e mërkurë, 20 qershor 2007

Fedor: The Best Ever.

For years pundits have debated who the greatest fighter of all time is. Depending on who is asked, this issue is likely to elicit a multitude of contrasting responses. Ask a fan of the sweet science and the popular choice would likely be Muhammad Ali. A martial arts practitioner may point to Bruce Lee. A historian? Perhaps Alexander the Great.

At first glance, the wide spectrum of replies would seem appropriate considering the often repeated belief that it is impossible to compare icons of different eras. In the world of fighting, however, the answer to this age old question is quite easily put to rest. The greatest fighter to have ever walked foot on this planet is alive and in his prime today. His name is Fedor Emelianenko, and he is unanimously credited as best heavyweight mixed martial arts fighter in the world.

At first glance, Fedor’s appearance is rather uninspiring. His constant demeanor is that of a person who just woke up from a long nap and his physique is that of a person who consumed a bucket of ice cream and six pack of beer just prior to that nap. But looks can be deceiving and as the saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover. Inside that “gooey” exterior lies an advanced core of explosive power, speed and ass-kicking fury, which is part of the reason why his fans have long suspected him to be a cyborg- it truly is what’s inside that counts.

Fedor may be the greatest athlete you have never heard of in the fastest rising sport that by now, unless you live under a rock, you undoubtedly have heard of. He is the current Pride Fighting Championship heavyweight champion, holding a record of 27-1-1, which, in the world of mixed martial arts where there are so many different ways to lose, is quite an accomplishment. Fedor’s one loss came as a result of an illegal elbow seconds into his fight with Tsuyoshi Kohsaka in a now defunct Japanese event back in December of 2000. The elbow caused a small cut above the eye of Fedor, forcing the doctor to stop the fight before any serious blows were thrown. When Fedor got his chance to revenge his one “loss”, he spattered Pride’s virgin white canvas with crimson pools of TK’s blood. Ironically, the rematch was also stopped due to a cut – in fact, many of them, all over battered face of Fedor’s opponent.

Besides that one blemish on his career (and a no-contest resulting from, you guessed it, a cut from an accidental clash of heads during the finals of the Pride HW Grand Prix in 2004), Fedor has systematically destroyed nearly every opponent that has stepped into the ring with him. He has defeated NCAA wrestling champions, kickboxing champions, Olympic medalists and a 400 lb mountain of a man known simply as Zuluzinho.

The reason Fedor has been able to sustain his success while so many other great fighters have fallen is largely due to his expansive repertoire of fighting tools, which allows him to fight effectively in all ranges. Whereas most elite fighters, while competent in many forms, typically specialize in one or two particular arts (i.e., wrestling, boxing or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu), Fedor is truly a master of all styles. As evidence of Fedor’s almost inhuman versatility, he has thoroughly dominated both the best mma grappler in the world, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and the best mma striker in the world, Mirko Filipovic – and he beat both at their own game.

So how do we know that Fedor is the greatest ever and not just the greatest today? In order to answer that question, we need to step back to November 12, 1993, when a skinny Brazilian kid by the name of Royce Gracie took the world by storm and proved what the most effective single style of martial arts was – Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Royce tested his skills in a laboratory of flying fists and teeth displacing kicks and he always came out on top. In fact, Royce defeated all of the early on comers- wrestlers, Muay Thai fighters, kungfu and karate practitioners, boxers, judokas - while hardly breaking a sweat.

Royce taught the traditional martial artists of that time a painful lesson - that their theories of effective martial arts were just that, a bunch of theories. And soon thereafter, fighters began to realize that in order to beat Royce, they would need to learn his game. It was at that point when the hyper-acceleration of the evolution of martial arts began. Wrestlers learned to box. Boxers learned to submit. Submission experts learned to wrestle. It was as if the entire world suddenly became fluent in everyone else’s language and was finally able to exchange thousands of years of handed down martial arts knowledge. It was the birth of mixed martial arts as we now call it to be.

These days, all of the top-level mma fighters have become adept at utilizing various styles of martial arts. The old dinosaurs that have insisted on focusing primarily on one art (see the Hammer House and the Gracie family) have been passed over by a new breed of hybrid fighters whose martial arts foundations are difficult to trace. If you try to punch with them they will beat you with kicks. If you try to kick with them, they will beat you with wrestling. If you try to grapple with them, they will beat you with striking.

Emelianenko Fedor is the embodiment of the new age hybrid fighter. He is the culmination of centuries of passed down martial arts knowledge. He is the renaissance man of the renaissance era of martial arts. Fedor has displayed elite level skills in all facets of the mma game – striking, wrestling and submission, and the scary thing is that he is still improving. Claiming that anyone is the “best ever” is quite a bold statement that in most cases is impossible to support. In this case of fighting, however, we know with certainty that Fedor is the best ever because we have reached the pinnacle of martial arts knowledge and Fedor is the one person sitting on top of that pinnacle. Try to think of one person, in the history of the universe, that could beat Fedor in mano-e-mano hand to hand combat. That silence is your resounding answer -Fedor is the greatest fighter to have ever walked on this planet and we are all privileged to bear witness to history in the making.

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