From Surviving the Streets of Russia to MMA: The Story of Aleksander Emelianenko, Part 2

Kimbo Slice

By Evgeni Kogan Jul 17, 2008
On Kimbo
Emelianenko: In reality, as a fighter, as a fighter he’s weak. For me anyway. My promoter [Vadim Finkelshtein] suggested this fight to his promoters, that I go there and fight Kimbo. And they’re not taking the fight. They realize that for me he’s too weak.

I won’t be fighting with him, playing with him. I’ll go there and tear him apart, bite him in two. Exactly like it was with me and [James] Thompson, whom it took almost three rounds for Kimbo to put away. No. He’s to be congratulated on one hand, though. …

What does he need? For people to know about him. For people to have seen him. Everyone earns money anyway they can these days. He’s not a fighter, he’s not a sportsman. I’d say he’s more like a showman. I can say this about him.

As a sportsman he’s very one-dimensional. Hands? Is that all? These days everyone can use their hands. When fighters at a decent level compete, you won’t understand who he was before. A boxer or a wrestler. … I train with boxers. I used to beat -- I now beat world champions. I box with them. I’m not a fighter that fought with fatties, with who knows who on some field or something. That’s not a display of his prowess as a fighter. It’s just a show. They are elements of a show.

Of course MMA isn’t just a sport where fighters have to compete and win. It’s also a show. It should be liked. It shouldn’t look like a fight with blood gushing everywhere. It should be beautiful, from the moment a fighter steps into the ring, to the moment when a fighter leaves it. It’s boring to watch just what happens in the ring, and nothing else. It’s better to see a show as well as sports. That’s MMA.

On money in MMA:
Emelianenko: I think that sports and a show is what MMA is all about. One can’t exist without the other. And now people who are involved in MMA, including the fighters, are like the pioneers. Opening the sport. It’s the first step of the boom of MMA, of the flash, throughout the whole world.

At the moment the sportsmen are working on the process of creating a name for MMA. Because in relation to boxing or other sports, it’s a young sport. It needs to gain more popularity because it’s become interesting. And now it’s just a matter of waiting for a little while, for the best sportsmen to feel themselves as wanting to be part of the sport.

And the fighters now, they have to suffer to a certain extent. Like Muhammad Ali suffered. He didn’t fight for huge, ridiculous money. And now we have to wait out until -- we have to give MMA some time to develop in order to attract new audiences with our beautiful fights. And it doesn’t matter how it’s done. But it can’t be done with either just a show or with just good fights. It must be done with both.

On moving to St. Petersburg in 2003 and meeting his wife:
Emelianenko: I met my wife soon after moving here. I so fell in love with her. She worked in, what do you call it, in a gym. As a fitness instructor. I came because I had to train a little. A friend brought me. We met because she was the trainer on at that time. She helped me to do stomach crunches, and that very evening I called her and invited her to a party. She didn’t go.

I looked after her, wooed her. Then I traveled to Holland, and we spoke on the phone, wrote e-mails. And from that moment we’ve been inseparable. She is never away from my side, always supporting me. Much of what I have today is all due to her. She’s been very solid and is there for me. Is always supporting me.

At the moment we are getting ready to have another baby, a boy. My family has to be big. My wife has to help out the husband and give him kids. She has to bring kids into the world while she has the ability to do so. My life has changed so much.

On how having a daughter influenced him as a fighter:
Emelianenko: I have changed a lot as a person and as a fighter. As a fighter I have become really steady, balanced. I have become more disciplined. I can tell you about my training regime now. I wake up in the morning, go to the training center and train. Then I have lunch, then another training session. Then at 8 p.m. I go home and spend time with my family.

On the weekends we go away with the family. I don’t go out. I mean, we can go to the theater with the wife. I like to go to the theater; I like to go to such things. I don’t like clubs at all, don’t like bars. I don’t drink. I try to spend my spare time with my wife. With my training I am away for most of the day anyway, and I miss her lots. I have become very happy. I have become very responsible. I’ve began to do more of everything, to think about everything more carefully.

