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Fedor Emelianenko just doesn’t understand the hype around his sweater

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Fedor Emelianenko And Tito Ortiz Ring The NASDAQ Opening Bell
Fedor Emelianenko wore the sweater to ring the NASDAQ opening bell in 2009.
Photo by Joe Corrigan/Getty Images

Fedor Emelianenko’s striped sweater has become something of MMA lore over the years. It even has its own nickname: “The Glorious Sweater of Absolute Victory.”

The oddly colored piece of clothing has somehow taken on a life of its own, a mythical artifact in the history of his unique sport. Bellator even produced a tongue-in-cheek video this week about the sweater’s origins.

Perhaps there is something wholly fascinating about one of the most dangerous men in the history of sports donning not a t-shirt with a skull on it or a suit, but something your middle-aged uncle would wear.

As for Emelianenko himself, though, he just doesn’t get the hype. The sweater, he told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, has no great meaning, even though he has been seen wearing it intermittently for more than a decade now.

“I simply like it,” the great heavyweight said through a translator. “So, I wear it.”

Emelianenko, 39, seems almost bothered by the buzz around the sweater and how it has become a talking point before his Bellator debut against Matt Mitrione at Bellator 172 on Saturday night in San Jose, Calif.

“I think people pay too much attention to this sweater,” he said. “I think they exaggerate this meaning a little bit. I do pay attention to what I wear. I think the sweater is of very high quality, so I wear it for a long time. But I don’t think it has any significant meaning.”

Emelianenko (36-4, 1 NC) is arguably the greatest MMA fighter of all time and he’s uncomfortable discussing that, too. After more than three years of retirement, “The Last Emperor” returned to MMA with a win over Jaideep Singh for Rizin in December 2015. He’s coming off a controversial decision victory over Fabio Maldonado last June for Eurasia Fight Nights, a bout many thought he lost or should have been a draw.

Mitrione presents a notable step up in competition for Emelianenko, probably the best fighter he has opposed since his run with Strikeforce between 2009 and 2011. Emelianenko, of course, made his name in Pride beating a who’s who of elite heavyweights like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mark Coleman, Kevin Randelman, Mirko Cro Cop and Mark Hunt. He also went 10 years undefeated.

The sweater has been with him many times over the years. He has been photographed wearing it multiple times. Emelianenko wore it in November when the fight with Mitrione was announced during a Bellator broadcast.

And, yes, he does have it with him in San Jose this weekend, he told Helwani. However, we may not get the privilege of seeing it.

“I did take it with me,” Emelianenko said, “but once I found out that there was such an exaggerated attention, I’m probably not going to put it on.”