Fedor Emelianenko: The Last Chorus

photo by Brian D’Souza

The chance to meet the man considered by many to be one of the greatest mixed martial arts fighters to ever live was too great of a lure to pass up. I traveled to Los Angeles in California to meet the Russian and uncover part of the puzzle over the mystery of who Fedor Emelianenko really is.

The entire congregation from Russia was staying at the Doubletree Hilton in Santa Monica, one of the most exclusive places in a very-much divided city. Upon meeting Fedor in the hotel lobby, the common observation about his expression rings true—he never changes his facial features in public, giving few clues as to what he is truly feeling. I hopped into boxing promoter and interpreter Steve Bash’s SUV as we tailed a shuttle that was carrying Fedor, his wife, friends and coaches to an M-1 affiliate gym in Chatsworth.

Flanked in the back seat by the official M-1 photographer and videographer, they were puzzled by my use of a seat belt, an uncommon safety apparatus back in their native country.

“In Russia, we lucky if car have wheels!” jokes M-1 director of operations Evgeni Kogan in a mock-Russian accent.

It has been a difficult day for Fedor, being jet-lagged, enduring several hours of back-to-back interviews and having the pressure of facing Fabricio Werdum in front of him. Everyone’s expectations of him are sky-high—but he still requires the same rest and relaxation that we all need to feel good.

Fedor began his workout by doing a pummeling drill with longtime grappling coach Vladimir Voronov. Voronov is a huge man himself, and along with striking coach Alexander Michkov, they are always at Emelianenko’s side. His coaches provide more than strategic or tactical instruction—they give reassurance and maintain peace and calm in the camp in the hectic days that precede the fight.

“We can definitely say that California is a sun state,” Voronov tells me, this being Fedor’s third trek to California after fighting twice in Anaheim for Affliction.