There are just 17 days until Fedor Emelianenko defends his WAMMA heavyweight title against former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski during Affliction and M-1’s “Day of Reckoning” on January 24 in Anaheim, California.
Despite having recorded victories in the past over the likes for former PRIDE and interim UFC heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia, and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, Arlovski could pose Fedor’s toughest test to date.
Fedor’s potential toughest test is also set to occur on the heels of his first loss in the World Combat Sambo Championships in nearly eight years. Fedor responded to the loss by claiming that it had little to no bearing on his career in MMA and that Combat Sambo was merely a hobby for him.
Despite what he had said publicly, Emelianenko still ultimately elected to cancel an-early December press trip to the U.S. so that he could begin his camp early in preparation for Arlovski. The decision created a great deal of skepiticism with Arlovski at the top of the list of skeptics.
“After his loss in the Sambo tournament, I think he’s messed up a little bit,” Arlovski said during a December press conference to promote ‘Day of Reckoning.’ “He says it’s not important, but c’mon, let’s be serious. He was unbeatable, like, five years, six years in Sambo, and he’s not beatable in MMA. When you lose something, of course it’s [expletive] important. For me, it’s really hard to believe that he doesn’t care about it. Of course he cares. He’s not like 100 percent sure of himself.”
In addition to Arlovski’s comments, Fedor has recently had verbal salvos fired at him by both Arlovski’s boxing trainer, Freddie Roach, and UFC President Dana White.
While Roach made several complementary remarks about Fedor, he still was critical of his standup and pointed out several flaws of his during an interview with Josh Gross of SI.com. And during a recent radio interview on “The Carmichael Dave Show” on KHTK in Sacramento, White attempted to discredit Emelianenko’s first round submission over Sylvia during Affliction and M-1’s “Banned” event this past July.
“Tim Sylvia!? Everybody knocked Tim Sylvia down in the first round,” White said during the interview. “Randy Couture knocked Tim Sylvia down in the first round too and took his back. Randy just couldn’t choke him out or he would have choked him out the same exact way Fedor did!”
Despite being secluded for his training camp in his Russian home city of Stary Oskol — a small town in which cell phone connectivity is spotty at best and Internet access is almost non-existent — Emelianenko still responded to an interview request by FiveOuncesOfPain.com. With M-1 Global Vice President of Legal Affairs Steve Bash serving as a translator, Fedor addressed our questions about recent comments made by Arlovski, Roach, and White.
Sam Caplan: You train in your home town of Stary Oskol, which is very isolated from the rest of the world. With so many world class camps popping up that have some many top coaches and training partners, why do you choose to keep things simple?
Fedor Emelianenko: My training is not simple. I believe I train harder than anyone else in the world. The strength and power I obtain can only [be done so] here in Russia. I feed off my surroundings and I do not believe I would be as prepared if I trained somewhere else. I like to have everything I love around me when I train.
Sam Caplan: During a recent press conference to promote “Day of Reckoning,” Andrei Arlovski questioned the sincerity of a statement you made last month regarding the your loss at the Combat Sambo Championships. Can you respond to that statement?
Fedor Emelianenko: Maybe Andrei is trying to convince himself that I have been weakened in some way. But it [doesn’t] matter [as] we are not fighting Sambo with Andrei. The only thing I am 100 percent sure about is that I will be 100 percent ready to fight MMA against Andrei. And that is the only thing I care about right now.
Sam Caplan: One of Arlovski’s trainers, famed boxing trainer Freddie Roach, questioned some aspects of your standup from a technical boxing perspective, most notably your footwork. Do you feel Roach’s criticisms are relevant to MMA?
Fedor Emelianenko: The beauty about MMA is that every fighter has his own unique style and preferences. But it’s not a beauty contest. We fight to see which fighter’s approach prevails. But again, we are not boxing and we are not fighting Sambo. We fight MMA.
Sam Caplan: How do you feel about an opponent’s trainer saying picking a part your standup like that?
