Fedor Emelianenko faces an uncertain future after his fight with Dan Henderson. | Photo: Dave Mandel
Consecutive defeats to two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist Fabricio Werdum and onetime EliteXC heavyweight champion Antonio Silva have resulted in Fedor Emelianenko being bombarded with questions he would rather not answer.
As he approaches his showdown with former two-division Pride Fighting Championships titleholder Dan Henderson in the Strikeforce/M-1 Global “Fedor vs. Henderson” headliner on Saturday at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Ill., the subject of Emelianenko’s possible retirement in the event of a third straight defeat has grown louder and louder. At least publicly, the beloved 34-year-old Russian refuses to look beyond Henderson.
“I don’t know. We’ll fight our next fight, and, after that, we’ll see,” Emelianenko said during a pre-fight teleconference. “I’m not thinking about what might be. Right now, I’m just thinking about this fight, and after this fight, we’ll sit down and figure out what to do next.
“I’d like to continue to fight,” he added. “Thank God, right now I feel great. My health is great, but we’ll see. Everything will be known after the fight. It’s better to talk about that and answer that question after the fight.”
Entering his ill-fated 2010 encounter with Werdum, Emelianenko had not lost in more than a decade. In many circles, he was as much myth as he was man. Sixty-nine seconds later, he was reluctantly tapping out to a triangle armbar, having paid a steep price for underestimating the Brazilian’s world-class guard. Emelianenko was met with a far different challenge against the monstrous Silva, as the gigantic heavyweight trapped him on the ground in the second round, punished him mercilessly and forced a doctor’s stoppage. The defeats have done nothing to shake Emelianenko’s resolve on the surface.
“It hasn’t affected my confidence at all,” he said. “God has given us a certain path for my life, and I have to go down that path and feel confident about it. The one thing that I’ve learned is that I’m thankful to him for all he has given me. Those are the lessons that I’ve taken.”
In Henderson, Emelianenko faces a foe at a similar stage of his career: past his prime but skilled, experienced and undeniably dangerous. The 40-year-old Team Quest representative will carry a two-fight winning streak into the match. Henderson stopped Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante on third-round punches in March to capture the Strikeforce light heavyweight championship. Emelianenko respects the two-time Olympian and values a potential win over him.
“Of course, it would be a very important victory,” he said. “Dan Henderson has been a fighter for a long time, and he’s been a champion in many different organizations. For me, it’s very important.”
Emelianenko, who turns 35 in September, claims to have done nothing to alter his training regimen following his setbacks to Werdum and Silva.
“Everything’s just as before,” he said. “We prepared and train just like we [always] have.”
Emelianenko, who has defeated five former UFC champions during his incomparable career, continues to field questions regarding a possible move to 205 pounds. However, he remains focused on the considerable challenge at hand and admits he would someday like to have another heavyweight title strapped around his waist.
“It’s definitely something that I’d like to achieve again,” said Emelianenko, who sports 21 first-round finishes among his 31 professional victories. “I’ve always fought as a heavyweight, and I didn’t see any reason to fight at a lighter weight. There haven’t been any offers to fight at light heavyweight. I fight at the same weight I’m accustomed to.”