Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
After playing coy about his future plans in the leadup to his M-1 Global fight, Fedor Emelianenko has made the decision to retire, according to multiple Russian news outlets.
In comments made after knocking out Pedro Rizzo, Emelianenko announced that at the age of 35, he will call a halt to a legendary mixed martial arts career.
"I think it is time I quit," Emelianenko said, according to the Russian news site Ria Novosti. "My family influenced my decision. My daughters are growing without me, that's why it's time to leave."
Emelianenko (34-4, 1 no contest) had previously voiced the possibility after recent fights, and prior to this one, said it would most likely be his last cage encounter. The evening gave off the vibe of a sendoff, with the sold-out crowd at the Ice Palace in St. Petersburg offering massive ovations at his entrance and introduction, and upon his knockout victory. After the fight, the Russian was mobbed by family and congratulated by Russian president Vladimir Putin, who was in attendance. According to one report, the fans, sensing it was indeed his last match, implored him to continue competing, chanting "Do not go!"
While Emelianenko has in recent years come to serve as a divisive figure of debate because of his continued refusal to accept a UFC contract and face some of the sport's best heavyweights, his resume still stands as one of the most impressive the sport has ever seen.
He boasts career wins over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Mirko Cro Cop when both were at the height of their careers, and he also authored a 28-fight unbeaten stretch, one of the longest such streaks in the sport's history.
Fighting as an undersized heavyweight at just 6-feet tall and 230 pounds, Emelianenko consistently defeated larger competition, using a seemingly unstoppable combination of hand speed, aggressiveness and ground savvy.
Despite the debate about him, among the long list of notable combat sports athletes who have called him the greatest or among the best ever include current UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos, current welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre, B.J. Penn, Randy Couture and boxer Mike Tyson.
In 2007, Emelianenko became the most sought-after free agent in the sport, but despite being courted by the UFC, he spurned them in order to co-promote events with his M-1 organization. In 2009, after two knockout wins in Affliction, he again became a free agent but once again looked elsewhere, signing with Strikeforce.
In his first fight in the promotion, he knocked out Brett Rogers, but the next time out, he was upset by Fabricio Werdum, marking his first defeat in nearly a decade. That was followed by consecutive losses to Antonio Silva and Dan Henderson. With three losses in a row, his Strikeforce career came to an end, and Emelianenko contemplated retirement, but fought on.
In his post-fight comments, he said he harbors no thoughts of avenging his previous defeats, and retires with a clear conscience. While he will continue to compete in combat sambo, he's done in MMA, leaving on the strength of a three-fight win streak, with his final one marking his 23rd career first-round stoppage victory.
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