Oh, I can hear it now. The Story of the Year is UFC’s deal with FOX. Or The emergence of Jon Jones and Frankie Edgar. The retirement of Randy Couture? Strikeforce being purchased by the UFC was big news. These and many other story lines from the past year are stories that resonate and affect the course of the history of MMA. My vote would go to the decline of Fedor Emelianenko.
Throughout the last decade, Fedor was commonly called the best pound for pound fighter on the planet. His dominance was overwhelming as he tore through any and all competition in Japan’s RINGS and PRIDE organizations. After PRIDE went under, Fedor spent time with various organizations, but settled in at STRIKEFORCE in the United States, where he lent his prestige to bolster the US’s number two MMA company’s roster.
In June of 201o Fedor was defeated by Brazilian Fabrizio Werdum via arm bar, breaking a ten year streak with no losses. After so much time, a loss could be expected for anybody, but few saw what was coming heading into 2011.
Fedor faced massive Brazilian Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva at the start of the STRIKEFORCE tournament, where he was firmly installed as one of the favorites. In this fight, Silva left no doubt. It was not a fluke like against Werdum, this was an ass whooping Silva administered. Fedor would drop a third match to legendary Dan Henderson.
Suddenly Fedor was gone from the public radar. You couldn’t find him on anyone’s top 10 Heavyweight lists, not to mention the pound for pound lists. The only people talking were the Dana White types, who discredited Fedor even before the losses.
Fedor is well known for having a management team that is notoriously demanding and hard to work with. Fedor snapped the three fight streak with a win in an M-1 Global event over journeyman Jeff Monson. The fight went the distance, and Fedor controlled the fight throughout, but real observers see little reason to feel he can return to the top.
The reason I think it is one of the more significant stories is symbolic. With Fedor fading, we see that the lists on SHERDOG and many of the other sites (Jeff Wagenheim at SI) are increasingly owned by fighters on the UFC roster. The UFC generally deserves very high grades with the way they have advanced the sport. They are big enough that the fighters are lining up, and they either crush or buy up the competition.
Fedor was a non UFC fighter firmly in the top three fighters in the world, with many picking him number one. With Fedor went any real hope of a company competing with the UFC, because it will take talent developed over years for a smaller group to compete. And no one has had the resolve to try it.