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MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko retires

June 22, 2012|By Lance Pugmire
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with heavyweight martial arts fighter Fedor Emelianenko on June 22.
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with heavyweight martial… (Ria Novosti / Associated…)

Fedor Emelianenko, a Russian bear of a mixed martial arts heavyweight whose greatness includes the asterisk of never participating in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, announced his retirement after a Thursday night fight in his home country.

“I think it is time I quit,” Emelianenko said in a story by Russian news site Ria Novosti after a first-round triumph over former UFC fighter Pedro Rizzo. “My family influenced my decision. My daughters are growing without me. That's why it's time to leave.”

An intriguing athlete who boasted the rare combination of powerful brawn, lightning punching and wrestling speed polished in his secluded Siberian training camp, Emelianenko, 35, owned victories over three men who held the UFC heavyweight belt, Andrei Arlovski, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Tim Sylvia.

But he remain unsigned in fights the MMA world begged for.

Former UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture yearned for a shot at Emelianenko, which never happened.

A showdown against Brock Lesnar also had great potential.

During the Russian’s prime, UFC President Dana White made several runs at landing Emelianenko, but White and UFC Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta would not yield on efforts by Emelianenko’s Russian promoter M-1 to co-promote his fights.

The sides were very close to a deal in 2009 but the sticking point of no cross-promotion sent Emelianenko to Strikeforce.

Emelianenko’s career record of 34-4 included an unbeaten run from December 2000 to June 26, 2010, when he was upset by Brazilian Fabricio Werdum at the HP Pavilion in San Jose fighting for the MMA organization Strikeforce.

After debuting in Strikeforce with a victory over Brett Rogers, Emelianenko was stunned by Werdum in a first-round submission by triangle armbar.

White tweeted a smiley face, a jab mostly at M-1 for its stubborn stand that UFC officials claimed the fighter dearly in purse money.

Emelianenko then lost his next two fights as well last year, to Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva (second-round TKO), and Temecula’s Dan Henderson (first-round TKO).

An Emelianenko advisor told The Times last year a union with the UFC remained possible, but clearly the bloom was off the rose by then.

Yet, “The Last Emperor” rallied to win his last three fights, and he was cheered on in St. Petersburg by adoring countrymen, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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lance.pugmire@latimes.com

Twitter.com/latimespugmire

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