For some, the NFL is no match for Fedor Emelianenko
There’s only a handful of fighters who can get enough young men off their couches to fill a gym on a football Sunday. Fedor Emelianenko is one of those fighters.
The man many have lauded as the greatest mixed martial artist of all time hosted a two-hour crash course in fighting Fedor-style for 40 prospects at the M-1 Global Training Center in Chatsworth.
The 34-year-old Emelianenko, who has bested no fewer than five former UFC champions in his dominant tenure, saw his unmatched 10-year, 28-fight victory streak come to a dramatic end when he tapped out to Fabricio Werdum in 69 seconds in June in Strikeforce.
On Sunday, Emelianenko proved to be a much more animated teacher than might have been expected of a stoic fighter known for emotion-free performances.
Surrounded by his sea of students, a booming Emelianenko lectured through his translator on the art of counter-striking, baiting and distracting opponents and controlling one’s distance from a foe.
“Fighters make mistakes when they take longer strides. I’m never running at my opponent,” said Emelianenko, who demonstrated his own technique by pivoting and throwing combinations into the air. “I’m faster when I’m taking smaller steps in any direction.”
As his students practiced, Emelianenko surveyed the crowd and made eye contact with a confused participant, encouraging him to ask his question. The former Pride Fighting Championships titleholder demonstrated again, making sure his pupil understood what adjustments needed to be made to his stance.
“Da, da,” Emelianenko approved with an easy smile as the fighter tried again with better success.
Trent Buxton, a novice pro fighter out of Hollywood, said the opportunity to learn under Emelianenko –- if only for a couple of hours -– was a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” Buxton’s friend and training partner bought him the session as a birthday gift.
“He does everything just a little bit differently, so you take what you can, little bits of things that can work for you,” said Buxton, 33.
Buxton said he was only disappointed that Emelianenko didn’t teach his “looping Sambo punch,” which has kick-started win sequences for the Russian heavyweight in a number of his legendary battles.
But Buxton figured even masters had to guard some of their secrets.
“He doesn’t punch the way he taught us today,” said an amused Buxton. “I think he was holding out on us.”
Emelianenko’s next stop in his weeklong stay in the U.S. will be an autograph signing and appearance at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Universal Studios for the launch of the EA Sports MMA game. Six-time UFC champion Randy Couture, who graces the game’s cover with Emelianenko, will later challenge the Russian to a pixilated version of their once-anticipated mega-fight for the fans, before both head to an open-to-the-public VIP party that evening at the Highlands nightclub in Hollywood.
Meanwhile, M-1 Global, the management group that handles Emelianenko, and Strikeforce are on the third and final event of their co-promotional contract. Both groups told the L.A. Times that negotiations were still alive and progressing to extend the agreement for more Emelianenko-headlined shows into 2011. That deal also could include the airing of up to four M-1 Challenge events with Showtime, Strikeforce’s broadcast partner.
Strikeforce Chief Executive Scott Coker said Friday all parties were keen to get Emelianenko back in play for a planned Jan. 29 show, if possible.
“Fedor is ready to fight now,” said M-1 Global President Vadim Finkelchtein. “I’m confident that things will work out to where he is satisfied.”
-- Loretta Hunt
Photo: Fedor Emelianenko gives some tips to MMA students on Oct. 17, 2010. Credit: Loretta Hunt