachother and the fight just couldn’t get made. When it did happen is was well after interest had peaked. Both fighters were coming off losses and the fight was great, but for me it felt anticlimactic. After the fight I checked it off the “fights that need to happen” list and moved on.
Without a way to gauge how a fighter stacks up vs. another group of fighters, it is extreamly hard to rank and predict fighter skills. This problem is well documented and made increasingly difficult by varying rules, cage/ring, and PED regulations. There have been several recent cases where a fighter has gone undefeated fighting a relatively lack luster group of competitors yet they continue to rise in the rankings. A few names come to my mind, but one sticks out, Robbie Lawler. An acomplished fighter with a lot of power, but he left the UFC after losing three out of four fights. He headlined four strait shows once out of the UFC and took only one loss to Jason Miller. Four and a Half years after his UFC run and he is on the better half of an 8-1 run with a five fight win steak and fighting about 2.5 times a year. The problem was that by now he was ranked in the top five with his biggest win being over Frank Trigg. That’s a decent win, but it was an outlier when compaired to Niko Vitale X2, Eduardo Pamplona, and Jeremy Brown. Those are not awful fighters by any means, but not they caliber of fighters that a top five guy should be taking on. His other wins and his loss are mostly a step up, ex-UFC/Pride fighter that anyone would be happy to have beaten, but not up to par with being top five. It wasn’t until he lost to top five WW Jake Shields that Lawler begain to fall.
The reason Lawler climbed the rankings was three fold, he is a game fighter, he didn’t lose, and other fighters did lose. No matter that they lost to the top guy or fought other top ten fighters, winning is pairemount in MMA. A long enough winning streak on a big enough stage and anyone can fight safe fights and rise to the forefront of the fans fight lust. Eddie Alvarez is another name that fits this rise pattern, not perfectly, but simalarly he is 8-1 in his last nine fights beating only one top ten fighter and that top ten fighter benifets from a win over Aoki, but has an otherwise inconsistent track record. Brett Rogers pops to my mind, as does Gegard Mousasi.
It’s not that these guys aren’t good, it’s that we have no reference to see how good they are. They fight on an island and that island is never going to go away. There was a time when that island was the UFC and you never really knew who the best was. Now in every weight class except heavy, the UFC owns the top spot and they are the main land where fighters can be certified. When Fedor comes and goes there will be more like him. Ranked highly and the subject of a billion articles on the internet. There are some unique characteristics about Fedor’s situation, but if the fights come and go then the fans will move there fight lust elsewhere. Fedor is just at the top of the “fights that need to happen” list, he is not the entire list.