I now know that I haven’t lived in vain. I know what I did everything for. Why everything was the way it was. I now know for whom I do everything. I now know all my goals, all my perspectives. Why I need it all. In the past there were times when I couldn’t find myself. I lived strictly for myself, and for my relatives. But now I am doing it for my family, going forward for us and I am so happy. And when I have even more kids, I think I will be the happiest person.

Kids haven’t taken away any of my fighting spirit at all.

On how long he wants to continue fighting:
Emelianenko: Another 10 to 15 years I’ll be fighting in MMA. After that time, I’m not sure what I’ll do, but I know that I’ll be fighting until my health doesn’t let me anymore. I’m 27 now, so I think I’ll be able to fight another 10 years easily.

After that, no matter what I’ll be doing, I know that all of my skills, expertise and experience … I don’t only have to, I am obligated to pass them on to the next generation. Those kids who will want to compete in sports, compete in MMA -- I’m not going to be a trainer, but I’ll be helping the kids. I’ll teach them, whether it’ll be a limited group or open to the public. I’ll impart all of my knowledge, all expertise. That’s how I’ll be developing.

On his life outside of fighting:
Emelianenko: I’m getting proposals now to be in films. I don’t have the time to be in the movies now. I know how difficult it is. I have lots of friends who are actors and I know that they work not less than I do. They film for whole days at a time. It’s very hard, long work. And I am not in a hurry to change my profession just yet from a sportsman to an actor.

I did record a song with some guys. I’ll have to think about it; maybe I’ll record another one soon. I like it. I tried it out of interest and I liked it. It was rap. But I’m not going to become a recording artist or anything, won’t make a career out of it. It’s just a hobby. Just for me. Someone writes poetry, I do this.

Film proposals are coming from Russia. There was one from [Jean Claude] Van Damme. But it stayed just that, a proposal. Like I said, I can’t commit. Because most of the proposals, they aren’t for a cameo appearance. They are like, “We want Emelianenko for one of the leading roles,” and I can’t give them false hope, can’t commit, because I just don’t have the time. I train and train. Especially since I’ve just signed a contract with Affliction. My friends in the movies, they work and work. They also have to travel a lot. And I just don’t have the time. I am not in a hurry.

There was a proposal. Really, only a month ago I met with a director who made a film about Aleksander Nevsky. And he was saying that if earlier we could have met, then we would have taken you for the role of Aleksander. I said thank you. They will be filming a second installment of the film, and I’ll have a look at their proposal. But for now I am a sportsman. I fight. I push the sport. I don’t have the time. I want, but I can’t. I can’t tear myself in two. Because if I do, if I’ll be here and there, nothing will turn out. I won’t be interesting in either sphere. I need to do one thing at a time.

On Affliction/Golden Boy Promotions:
Emelianenko: I signed a three-fight contract and will have a fight on the 19th of July. I’ll go to fight in the U.S. And now I am preparing. Really hard. I’m ready. I’ll show them a beautiful fight.

On the UFC:
Emelianenko: I also wanted to fight in the UFC [along with brother Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures)]. But as a Russian fighter, I’m not interesting to them. They are interested in their own, in Americans. That’s why they didn’t let me compete in their organization. They were saying that “We don’t want Aleksander to fight for us.” Because I’d arrive there, beat everyone and then take the belt back to Russia. They don’t need that.

Those organizers, promoters, they need their own person. That’s how they make their money. And that’s how they carry themselves, the UFC. I know that as of right now, they’ve ruined relationships with many and that many fighters have left them. They are now facing some very serious competition, and I think they’ll fall. I think they’ll fall to the second tier. To the place where they were, when Pride still existed.

Pride was better; Pride was number one in the world. So I think that it’s criticism of the organizers -- it’s not a criticism of the fighters. They’re worthy sportsmen. Good fighters. It’s a criticism of the organizers, of the promoters. They take everything and just wreck it. Instead they should be strengthening everything, making everything stronger, stronger and stronger. But people are leaving them.

Instead they now have very serious, very worthy competition in the world. And not that much time will go by before things change.

On upcoming opponent Paul Buentello (Pictures):
Emelianenko: What do I think of Paul Buentello? I think that I will beat him. He’s a good fighter, and I’ll show everyone a good, beautiful fight. I haven’t seen his fights yet. I’ll have a look at them as soon as I get there. At the school, at the beginning of next week, we’ve timetabled in watching and studying his fights. I am currently in very good shape. I trained, and trained very seriously for this. I didn’t spare myself at all in order to show everyone a really good, really beautiful fight.

