“Fedor is a legend and to be a legend you have to beat a legend. And I’m ready to be the best heavyweight in the world.”
That is Antonio Silva’s take on his next opponent, Fedor Emelianenko. The two meet in the main event of Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva, one of two World Heavyweight Grand Prix quarterfinal bouts, on Saturday night in New Jersey.
“Fedor is the best, so this is the top of the food chain. For me, this is the final and I will give it all I have to make this happen,” said Silva. “This is my dream and I’m going to beat the legend and I’m going to be a legend.”
Such praise isn’t usually reserved for a fighter coming off of a loss. Nevertheless, that praise is being heaped on Fedor, even though seven months ago, he tapped out to a Fabricio Werdum submission. It was the first time in 35 career fights that Fedor found himself in such a position.
The Fedor mystique may have taken a hit, but the Russian fighter has the opportunity on Saturday to minimize the damage. And if he goes on to win the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, he will likely have restored his legend to full strength.
Fedor, however, does not see the fight with Silva, or the tournament, with such perspective. That’s not how he operates.
“Nothing has changed for me (since the loss to Werdum). I train just as I’ve trained before. It just so happened that I had made an error in the previous fight, so in training I have just worked on trying not to make that same mistake again,” he said of his preparations for Silva. “For me nothing has changed inside of me and I still have the same beliefs. I just want to train harder for the next fight.”
That’s not to say that he wouldn’t appreciate another shot at Werdum, who is also one of the eight fighters that make up the Grand Prix field, but he’s not looking past Silva either.
“I’m ready and prepared to step into the cage against Fabricio at any time. It’s something that I’d very much like to do. In regard to Antonio, he’s a very tough opponent, a very dangerous opponent,” said Fedor.
“We’ve never fought before, so I’m very happy that we’re getting the opportunity to fight. I really don’t think that I should be fighting anyone else and I’m just going to fight whoever they want me to fight.”
That’s nothing out of character for the stoic Russian. Fedor is not a fighter built in the spotlight or on pretense. He’s a fighter that has put himself in uncomfortable situations, both in and our of the ring, believing that discomfort makes him the fighter he is today.
“When I train in the mountains in remote areas, I train in the high altitude where it’s very cold – even near freezing. It just makes the entire training process that much more difficult, which I believe is beneficial because if I can get through it then I’ll be that much better for it.”
Everyone around him is watching to see if the Fedor “The Invincible” will return when he steps into the cage on Saturday night, but not Fedor. He just keeps his same even demeanor, preparing the best that he can, leaving the fight and his future in the hands of his faith.
“I’m training hard and whatever happens, after that is up to God, but I’m training hard and I look forward to performing.”