A day after it was reported that Aleksander Emelianenko had been fired by M-1 Global due to repeated violations of his contract, the Russian heavyweight has announced his retirement from MMA at the age of 31. Emelianenko released the following statement on his Facebook page (translation via MMA Lives Here):
I want to thank you for your support, for having supported me in spite of all that they say about me. Unfortunately, I will not be able to perform in the ring because of health problems caused by old injuries. Of course, as an athlete it’s a hard time. I am grateful to my fans and partners for their support, for believing in me, and I am grateful to my detractors. Your attitude always made me move forward and achieve new things. I realise now I was hit by a barrage of accusations and criticisms, not directly related to my job. Unfortunately, there will always be people who want you in bad situations to score points. I don’t want to comment on anything, explain or justify. Each of us in life does good and does bad – that is our nature. I think I did a lot for the sport and I hope my example has drawn a lot of young people to the gym. Otherwise, God will judge us all, in time. Now I want to give the publicity away. I want to take care of my health, my family, which I lost, and my daughter, who I love very much. Perhaps I will see you again. Thank you! Be well and believe in God!
Tall, mulleted, and covered in Russian gangster tattoos, Aleksander Emelianenko in his prime was just as intimidating a presence as his older brother Fedor. “The Grim Reaper” kicked off his MMA career in October 2003 with a decision win over Assuerio Silva at PRIDE Bushido 1, and went on to compile a 6-2 record within the PRIDE promotion, where Fedor ruled as heavyweight champion. Though losses to top heavyweights Mirko Cro Cop and Josh Barnett stymied his momentum, Aleks was responsible for some of the most memorable knockouts in PRIDE history. Witness:
(Emelianenko vs. James Thompson, 10/31/04)
(Emelianenko vs. Ricardo Morais, 4/3/05)
Aleksander’s career had already peaked by the time he left PRIDE in 2006. After going 4-1 in his next five fights, taking easy wins over journeymen like Eric Pele and Dan Bobish, Emelianenko was slated to make his much-anticipated U.S. debut at Affliction: Day of Reckoning against Paul Buentello. Unfortunately, Aleks was pulled from the card after the California State Athletic Commission refused to license him — and made it clear that he’d never be licensed in the U.S. Emelianenko’s best shot to become a relevant, world-class heavyweight again sailed out the window, and he spent the remainder of his career denying persistent rumors that the CSAC’s decision to bar his licensure was due to a positive test for Hepatitis B.
With competition in the U.S. no longer an option, Aleksander returned to can-crushing in Europe. Sometimes it went well. Sometimes it didn’t. And sometimes it was just bizarre. Aleksander’s most recent appearance came last month at M-1 Challenge 35, where he fell victim to Jeff Monson’s trusty north-south choke. The loss snapped a four-fight winning streak for Aleks, leaving him with a lifetime record of 21-6.
While most will remember him as Fedor’s less-successful brother — who was occasionally a brilliant striker, and deadly to man and animal alike — Aleksander Emelianenko’s career is also an object-lesson in unfulfilled potential. What if he was able to get licensed in the States? What if he took his training a little more seriously? What if he really did end up in the UFC? His story could have turned out so much differently. Instead, he remains one of PRIDE’s lesser heroes, a fearsome fighter who was unable to find a path to greater glory.
Update, via RT.com: “[M-1 Global President Vadim] Finkelstein didn’t specify the contract violations, but Gazeta.ru claims the firing followed Emelianenko’s drunken row in Barnaul in the Altai Region.
The heavyweight fighter quarreled with flight attendants and passengers on a flight to the tournament in the Altai Region.
He then broke the nose of an airport employee and started a brawl in the hotel restaurant where a wedding was taking place.