Relatively quiet since his 2012 retirement, former PRIDE heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko granted a rare, lengthy interview with AXS TV's Michael Schiavello.
The son of an amateur boxer and a gymnast, Emelianenko began training in Sambo at age 11, but says he only started realizing his potential after serving in the Russian Army from 1995 to 1997. When he arrived in PRIDE in 2002, no one could have predicted the sort of run Emelianenko would put together.
Despite an unblemished record of 14-0-1 under the PRIDE banner, Emelianenko believes officials were never entirely comfortable as to how to market him.
"No one expected me to become a champion," said Emelianenko. "As far as what [PRIDE] wanted or didn't want, I was not paying any attention to this. This is life. Even when I didn't want something, I had to take it into account.
"I'll say that later on that PRIDE wanted [Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira] to win the title and also Mirko [Filipovic] to become champion. I could feel it and see it, but you can't pay attention to this because it can shatter your psyche. You shouldn't pay attention to this. You should come out, do your thing and win."
While Emelianenko joked that he wouldn't mind if all his fight footage vanished from the Earth, his most memorable and toughest bout shouldn't come as a surprise.
"If I had to pick it would probably by my first fight with Antonio Nogueira because it was for a title, and I won. Then, my fight with Mirko."
Following his shocking upset loss to Fabricio Werdum in 2010, the Russian was quoted as saying, 'Everything in this life happens for some reason.' Looking back, Emelianenko blames the loss on his own carelessness.
"If we analyze it, I was definitely rushing, rushing in that fight," said Emelianenko. "I was rushing to beat my opponent completely, and I didn't pay attention. I was careless to the techniques that Werdum was applying. If this happened earlier maybe I would have been more careful, but I wanted to finish the fight as soon as possible. I felt a sense of victory when he fell down. I wanted to beat him completely, to finish the fight.
"Why? Well thank God it happened. I don't know. I'm very grateful to God for what he gives me. Victories, remarkable victories, but you have to go through the defeats. That is why I praise God for everything."
Emelianenko even opened up about his trademark apathetic expression, explaining how he felt it would be inappropriate to show pre-fight emotion.
"I always remember that I represent myself, but also my country. People are making judgements about Russian people based on me. This is why I never allow myself any aggression towards my opponent.
"A fighter, a real strong fighter should always look dignified and calm and I believe that any expression of aggression is an expression of weakness. A strong person will not be nervous and will not express aggression towards his opponent. He will be confident in his abilities and his training, then he will face the fight calm and balanced."
Regarding a failed courtship by UFC president Dana White, Emelianenko described the Zuffa boss to be perfectly affable, in person.
"When we talked during face-to-face conversations he didn't behave in a rude or bad way. There was nothing provocative, but later in some interview, somewhere separately, I heard that he spoke out and was very disrespectful. But in our conversation he was very reserved and very respectful."
Denying the rumors that the UFC once offered him $5 million for a single bout, Emelianenko wasn't willing to speculate on how a fight with former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar might have ended up.
"I don't think about it," Emelinenko chuckled. "I don't think about fights that didn't happen."
Asked if there was any one fighter he wishes he had competed against, Emelianenko has no regrets.
"I've already fought my share. God gave me a rich, eventful career and I thank God for everything, but I'm done fighting."
According to Emelianenko, 'Only God's will' could force him back inside the cage.