A Long, Bizarre Interview With Alexander Emelianenko - Part 1

Fightland Blog

By The Russian

Heavyweight Alexander Emelianenko is the younger brother of MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko. Ten years into his professional MMA career, Alexander is still one of the most talented MMA fighters out there, but recently his name has been spotted more often in tabloids than on sports pages. Last year he was charged with hooliganism after a drunken brawl on a plane, and his recent fight with a 63-year-old pensioner at a bar in Moscow further added to his reputation as the black sheep of the Emelianenko family.

In the ring, meanwhile, promoters have accused Emelianenko of failing to get ready for his recent fights. Last week he lost an exhibition fight in the first round to MMA newcomer Dmitry “Wicked Machine” Sosnowski. Many Russian commentators have already called this defeat the end of Emelianenko’s career as a fighter, noting the amount of fat on his body and the lack of energy this onetime great prospect brought to the fight.

I met Emelianenko at a railway station’s café an hour before his train to St. Petersburg was leaving. He was on his way to fight Sosnowski. As I approached the table Emelianenko was getting ready to enjoy his first round of sushi. As soon as I was introduced by my contact, Emelianenko told me, “Don’t worry. I can be like Julius Caesar: listen, think, eat, and speak at the same time. Go on, ask me your questions.” 

Fightland: When was your last fight?
Alexander Emelianenko: I don't even remember. There have been a couple of tournaments that didn't work out because the organizers didn't have money to pay me.

How important is the fight with Sosnowski for you?
Any fight is important for me. I will have a very good Ukrainian fighter to face. He is strong, patient, and comes to Russia not to go under me but to beat me.

Who do you think will win?
Of course I will. What a ridiculous question!

(Ed. note: At this point I noticed that the young lady sitting on the opposite end of the table was taking a picture of me and Emelianenko on her phone. Then I heard Emelianenko's promoter, Oleg, talking to someone on his phone, saying, "Can you check this guy, he is weird, looks like a cop to me. What about his plate numbers? They are stolen, right? Can you call and get a police detachment to come and check him." Whether any of this had to do with me will most likly remain an open question.)

What is the latest on the criminal case against you related to the fight in the bar?
They closed the case. Russian Minister of Internal Affairs Vladimir Kolokoltsev blundered out that I would be wanted if I don’t turn in for questioning. But I was at the training camp at that time and told the investigators through my lawyer that I would be late. And now the case is closed. The victim has realized his guilt and that it was him who started first.

(Ed. note: The victim has asked the court to pardon Emelianenko, but, according to Russian media, the case hadn’t been closed yet.)

So you are not a troublemaker? What about the incidents on the plane and elsewhere?
This is all media’s slander. There should be a good guy and bad guy in the family. The media shows me as a bad one and Fedor as a good one. You just don’t know everything.

For example?
I won’t tell you. (laughs)

I have read in Russian media that you took part in lots of street fights when you were growing up as a kid in your hometown of Stary Oskol. Is it so?
This is all rubbish. Gossip. I wasn’t a brawler as a kid.

Lets talk about Fedor.  When was the last time you saw him?
He is a busy man. One day he is in Japan, the other somewhere else. Same with me. Life is taking us in different directions.

Will he ever come back to MMA?
No, never. His time is long gone. Let him deal with the Union (Russian MMA Union). Though, of course, he left on a rather negative note. The organizers just gave him two invalids to beat, Jeff Monson and Pedro Rizzo, so he could, at least, leave with a win. But I am happy and proud of Fedor. Everything that has been achieved by Russia in fighting so far is because of Fedor and no one else

Is Fedor still training?
He has stopped. He comes for fitness once in a while. That is it.

Are you planning on taking revenge for your brother with Fabricio Werdum or Antonio Silva?
Those fighters are on contracts with other organizations. Let him take the revenge on his own.

