“Time, time, time is on my side. Yes it is”
– The Rolling Stones
For the seventy-something rock group it apparently is as they are on the road in another full force world tour, playing on long after most contemporaries have retired or are dead. The Stones or any of the retro rocker tours still command attention. Maybe the high notes are modified an octave lower; the rebellious tones of some classics are ignored as to how angry can multi-millionaires qualifying for Medicare really be?; and the moves might be a tad bit slower than we remember. But that’s it, we like to remember, reverting back to a time in our lives when it was simpler, easier, and above all we were younger.
Endurance is a mark of greatness for sure, but the line between enduring and endearing is much thinner among athletes. The spotlight can show a few more wrinkles on the rockers, but can be frighteningly harsher on those trying to squeeze out one more at bat, one more pass, one more jump shot, or a final knockout.
We’ve seen it play out with players who are legends. Anyone catching highlights from Michael Jordan of the Washington Wizards in vintage NBA specials?
It’s different for the truly greats of all time making a return. They will be scrutinized more than ever. Have they lost more than a step? How much has their power diminished? Legitimate questions for no matter how superhuman they were in their prime, there is the one thing that all athletes in all sports eventually succumb to– Father Time, still the undefeated champion.
Re-enter Fedor Emelianenko. Once regarded as the best ever after dominating and devastating all comers in Japan. He exited his U.S. stay with three consecutive losses, each less surprising. In recent days he’s become recent again after calling it quits when he beat Pedro Rizzo in Russia, June 2012. At 38 years old, skill is debatable but relevant still with that Pride reign from 2003-07 as the heavyweight champ that resonates enough with fans that he brings the most important ingredient to any organization–a name drawing card. That and the consensus need for someone to keep the heavyweight ranks stirred up.
Fedor’s appeal too, is that old school approach. It would be stunning to see the Russian sending out incendiary tweets or YouTube rants calling out opponents and challenging any group to sign him or else. There has always been a rare gentlemanly decorum, a class aurora from the man. Noble in victory or defeat. That combined with an overall mystique about his training regiment and his life in general. He is classic less is more.
Why now? Perhaps it is those defeats and good, not great wins in that American tour with Affliction and Strikeforce that tarnished the once viewed impenetrable armor of ‘The Last Emperor,’ that haunts and therefore motivates him. Maybe after the failed negotiations of the past with the UFC he and his camp realize the value that could’ve been, the true solidification of greatness, had he fought in the world’s top organization. Although his chips are limited at the table now based on his last shaky run through the States.
After escaping with one punch power, and his might be the best ever, to defeat Andrei Arlovski and Brett Rogers he lost three straight starting with Fabricio Werdum who is widely considered as the first man to actually beat Emelianenko, his previous loss was from taking an illegal elbow in 2000 cutting him and keeping him from continuing on. The Werdum win or Fedor loss, it was a toss up as viewed then, came in June 2010. Not so much now with the Champ’s continued rise. Last week Werdum, the new UFC heavyweight king, told Ron Kruck that winning the belt was more meaningful than beating the great Russian which seems now so long ago.
Werdum is correct and not at all disrespectful. At the highest level the goal is a title, a big win is memorable, but years from now the UFC champ is what people will remember most.
Names have been bandied about as to who he might fight when he returns. Randy Couture among them. The UFC Hall of Famer and Emelianenko couldn’t work out a deal to fight seven years ago, Couture even left the UFC for a year in hopes of it happening.
Couture came back and closed out a solid 5-3 at the top level including a victory for all of MMA when he defeated former boxing champ James Toney, before retiring. According to Inside MMA researchers Couture’s 5 are the most wins by a notable MMA fighter after coming out of retirement. Hall of Famer Tito Ortiz is currently 2-0 in Bellator after coming back, but this duo represents a very small minority of successful stories. Three other UFC Hall of Famers combined 0-4; Ken Shamrock (0-1), Stephan Bonnar (0-1), BJ Penn (0-2).
There is something to ring, or cage rust and again the undefeated Father Time only compounds that.
Whether he has the moves like Jagger or more important the power still of Fedor most remembered, the low key man from Stary Oskol with the disarming grin and brutal right hand will be a welcomed sight for all. Only time will tell if his time is still now.
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