A decade ago Fedor was John Wick. He was legend. From May 2000 through the end of 2007, Fedor won 28 of his first 30 fights, almost exclusively in Japan and his home country, Russia. In that time he lost only once. It was because of a cut in the year 2000 in just his 5th career fight (and second of that night). No debate about the best fighter in the world was complete without someone bringing up Fedor, someone most people in America had never even seen. He was simply Baba Yaga.
In 2007 the UFC bought Pride where Fedor had fought 15 times, but they were unable to bring him to America. A dream fight between Fedor and Randy Couture – and then Brock Lesnar – would never materialize. Instead, Fedor made his MMA debut with Affliction on July 19, 2008. You remember the Affliction clothing brand? A major shareholder in Affliction Entertainment who helped promote the fight? Donald Trump.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Anyway, Fedor came to America and beat former UFC champion Tim Sylvia in 36 seconds. Then he beat Andrei Arlovski in what would be the second and final Affliction card. The promotion folded a few months later.
From there Fedor went to Strikeforce where he beat Brett Rogers who at the time seemed destined for MMA stardom. (Not so much.)
7 years ago next week Fedor lost to Fabricio Werdum in one of the biggest upsets in MMA history. He ended up losing 3 straight in Strikeforce – one of which I saw live. He then went back to Russia and Japan where he won a few squash matches before retiring following a win over Pedro Rizzo. He and his glorious sweater of absolute victory were gone for a little over three years. He returned in 2015 and beat 11-fight UFC veteran Fabio Maldonado last June.
Now Fedor is back on a major American PPV, facing former UFC-er and NFL-er Matt Mitrione. The fight, which will be Fedor’s toughest since his last American stint in 2011, was supposed to happen in February, but Mitrione pulled out at the last minute because of kidney stones. Now they’ll fight on Bellator’s second pay-per-view event.
Obviously, the best of Fedor is behind us and possibly nothing more than folklore, but this is an opportunity to watch The Last Emperor in high definition which probably didn’t even exist back in the mid-2000’s. And MMA certainly wasn’t allowed to take place in Madison Square Garden back then. A lot has changed in the decade since Fedor was Baba Yaga. The legend remains the same.