‘We’ve Done a Really Good Job of Developing This Sport’

PHOTO by Valery Sharifulin / TASS
Russian mixed martial fighter Fedor Emelianenko on the last MMA World Cup, his future rivals, and more

In an exclusive interview with Lenta.ru, Fedor Emelianenko spoke about the last MMA world championships, at which Russians won every weight category, his rival Matt Mitrione and about a potential fight between Conor McGregor and Habib Nurmagomedov.

Are you satisfied with Russia's performance at MMA world championships in China?

I am very pleased with the results, of course. Russians were the champions in all seven weight categories without losing a single round. This is an excellent result for the MMA Union as well: our guys came through in a very tough competition. The best of the best went through extensive training and arrived to Macao ready to win.

Which of the World Cup participants do you expect to start a successful professional career?

Some guys have already made their debut as pros. They all have a great future. I am a fan of Magomed Ankalaev, I follow his career closely.

People say that mixed martial arts is rapidly gaining fans. Do you feel that's the case?

Of course. Our sport is moving forward. You can see it at international competitions and domestically as well. Every year more and more countries join the MMA International Association, and fighters make more and more progress. Thank God, we still manage to win! We've done a really good job of developing this sport. We work with children, coaches, judges and now even experts from abroad come to us.

Speaking about you, you signed a contract for four fights with Bellator. Why did you choose this organisation?

We have been negotiating with several organisations, but opted for Bellator, as the head of the organisation, Scott Coker, is an honest man: we have already worked with him, so his proposal interested us.

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Fedor Emelianenko gives a masterclass to Primorye fighters at the Molodyozhny Sports Complex in Vladivostok, Dec. 8

There was a rumour that you could have joined the UFC. Was that really an option?

Yes, it was. I received an offer from UFC, but it did not suit me. We had disagreements, especially concerning the matter of promotion.

Your next opponent is Matt Mitrione. Tell us about him.

He is a fighter with a direct style, he wins with a lot of knockouts. He has a very confident stance. Matt is taller, heavier and younger (38 years old) than me, but I'm not scared. We'll see who wins the fight!

Mitrione admitted recently that he used to have a drinking problem. Do you think that it could influence the upcoming fight in any way?

He was fine when I saw him. I didn't notice any signs of him being in bad condition and didn't smell any alcohol on him. The fight will show how serious his problems really are. I'm sure he won't make mistakes before the bout: he will definitely be 100% ready.

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Fedor Emelianenko pictured after winning a bout against Fabio Maldonado of Brazil at MMA Fight Nights Global 50 tournament at SIBUR Arena, June 18

The Russian Habib Nurmagomedov and Irishman Conor McGregor were the winners of a recent UFC event. Do you think they'll fight each other in the future?

It depends on the UFC and on the fighters themselves. I think it's possible though. Habib earned the right to fight for a title long ago, he's done everything for it. He deserves a chance.

Alexander Shlemenko is sure that if this fight takes place, the Russian athlete will be the favourite. What do you reckon?

I never make predictions, but I'm sure that Habib has a good chance. He is better than his opponent on the ground and can "strangle". Conor, on the contrary, should not come in too close and should strike from distance. Whichever fighter makes better use of his advantages will win.