Fedor Emelianenko file photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Fedor Emelianenko said his first loss in nearly 10 years came down to over-earnestness and one split-second of hesitation, as Fabricio Werdum trapped the Russian’s head and arm into a 69-second submission finish at Strikeforce “Fedor vs. Werdum” Saturday inside the HP Pavilion.
“At the very beginning of the round, I hit Fabricio and I wanted to finish the fight as soon as possible and at that very moment I made a mistake,” said the 33-year-old fighting legend through his translator following one of the bigger upsets in MMA history.
By all accounts, “The Last Emperor” seemed off to a strong start as he flurried early with the 6-foot-4 Werdum and seemed to knock the Brazilian off-balance and to his back.
However, Werdum, a jiu-jitsu black belt who’d twice been crowned an Abu Dhabi World Submission Grappling champion, wasn’t as hurt as Emelianenko thought him to be.
Werdum systematically applied both an armbar and a triangle choke at the same time as Emelianenko charged into his guard. The 12,000-plus in attendance watched and waited as Emelianenko maneuvered to free himself, as Werdum alternated pressure between the two holds and tightened his grasp. Emelianenko said he tapped out to the triangle choke.
“Certainly there were several moments when I could escape, but I relied on myself too much and that’s why I paid for it,” said Emelianenko. “At the very moment that I had to escape, I stopped. I didn’t do that and that moment was used by Fabricio to lock his clinch, to finish locking up his legs.”
Emelianenko, who was said to have been consoling his sullen team members backstage afterward, was characteristically calm following the defeat, smiling to the press as he answered questions.
“It happens that I was made kind of an idol,” said Emelianenko. “Everybody loses. That happens. I’m an ordinary human being, as is all of us and if it is God’s will, the next fight I will win.”
The Russian star said he would welcome a rematch with Werdum if the Brazilian granted it.
“I am very, very sorry and it’s a pity that I disappointed people that really believed in me and trusted me, but everything in this life happens for some reason,” said Emelianenko.
Emelianenko made no excuses for the loss. He said his camp went according to plan and nothing felt or appeared out of the ordinary as he headed into his 34th professional bout.
“I tried to work out (motivated) to come into the fight in my best shape and the fight today showed that maybe I didn’t work enough,” he said. “I didn’t manage to make all my technique to become automatic. That means I will have to work more.”
When asked about retirement, Emelianenko said he would at least return to fight the final bout on his co-promotional contract between M-1 Global and Strikeforce.
The defeat that few saw coming put preliminary plans to pair Emelianenko against Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem on ice.
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker had predicted that Werdum would pull off the upset and said many underestimated the Brazilian’s abilities.
“I think Fedor felt he hurt him and wanted to take him out,” said Coker. “I don’t want to say he got greedy, but maybe he got a little greedy. He went down to go for the knockout and he fell right into Fabricio’s strength.”
Coker stood by his belief that Emelianenko is the “greatest mixed martial arts fighter ever,” and urged others to remember the former Pride champion’s impressive body of work, which includes victories over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and former UFC champions Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski, to name a few.
“I don’t want people to start disparaging Fedor,” said Coker. “Let me tell you, the guy’s still an amazing fighter and you’ll see him come back. He’ll come back with a vengeance.”