Fedor Emelianenko: Sometimes it is a trainer’s job to point out weaknesses in his fighter’s opponents. And sometimes it is a trainer’s job to convince his fighter that his opponent has weaknesses. We will see.
Sam Caplan: During a recent radio interview, UFC president Dana White once again made some negative remarks about you. He especially tried to discredit your victory over Tim Sylvia. Could you respond to that statement?
Fedor Emelianenko: I think if Dana White says something negative about his [former] champions then he is only saying something negative about his own organization. I have victories over many of the UFC’s champions. If he says something bad about them or me then he only makes his organization look weak.
Sam Caplan: White has said many negative things about you in the past. Is it at a point where he has burned a bridge with you, or would you still consider fighting in a promotion he’s involved with under the right circumstances?
Fedor Emelianenko: I do not pay too much attention to what Dana White says in the media. He is trying to sell one thing as good and make you not buy another thing by saying it is bad. I just want to fight the best fighters in the world. I am lucky that the best heavyweight fighters in the world right now are with M-1 Global and Affliction. If the situation is right and there is someone really good in the UFC that will fight me, then I would be fine fighting [for] them.
Sam Caplan: If you fought for the UFC, do you think Dana would be referring to you as the number one heavyweight in the world?
Fedor Emelianenko: (Laughs) I think if I fought for the UFC, he would try to sell me as the greatest MMA fighter that ever lived.
Sam Caplan: White has blamed your management as the reason why you are not in the UFC. Do you agree with his assessment?
Fedor Emelianenko: No.
Sam Caplan: There have also been questions raised about how much control you have over your career. Could you set the record straight and comment who has the final say in regard to who has final say: you or your management?
Fedor Emelianenko: It depends on the decisions. I am not a specialist in some thing. Sometimes I make the decisions and sometimes we make them together. If I stop fighting tomorrow, I stop. If I want to fight Sambo, I fight. If I need to finish my training camp and miss a press conference, I need to. But I am lucky to have good management with my team, M-1 Global. I am part of M-1 Global so it is easy to make decisions together.
Sam Caplan: White has proclaimed Anderson Silva the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Do you have any interest in fighting Silva and if so, how do you see that fight going down?
Fedor Emelianenko: If this was a fight that the fans would want, why not? I also never make predictions on how a fight will turn out.
Sam Caplan: M-1 USA Vice President Jerry Millen made the statement that in a fight with Brock Lesnar, he would not make it past the first round against you. Do you agree with that assessment?
Fedor Emelianenko: I just do not like to make predictions [because] anything can happen in a ring. Lesnar has some natural talent. It would be an interesting fight for fans to see.
Sam Caplan: Your protege, Kirill “Baby Fedor” Sidelnikov will also be competing at “Day of Reckoning.” At only 20-years of age, do you think he’s ready for such a high-profile match against a seasoned veteran such as Paul Buentello?
Fedor Emelianenko: Kirill has improved greatly with his fights in the M-1 Challenge and helped out Red Devil Team reach the world finals. I think Buentello is a good test for Kirill but I know Kirill is ready.
Sam Caplan: During some recent interviews you revealed that you weren’t looking forward to a possible fight vs. Randy Couture because he’s a friend. But if he were to suddenly to become a free agent, would you refuse the fight?
Fedor Emelianenko: I would not refuse the fight because I believe Randy and I are both ambassadors for the sport of MMA and we would help grow the sport very much with the fight. This was the main reason why I wanted to fight Randy, even if it meant to fight someone I admired.
Sam Caplan: If you are able to defeat Arlovski, it’s been said your next fight could come against the winner of the Barnett vs. Yvel fight. It’s also been said that you are friends with Barnett. You said you weren’t looking forward to fight Couture because he’s a friend, so how do you feel about the possibility of facing him?
Fedor Emelianenko: Yes, Josh and I are friends. But once again, the best should fight the best for [the good] of the sport of MMA. It would be okay.
Sam Caplan: Ideally, how many times would you like to fight in 2009?
Fedor Emelianenko: God willing, it will be nice to fight three times in 2009 and have one more fight New Year’s Eve.