Drop him on his head. Knock open a nasty gash on his face. Fedor Emelianenko hardly even blinks. The consensus No. 1 heavyweight in mixed martial arts shrugs it off and conquers his opponents.
Conquering the American marketplace is much more of a challenge. He'll try July 19 as the star attraction on the debut card of Affliction, a clothing company taking a shot at MMA promotion, in Anaheim, Calif.
The burly Russian — a fan of action movies, Bruce Willis and Sting — wants to break through in the USA.
"I have a great desire to have the American fans know who I am and hopefully be just as popular in America as I am in Asia," he said Wednesday via a translator while commuting on a train in Russia.
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Within the MMA community, Emelianenko has single-name status, like Kobe or Tiger in their sports. Affliction bills the bout against Tim Sylvia as "Fedor vs. Sylvia."
"I give him the respect and say he's No. 1," says Ben Rothwell, another heavyweight on the Affliction card. "I'll keep giving him that until anyone can prove otherwise."
Emelianenko (27-1), whose sole loss is considered a technicality that he decisively avenged, built that reputation with dramatic wins on Japan's now-extinct PRIDE circuit.
In 2004, Kevin Randleman lifted him for a slam. Emelianenko's head took the brunt. Stunned for just a moment, he flipped himself on top, then started to hammer Randleman's head. When Randleman released his grip to deflect the blows, Emelianenko grabbed his arm for a good wrench, forcing Randleman to submit.Link