For a man once thought unbeatable, one loss might be considered a fluke. Two consecutive losses, on the other hand, might be cause to hang up the gloves.
Following his second-round TKO defeat at the hands of underdog Antonio â€śBigfootâ€ť Silva at Saturdayâ€™s Strikeforce â€śFedor vs. Silva,â€ť thatâ€™s exactly what Fedor Emelianenko insinuated.
However, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker is not entirely convinced.
â€śFedor always comes back in the third [round], but he didnâ€™t get a chance to today,â€ť Coker said during the post-fight press conference. â€śAs far as a retirement, you know how that goes. People get very emotional during a fight and weâ€™ll see. My position is we have many more fights with Fedor, and heâ€™ll honor his contract.â€ť
Cheered on by a partisan Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., Emelianenko failed to unleash the explosiveness that made him the terror of the Pride Fighting Championships heavyweight division in years prior. After a back-and-forth first frame that saw both men throw heavy leather, the Russian was dominated by the much larger Brazilian in round two. Silva took the fight to the floor and secured full mount, closing Emelianenkoâ€™s right eye with bludgeoning blows. The contest was stopped prior to the start of round three on the advice of the cageside doctor.
â€śI donâ€™t think Fedor could see,â€ť said Coker. â€śSafety comes first. Heâ€™ll have another day.â€ť
According to the Strikeforce head, Emelianenko might find himself thrust back into the tournament field under the right circumstances. Regardless, Coker has plans for the sambo specialist if and when he decides to return to the cage in 2011.
â€śFedor could absolutely be a replacement [in the grand prix]. A committee will decide who will move forward [if a fighter is injured]. Iâ€™m not even on that committee. Fedor is definitely a possibility. It could be Fedor that goes in there, depending on what the committee decides,â€ť said Coker. â€śHe will be fighting some high-level competition. Heâ€™ll have some more fights before the end of the year.â€ť
When asked what implications the outcome of the fight might have on Strikeforce from a business perspective, Coker asserted that upsets are a part of the game.
â€śWhen you have a tournament of this magnitude, new stars will be born. Thatâ€™s what happens as this tournament unfolds,â€ť said Coker. â€śI think Fedor still has a lot of fight left in him. He might be out for 16 months, but I think youâ€™ll see Fedor back. But weâ€™re going to have some amazing fights in this tournament. We just have to sit back and wait, but I feel very good about it.â€ť
Emelianenkoâ€™s manager, M-1 Global CEO Vadim Finkelchtein, agreed with Cokerâ€™s take on the situation.
â€śFedor is really, really upset, because he was really ready for this fight. Everyone saw how the fans greeted him. Heâ€™s had a wonderful career,â€ť said Finkelchtein. â€śI think that the stoppage isnâ€™t such a clear-cut loss that he will stop. [I think] this loss will give him more strength to go on in the future.â€ť
Though Finkelchtein felt the stoppage was fair, he wished his fighter would have been given the opportunity to come out for the third frame.
â€śI think that itâ€™s very unfortunate that the fight was stopped after the second round,â€ť said Finkelchtein. â€śWe donâ€™t know what wouldâ€™ve happened in the third round.â€ť
According to Finkelchtein, Emelianenko, who took a trip to the hospital and was unable to attend the press conference, had little to say following his defeat.
â€śThe atmosphere in the changing room was pretty quiet. There wasnâ€™t much said,â€ť explained Finkelchtein. â€śIt was tidying up, and then they went off to the hospital to make sure [Fedorâ€™s] orbital bone wasnâ€™t broken.â€ť
Regarding a final decision on Emelianenkoâ€™s potential retirement, Finkelchtein asserted that, regardless of his own feelings, the final say will go to Emelianenko.
â€śThe decision is up to Fedor, but I think I know him quite well. I think that heâ€™s still full of strength, and I think he will continue,â€ť said Finkelchtein. â€śThe decision is up to him, but I would encourage him [to keep fighting], because I think he still has a lot to show his fans.â€ť
by Mike Whitman