MMA: Last Emperor vs Pitbull

Possibly the best mix fighter of the last decade Fedor Emelianenko, nicknamed “The Last Emperor”, is preparing for his latest challenge against Andrey Arlovsky, or “The Pitbull” of Belarus, on January 24th.

Just hours remain before the big fight – “Affliction: Day of Reckoning” – takes place at the Honda Centre in Anaheim, California, which is hosting the World Alliance of Mixed Martial Arts Championships.

He is a man, a warrior, a legend. The accolade has been bestowed upon Emelianenko by ESPN, Inside MMA and other such big hitters in the fight industry.

With a background in Judo, Sambo and wrestling, the Russian has dominated the global mixed martial arts scene for the best part of a decade.

He has taken competitions such as PRIDE and the World Combat Sambo Championships by storm.

And he is still going strong, claiming one of his most spectacular wins in his latest bout against former two-times Ultimate Fighting Champion, Tim Silviya.

Fedor Emelianenko with his daughter
It took the 32-year old only 36 seconds to make his giant opponent give up the fight.

Some call Emelianenko “The Last Emperor” and seek to find just what gives him the edge.

Unlike other fighters who choose to train in bang-up-to-date gyms, Fedor usually prepares for his bouts on home soil – the small Russian town of Stary Oskol.

With a stunning professional record of 29 wins and only one disputed loss – a stoppage due to a cut from an illegal elbow – Fedor is aiming to make it 30 very shortly.

When the former Russian army member takes on the Pitbull, it would take a brave punter to bet against the smiling assassin starting off the year just like he has done the previous nine – with a win.

Now the world knows him as the number one fighter in mixed martial arts.

But few know what it took for a boy with poor health from a small industrial Russian town to reach the top.

Emelianenko's mother, Olga, prefers not to watch her son fight, but she was the one that helped him achieve his dream of being a sportsman, against all the odds.

“They stopped him doing sports because of high blood pressure. He was 14 and he wanted it so much. I just had to help him. Little by little we improved his stamina. I used to put my younger son to bed, then go jogging with him,” Olga Emelianenko said.

Fedor is the eldest of four children. His parents parted when he was in his teens, leaving him the burden of rearing his younger brothers and sisters.

The house where he spent his childhood stands next door to a sports school where Emelianenko honed his skills in various martial arts – like judo and sambo.

Andrey Bezruk, who trains the youngsters here, grew up with the champ and was among the few to give him a knock before Emelianenko became unbeatable.

“Even when it got really hard and painful he used to shout ”I'm going to be a world champion," he recalls.

And painful it was all the way to the top. Even broken fingers didn't stop him from fighting and winning.

“You can win even when they put you on your back,” – this is something Emelianenko said when showcasing one of his trademark moves, but this message goes beyond sports technique and becomes something of a life philosophy.

‘The Last Emperor’ is better known abroad than at home, because mixed martial arts are not well promoted in Russia. But in his hometown of Stary Oskol he is a hero whom everyone takes pride in.