Pick your generation, your genre, from the Rolling Stones, Eagles, and Fleetwood Mac to Garth Brooks, New Kids on the Block, and Backstreet Boys. When these acts resurface for a tour, one that assuredly will be 90% of their hits from their prime filled out with a “new” album that sounds like a rough knockoff of them at their best, we will go.
It’s nostalgia that drives the ticket, our musical comfort food returning us to younger more carefree times during those two hours in a dark arena in a mass reminiscent bonding with others.
We, regardless of age, embrace the familiar when available.
Fedor Emelianenko did that as well last weekend, appropriately at a Bellator Dynamite event in San Jose that was an homage to Japanese Pride days where he did rule as “The Last Emperor.” It was there the announcement of the much (depending on the fan’s age) anticipated return to MMA since his 2012 retirement. The hoopla could’ve been a decade earlier about Fedor fighting in Japan on New Year’s Eve against fill-in-the-blank. And for those brief minutes when there was some mystery and some hope (again depending on the fan’s age) that he would at last go to the UFC, it reverted back to that security blanket of the Far East.
Former Pride brass is involved, no doubt factoring in greatly when the decision was finalized. Fedor now is and forever will be considered the greatest over there, those three straight losses to end a dismal U.S. showing is long forgotten in the Land of the Rising Sun, if it was ever remembered. Those staunchest supporters everywhere will remain, many still scratching their heads at why Pride fighters didn’t just dominate all the UFC.
Like a grilled cheese and bowl of chicken soup on a chilly day, or a bowl of rice and fish stew, the predictable provides enough sustenance even if the palate isn’t challenged. It doesn’t have to be spectacular or surprising to offer a measure of satisfaction.
For those waiting on the possible servings of Fedor’s rematch with Fabricio Werdum, or Cain Velazquez, Daniel Cormier or really anyone of importance in the heavyweight rankings those feasts remain cold, probably always will as he is days away from his 39th birthday. No matter how good you are, time is an indiscrimating foe and how many quality fights remain is a large question or maybe already answered.
But Fedor returning to Japan makes sense for him. He will make very good money, he will be cheered and he will face an opponent he will beat. It will be an arena filled with pyrotechnics, smoke machines, and shrills and squeals of delight, the Fedor Returns to Some Semblance of Pride Tour 2015 and Tokyo is ready to rock in another year. The Golden Oldie after all is hot right now, perhaps Pride folks are imitating Bellator’s resurrected hero movement as much as Bellator emulated the old Pride style last Saturday.
Good for Fedor, that’s all that matters. It’s clear, or should be, that fighting in the UFC is not important to him; trying to polish a tarnished legacy from a sad exit in the States isn’t paramount to him. There is a loyalty to the marrow corp out there who will insist nobody was better, and good for them to have that passion for a man who has always exhibited humility and dignity and is a great fighter.
There was a time when in this space there might’ve been more piercing words as to why he again dodged the UFC. Maybe something about how almost every Pride star has hoped for success in the UFC or how Bas Rutten has repeatedly said he would not have been as received by the public in the US without a UFC title because that organization is the mark of excellence in the sport.
No it isn’t anyone’s place except Fedor to let him carve his own path and the road he navigates with closed eyes like the trip home to the parents it’s been taken so often that it is so easy to find. He’s made money, he could claim at one time to be the best in the world and he is adored by enough still that there might be enough who cut the party short to tune in to this back to the future event on TV stateside. And when he wins, and he will, there will be the noise of how would he do against the UFC’s best? Like those fireworks that will no doubt fill the night skies here and Japan, it will flash and then vaporize.
He’s chosen his legacy, where he feels at ease, where he will always reign supreme. That’s not a place to question any longer but one to be embraced, even admired to understand oneself so well. Happy New Year Fedor.
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