"The Last Emperor" is nearing his last days.
Fedor Emelianenko, the Russian heavyweight who UFC president Dana White acknowledges as the only major name that he's never been able to sign, says he will call it quits following his June 21 fight against Pedro Rizzo.
He made the statement in an interview on Russian language television.
Russian MMA journalist Artem Yalanskiy provided MMA Fighting with a translation of the key exchange of the interview.
"My previous fight was in Moscow and my last fight will be in St. Petersburg on June 21st," Emelianenko says. "It will be the last fight in my career."
"Is this your final decision?" the interviewer asks.
"Yes," Emelianenko says, "I think it's time to end my career.
Emelianenko said the primary reason for his retirement is to spend more time with his family, but he also mentioned the mounting toll of injuries from a career spent in MMA and sambo.
The quiet 35-year-old has been one of the controversial figures in recent MMA history by those who have argued his place in the sport. Many believe him to be the greatest heavyweight of all time, while others have suggested him to be an overhyped product of favorable matchmaking.
His heyday, which was undeniably during the early-to-mid 2000s, can hardly be questioned. At that time, he was considered by most observers to be the top fighter in the world after beating standouts like Kevin Randleman, Mark Coleman, and most notably, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueria, who was the top heavyweight prior to him.
He also beat Mirko Filipovic during "Cro Cop's" best days.
By the time PRIDE folded, Emelianenko was the most wanted free agent in MMA, but despite the UFC's rise, the two sides could never come to terms despite multiple negotiations.
Emelianenko lost only once in his first 33 pro fights, and shortly after Brock Lesnar won his UFC championship, UFC president Dana White went on his last recruiting effort for Emelianenko. If he could have signed him, the fight would have likely taken place at the massive, 80,000-seat Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas and certainly would have headlined a blockbuster pay-per-view, but just like every other time the two sides got in a room, they failed to hammer out a deal.
Instead, Emelianenko and his M-1 management team signed with Strikeforce. He won his first fight there, but in his next time out, was upset by Fabricio Werdum, marking his first loss in nearly 10 years. Losses to Antonio Silva and Dan Henderson marked three in a row for him, and he parted ways with Strikeforce.
Since then, he's fought twice, beating Jeff Monson and Satoshi Ishii.
His fight with Rizzo is booked, but it appears to be the last time Emelianenko will ever compete as a professional fighter.
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