On a ring compared to a cage:
Emelianenko: It doesn’t matter for me in the least whether the fights are in a ring or a cage. I’ve fought in one and in the other. It doesn’t matter. The thing that limits my movement be it ring ropes or a cage, it doesn’t matter. You could even put down a cork mat, like in sambo or judo, draw some red lines on it and that’d be fine also. It doesn’t make any difference whatsoever. I’ll still win.

On whether there are losses he would like to avenge:
Emelianenko: Yes, yes there are. But all those people at this point in time … . We offered for me to fight Barnett now, and they don’t want to. We were sitting down together, and I said let’s fight. And he said I don’t want to fight you, you’re an insane fighter.

Last time when we fought I was ill. I’ll explain. I came out to fight with a temperature. I had a temperature of 98.6. The doctors didn’t want to let me fight. In my life, the grand prix was by far the most important competition. And I had to fight, was obligated to fight. And they didn’t want to let me go into the ring. And so the organizers were called, and that’s why I tried to beat Barnett early, and then couldn’t and lost by submission.

I don’t think of it as a loss. I think that I shouldn’t have competed. Why shouldn’t I have competed? Because. Losing, I’m not scared of losing. Everyone thinks that I showed a good, beautiful fight. And that I beat and beat him. And now he refuses to fight me. Or is asking for crazy money to do it. And of course the organizers think that Barnett isn’t worth that kind of money. Why pay him such money? So that he can lose? And he himself, knows perfectly well that he’d lose. And so that’s why he is refusing to fight me.

Cro Cop isn’t even communicating with us. His form is evident in his last few fights. His time has gone. People have learned to read him too well. Really, he is now exactly like he was in the past. He was gathering experience but not at a high level. The Japanese were feeding him Japanese fighters. I think that in my whole career of fighting in Japan, I didn’t fight a single Japanese fighter. Why? Because I’d have less chance to be their champion. They constantly gave me fighters who were better and better. Cro Cop, on the other hand, they led him and led him.

When I fought him, I’ll explain, I was 23 years old. I was very young; it was the fourth fight of my life. But I had to fight him, I had to. And Cro Cop didn’t know which corner of the ring to run to, to hide in. And I was young and inexperienced. And so it happened the way it happened, but now I’m ready. I’m ready to fight with him tomorrow. With Cro Cop and then with Barnett.

And Werdum. Well. Um. OK. I mean, he’s a good fighter. But I, I was just there to holiday. I didn’t even train for him at all. I just, really, I went there to holiday. And I was asked “Do you want to fight?” and I said “OK, let’s give it a go.” And they first had one opponent lined up for me and then suddenly changed him to Werdum.

I’m ready. It doesn’t matter with who or where. On foot or on horseback. With maces or poleaxes. To fight. To first blood or to death. It doesn’t matter, I’m ready to fight.

I went hunting. For bears. With a knife.

On whether people really hunt bears with knives:
Emelianenko: Yes, they do. A few years ago there was an unfortunate incident. One sportsman, a world champion in wrestling … what was he doing? Yes, he was putting a fork under the bear’s neck. [The practice of hunting bears with a knife involves, once the bear is in front of you, placing a long stick with a letter U-shaped end under the bear’s muzzle as it rears up to fight. Once the stick is in place, the bear isn’t able to bring its body down and the hunter stabs it a number of times, ideally killing it instantly.]

And then the bear couldn’t attack him, and he was stabbing it under the ribs in the heart. And as he was stabbing it, that bear swung with its paw. It was dead already -- the paw was its last gasp with all its strength and basically took half of the wrestler’s head off. And of course the other hunters opened fire on the bear, but it was too late. He went to try his luck with a bear, and it didn’t come off.

For me everything is still fine. I’m OK. I’ve done it and it was OK. About half a year ago, it was in Russia, in Siberia. Everything was fine. I put the fork underneath him and stabbed him in the heart. And that was it. The other hunters dismembered, prepared the bear.

I want to go hunting in Africa now, with friends. I’ve been invited.
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