The “Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko attended a rare press conference for the American media Friday in preparation of his June 26 bout in San Jose. The world’s top heavyweight – some would say earth’s best fighter – will face Fabricio Werdum on the Strikeforce and M-1 Global co-promotion at the HP Pavilion. The event will air on Showtime.
Any Emelianenko appearance causes a stir. The reclusive Russian is ranked No. 1 by FIGHT!, but has fought just three times in the last 30 months and has been a constant target of criticism for UFC president Dana White and Strikeforce champion Alistair Overeem.. White’s ire is due to his inability to sign the fighter simply call “Fedor.” Overeem’s anger stems from his perception that Fedor’s management, M-1 Global, has been purposely avoiding him.
Emelianenko shared the press conference with Werdum, who is ranked No. 8. Of note: Werdum beat Fedor’s brother Aleksander via submission in 2006. Fedor says he will not fight to avenge his brother’s loss.
For fans of heavyweights, the fight will begin a tumultuous week. On July 3, Brock Lesnar (ranked No. 3) will fight Shane Carwin (No. 4) at UFC 116.
“I think both fights are very important because you have four top 10 heavyweights in the sport, but I am not a UFC fan,” Emelianenko said. “So I would tell fans ours is more important because we’re not in the UFC. I’m not a fan of watching their fights. There seems to be a negativity involved in a lot of their shows. How the fights are presented and, in some ways, the actions and behavior of a lot of the fighters in the UFC takes away from the sport.”
Emelianenko and Werdum spoke through translators Friday. Here are the condensed thoughts of the fighters:
(Fedor descends from heaven to take on Werdum.)
“The Last Emperor” is widely considered to be the best heavyweight on the planet and among the top pound-for-pound fighters in mixed martial arts. Emelianenko (32-1) is essentially undefeated. His lone “loss” (to Tsuyoshi Kohsaka in 2000) came via an illegal elbow strike. A seven-time Russian Sambo champion, the 33-year-old former Pride champion and current WAMMA champion is coming off a victory over Brett Rogers in November. Emelianenko needed to rally for the win.
On Werdum – ”For what to expect on the 26th depends on what Fabricio can offer me in the ring and how I react to that. We are both very technical fighters. As far as who will have advantages and strengths over each other, I highly expect both of us will show an extremely skilled fight. I prepare the same way. My preparation has proven itself. I change it from time to time, but not for any other person.”
On his future with Strikeforce – “I don’t want to look too far ahead. Right now I am concentrated on this fight. Right now we have two fights left (with Strikeforce). If everything goes well, I don’t see a reason not to extend this relationship. I’d like to finish up my contract with out any losses and see where it goes from there. I will see what God has planned for me.”
On massive UFC heavyweights Brock Lesnar and Shawn Carwin – “Size and strength doesn’t always define the ability of a fighter to perform in the ring or cage. Those fighters are all top 10 fighters. I’ve seen them perform. They have done very well and have a lot of talent, but size does not define how they would perform against me.”
On great fighters – “I think what defines a great fighter is someone that performs well in the ring, makes the right decisions during fights, fights fair and respects the sport and therefore gains the admiration of the fans. Not so much someone that only falls back on their strength and size, but also their abilities in the fights.
On political aspirations – “While I am an athlete and fighting actively, I don’t intend to a pursue career in politics. I feel there is a demand for me to keep fighting and get back into the cage.”
On his management – “In terms of negotiations,.(manager Vadim Finklestein) relates to me all the details. I don’t participate in those negotiations. The main question that I will decide is how much time I need to prepare for a fight. In respect to where the fight is or who the opponent is, I don’t care. The only thing I dictate is how long I will take to train and be at my best.”
On his critics – “I often get second hand information, but I don’t pay attention to it or seek it out. I don’t have any reaction. I don’t have any reaction to compliments people tell me or criticism. It’s not that important to me. I have more goals in my life than cruising the internet. I am more interested in spending quality time in everyday life with my family and friends.”
On motivation – “My motivation is to fight for my country and my heritage. It has been my motivation throughout my career and will continue to be my motivation as long as I am strong enough to (continue fighting).”
(Ed Soares, Werdum, and Babalu chill at Strikeforce: Heavy Artillery.)
The Brazilian has a reputation as one of the top jiu-jitsu players in the heavyweight division. However, the majority of Werdum’s recent wins have showcased his conditioning and determination. The 32-year-old (13-4-1) is coming off a win over Antonio Silva as a preliminary of “Fedor-Rogers” last November. Werdum rallied late in the fight to win a unanimous decision.
On Fedor – “ The opportunity to fight someone like Fedor only comes once in a lifetime. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity and it’s finally here. I’ve studied Fedor’s fights for my entire career. What is most impressive is his ability to always win. It’s a great honor. Those making the rankings often take away from what a great sportsman and athlete Fedor is. It’s an honor to be considered in the same class as Fedor, who is a deeply religious man and I respect greatly,”
On how to win – “I have to do the same things I’ve done in training. My training and camp was the best one in my life. Everyt ime I fought before, I had bad feelings, but this is one of the times I felt better and am confident. Most fighters have already lost the fight with Fedor before they step in the ring because Fedor has proven himself to be the best in the world.
On talk about Fedor and Overeem – “I don’t really care about what other people say. I deserve this fight. If I get a win on June 26, my goal is a rematch with Fedor.”
On pressure – “I don’t feel more pressure being the underdog. In fact, it’s the opposite. I am more calm for this fight, ironically, than for any fight in my career.”
On training partners – “I’ve worked with many different fighters, not necessarily heavyweights, but excellent fighters in their weight classes. Fighters range from Wanderlei Silva, Babalu, Mark Munoz, Vladimir Matyushenko and “King Mo” Muhammad Lawal.”
On training in the U.S. – “The training is better here. I actually came to the united States to follow (coach) Rafael Cordeiro. It’s better here because of the structure of the training and to be at home in my family in a safe environment.”
On the perception of having a BJJ advantage – “I believe Fedor’s ground game is terribly underrated because people are used to seeing Fedor knock people out. I don’t feel I have any distinct advantages over Fedor that I would care to discuss.”