It’s not an easy moment for fans of any sport to watch a great walk away. Sometimes, however, it’s even harder when an athlete doesn’t walk away at the right time.
Few will remember Michael Jordan wearing a Washington Wizards uniform, or old school football fans watching Johnny Unitas strut out in a San Diego Chargers uniform. Fedor Emelianenko is considered one of the greatest fighters the sport of MMA has ever known, but watching him look human for only the second time in his storied career was hard for many fans.
Fedor lost to Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva on Saturday night, and promptly hinted at his retirement in his post-fight interview. The Russian has suffered back-to-back losses for the first time ever in his career, and probably for the first time ever people saw him truly get manhandled by a much larger fighter.
Still, many don’t want to see him walk away right now. Two very important people involved in Fedor’s carer don’t believe he will walk away. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker spoke about Fedor’s decision, saying he believes that Fedor will return and may even get a slot as an alternate in the tournament if someone else falls out.
“You know how that goes. People get very emotional during a fight and we’ll see. My position is we have many more fights with Fedor and I think he’ll honor his contract,” Coker said.
“There’s absolutely a possibility that he could be a replacement. There could be an injury and we could get Fedor back in the tournament, but either way he’ll be fighting high-level competition.”
Coker has put together a competition committee for the Heavyweight Grand Prix. The members of that group would be the ones to determine who would get an alternate slot should the tournament need a replacement.
Another person who is confident that Fedor is not done is his close friend and longtime manager Vadim Finkelstein, who feels in his heart of hearts that the Russian will not call Saturday night his last.
“I think Fedor was just really upset that he lost the fight because he was so, the way the fight finished, because he was so prepared for the fight. I don’t think it was a clear-cut loss. If it doesn’t get stopped by the doctor, we don’t know what would have happened in that third round. Because of that I think we will see Fedor return,” Finkelstein stated.
Ultimately, Finkelstein says he will leave it up to Fedor to decide if he is truly done or if he will go for another few rounds in the cage. Just by knowing him well, however, Finkelstein is confident fans haven’t seen the last of the great Fedor Emelianenko.
“The decision is Fedor’s, but I think I know him quite well and I think he’s still full of strength, and I think he will continue,” Finkelstein commented. “But the decision of course is up to him.”
Two of the most powerful figures in Fedor’s fight career believe he will return, but will he ever return to the form that saw him climb to the top of the heavyweight division, where he ruled for so many years? Can fans get behind a mid-level Fedor Emelianenko?
That is truly the question that remains.