DUBAI // Russian mixed martial arts legend Fedor Emelianenko held a rare seminar on Wednesday for more than 100 of his fans and amateur fighters at Glory MMA and Fitness Centre in Al Quoz.
Dubbed “The Last Emperor” for his near-perfect reign in the ring and cage for more than a decade, Emelianenko is a sambist and judoka martial artist who won several world titles, and Russian and European tournaments.
His most notable success in an extensive career was the Pride 2004 Grand Prix title win, when he defeated Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera in one of the most talked about fights in MMA history.
Last night he showed how he was able to manhandle the top heavyweights in the world, almost all of whom were more than twice his size.
“It’s not about power,” Emelianenko told the class. “It’s about technique.”
Even the more advanced practitioners of the sport were astounded by the champion’s insights into every little detail of the sport.
“It’s amazing how intelligent he is,” said one fighter. “Now I understand how he was so calm in every position in his fights. He has mastered all of them.”
Emelianenko covered how to turn a disadvantage into an advantage if you pay attention to your opponent’s centre of gravity at all times. He also advised fighters to keep a poker face when exchanging blows.
“You must have a blank expression. Your opponent is trying to read your eyes and see your reaction to everything he is trying, so you can’t give anything away.”
“Not in my wildest dreams did I think I would get to train with Fedor one day,” said Vlad Belov, 18, who had been training MMA at Glory for more than two years.
“He showed us much of what we train here every day but just at a much higher level. It was just an amazing experience.”
Emelianenko’s visit is a huge boost to the ever-growing MMA scene in the region and there was also preliminary talk of the UAE setting up a MMA team. Plans are also afoot for a federation.
“The main purpose of the visit is to help establish a federation to monitor the sport and regulate MMA,” said Tam Khan, owner and head coach of Glory MMA Centre.
“We have federations for judo here but not for MMA. We need a body that can look out for the interest of the fighter and protect them.
“That will go a long way in developing the sport in the region and building a legitimate UAE team.”
MMA events in the UAE are regulated under general sports federations or judo federations.
“MMA combines various combat sports into one, so we need a regulatory authority that is familiar with all aspects of the sport,” said Mr Khan. “We need to get proper licensing, referees, judging to legitimise the sport in the region.”
Of Emelianenko’s visit, he added: “I was just so happy, especially to bring such a rare thing like this to my students and MMA fans in Dubai.
“It’s like meeting Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods for my Russian students. I just know they’ll be so happy. Fedor is to Russia what Manny Pacquiao is to the Philippines.”
Emelianenko, 37, said: “MMA fans are more important to me than anything else. I do my best to teach them good techniques and interesting movements.
“It is very important for me that they enjoy it and want to continue practising MMA. Communication is the most important part, making sure that we understand all the details.
“I want people to leave with the feeling that this experience has exceeded their expectations. I will leave part of my soul in this seminar.”
In his career, Emelianenko was known for his baby face and shyness, both of which were deceptive as they masked his vicious fighting style, his deadly ground and pound, and his unbelievable endurance.
“It takes a few seconds to understand my opponent, from the way he moves and the distance he keeps,” he said. “The same is true during training. You have to read the fighter and find the weakness.
“My most interesting fights were the ones where it was a battle of the minds, like a chess match. Those are the ones I enjoyed the most.
“I’m not a fan of just exchanging punches or kicks, or doing fancy moves to show off. Everything you do in a fight has to be for a reason.
“I love to see fighters who can change their style based on the type of opponent they are facing.”