But you just said that he was not going to return.
Well, there are many other ways to start a fight. (laughs)

Did you ever fight Fedor?
Not really, we decided that we would never fight each other on the ring. We have the best possible relations brothers could have.  I have always kind of given him the victory when we were supposed to face each other in the finals of sambo tournaments. Though the organizers would always beg us to fight because there were people waiting for that fight to happen, but I have always said I would not fight him. But they have always asked to do, at least, something so we were going out and he was doing a submission lock for a few seconds. We haven’t been offered any money or anything, but, of course, we have fought at training camps and we have never had any mercy for each other during the training.

Would you fight under Fedor's union?
No, because it is still mostly amateur fighting with up to six fights in a day for an opportunity to win a medal or a diploma. I get paid for taking part in just one professional fight. That is why I consider amateur fighting unfair because fighters kill and injure themselves; they fight even harder than professionals do but get nothing in return. Fedor should structure the system, so he is doing that by sometimes making mistakes but you learn by making mistakes.

What do you think about Fedor's friendship with Vladimir Putin?
Putin likes the sport and he supports it very well. I am happy for Fedor. What is bad about it? Wouldn't you like to be friends with Putin?

Putin is a great man. It is only with his help and support that MMA has been registered as the official sport. He helps Fedor a lot, comes to fights, supports fighters. He doesn't have enough time for many athletes but he has for fighters. He helps to build new sports venues for the Olympic games in Sochi. No one wins the opportunity to host Winter Olympic Games by accident. Lots of money is invested into building sports venues in Russia and it's great.

You are fighting Jeff Monson in a rematch on May 25. How will you be getting ready for the fight after losing to him in 2012?  
Monson has finally agreed for a rematch. We have signed a deal. The head of [MMA promoter] M-1 Global, [Vadim] Finkelstein, didn’t want to let him go. Monson terminated the contract with M-1 and signed a new deal with a different promoter. I will have several fights in Russia before my fight with Monson so I will have enough time to get ready.

I didn't train for that first fight with Monson. I didn't spend a single day in a gym because I was injured. I wanted to go to recover and told Finkelstein and Fedor that I wouldn't fight. I just wasn't ready. But the two started to complain that the fight had already been officially announced and that they would be shut down for canceling the fight.

“Please go out and save the fight,” they begged me.

So I had to go out to save the Jewish business.

Is Monson a serious fighter?
He is old. He has been promoted with a huge PR campaign. He came to Russia to earn cash because he wasn't paid a single penny in the U.S. There was a similar fighter when Fedor and myself fought in Pride; M-1 was promoting Bob Schrijber. He had a record of 15 losses and 15 wins. Those fighters are all coming out with hot chicks, yell something out. It is cool but they don’t know how to fight. They are not fighters. When Fedor and myself trained in Holland, we’ve kicked their ass at a gym just like that. It is just for the purpose of the show and nothing else.

(At this point, Emelianenko was served another round of sushi, and he decided to educate me on the right way to eat it.)

You eat sushi with your hands and rolls with the sticks, you dump into the sauce with the fish, not rice. This is how Japanese do, to disinfect and not to block the taste of the fish. In Russia we have rice impregnated with sauce and you taste just the sauce.

What's the deal with your other brother, Ivan?
Ivan is good-for-nothing. He doesn’t want to compete in MMA. He is 25 now and the doors of MMA are closed for him. He doesn’t know how to fight, to punch, to wrestle. He is sitting and eating at our mother’s place or going to St. Petersburg to visit his friends who live at a dormitory or working as a security guard at a store or elsewhere. There is too much of a responsibility and it is terrifying to enter any arena under the name of Emelianenko. Neither Fedor nor myself had easy fights. Same responsibility is with Ivan, especially when he has two brothers who can beat anyone. That is why he got scared. It is very scary when you enter the ring. Some go out and don’t know which God they should pray to so not to faint and be able to get to the ring and fight either Fedor or myself. We had the record of 104.000 people in Japan sitting and watching our fights in Pride. 

Check out part two here.

In the meantime, check out these related stories:

Fedor, MMA, and the Rise of the Self-Regulating Society

James "The Colossus" Thompson Gets a Second Shot at Pride