When Fedor Emelianenko—the baddest man on the planet—walks through the door, the first thing you notice about him is … he’s not all that big. The statistics list Fedor Emelianenko as 6 feet tall and 230 pounds, but even that seems a stretch. When he enters a Manhattan gym with an entourage of handlers, several of whom are larger than he is, you might not know he’s regarded as the greatest heavyweight in the history of the mixed martial arts unless you were already a fan of his. And the common wisdom has long been that his fan base in the United States is confined to the hard-core MMA junkies, the kind of people who scour the Internet for hours on end just to learn what Chuck Liddell had for breakfast this morning. But either the common wisdom is horribly wrong or New York has more MMA fans per capita than anywhere else on earth. Word of Fedor Emelianenko’s arrival in town for a public workout and press conference was sent out only a couple of days beforehand to MMA journalists, but hundreds of fans were lined up around the block an hour before he was scheduled to show up. There was a brief period earlier in the day when it appeared the event wouldn’t even get off the ground. Several uniformed firefighters made their way into the building, and concerns about safety-code violations related to overcrowding began to dance in the heads of the Showtime executives who’d scheduled the appearance. But it turned out the firemen were there simply to get their pictures taken with Fedor Emelianenko. Apparently, even the NYFD are big fans. It was difficult to tell if the enigmatic heavyweight returned the sentiments. Although he’s always polite, it’s hard to fathom what’s going on in the 33-year-old Russian’s mind. During the press conference, he gave his careful, stock answers to queries about why he signed with Strikeforce rather than the much larger Ultimate Fighting Championship and what he thought of UFC heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar, always taking his time to listen to his translator—even though he has a good grasp of English. Known as an emotionless, stone-faced fighting machine inside the ring, he prefers to give little away outside the ring, even when there’s just one reporter rather than a hundred. At a private photo shoot the next day, Fedor Emelianenko would listen as translator Tanya Svyatodumova interpreted the questions from a lone interviewer, then pause for several seconds glancing down at the floor as if lost in thought before giving brief replies. When asked why he seemed so careful and thoughtful, Fedor Emelianenko said: “I don’t think we should say just anything that comes out of our mouths. We shouldn’t utter empty, meaningless words.” The reply from his interviewer, that journalists would be out of business if this were true, managed to bring a small, bemused smirk to his face—but just for a moment before he clamped down again. So much for witticisms. The kind of fame that brings a constant stream of fans and media to his doorstep is not something Fedor Emelianenko ever sought, although he handles it as gracefully as a reluctant celebrity can. His poise may end up being tested even further with his next fight against Brett Rogers, set to be broadcast live on cable television for the first time in the United States via Showtime, a company that would love nothing more than to make him a household name. If that happens, it’ll be on the basis of his fighting skills, not his love of the spotlight. “Fedor Emelianenko’s just a very quiet, private guy,” said Annie Van Tornhout, Showtime’s supervisor of sports communication. It’s her job to help cajole him toward American superstardom. At first glance, it’s easy to assume that his reserved nature is a Russian character trait or the product of the old Soviet sports system, which was just winding down as Fedor Emelianenko began his training in sambo, the Russian grappling art in which he became a world champion. He grew up idolizing the Soviet sports stars of the past, men who were often perceived in the West as cold and robotic. Despite being a self-described weak child, Fedor Emelianenko seized the opportunity to participate in sambo, making up for his lack of athleticism with a burning desire to excel. His longtime trainer, Vladimir Voronov, has said persistence is Fedor Emelianenko’s greatest talent. It was persistence that kept him practicing the martial arts when he entered the Russian army but was inexplicably denied a post in one of the units that specialized in athletics. Instead, he was placed in a firefighting brigade and forced to train on his own during off-duty hours. He left the army in 1997 and ended up winning national championships in both sambo and judo. He probably would have been happy with a career in either sport—he still competes in sambo and has won the world championship three times—but with little money to be made there and a new family to support, he had to turn to the one place his skills could earn him a decent living. Joining the Japan-based Rings organization, he began fighting in MMA competitions in 2000 and has never looked back. Amassing a 30-1 record, his single loss came early in his career—a stoppage that followed cuts from an illegal blow in a bout that should have been ruled a no-contest. He later avenged the lone blemish on his ledger by brutalizing Japanese fighter Tsuyoshi Kohsaka with a one-round TKO. Essentially, he’s been unbeatable for his entire MMA career—although this is an idea Fedor Emelianenko openly scoffs at. “Everyone makes mistakes,” he said. “Sooner or later, it will happen that I lose.” Hardly the typical answer from a champion fighter. “He’s humble. Very much so,” said Joost Raimond, CEO of M-1 Global, the Russian-based company that manages and co-promotes Fedor Emelianenko. “That may put him in a different category from everyone else. But he doesn’t need to pound his own chest.” Indeed, chest pounding is the last thing anyone would expect from Fedor Emelianenko. Although engaged in the most brutal of sports, he doesn’t conduct himself like most other mixed martial artists, often referring to himself as a “sportsman” rather than a fighter. He said he still has a passion for learning and practicing the martial arts but doesn’t like watching others fight. This continued love of the arts was evident when he started running through techniques with his partner for the photo shoot, top-ranked light-heavyweight fighter Gegard Mousasi. Despite the bright lights and camera, it was quickly apparent that this, more than anything else, was Fedor Emelianenko’s natural environment as he began laughing and joking with Mousasi like a couple of youngsters enjoying themselves in the dojo. Losing himself in the pleasant familiarity of the training hall, he even slipped up on a few occasions and lapsed into a bit of English. “Gegard, your feet are dirty,” he teased. When Gegard Mousasi playfully tucked his chin at one point, making it difficult for Fedor Emelianenko to demonstrate his fearsome rear choke, the Russian casually forced Gegard Mousasi ’s head up by driving his knuckles under the other man’s jaw. He jovially explained how he uses the knuckle of each thumb to press underneath the hinge of his opponent’s jaw, causing enough pain to make him lift his head. Sliding those hard, bony knuckles down along the sides of his partner’s neck like water finding a crack to seep into, he slipped one arm under his chin to secure the choke, then proceeded to make Gegard Mousasi pay just a little for his temerity, applying the hold more than once with a touch of glee. Fedor Emelianenko is open when it comes to sharing tips about his legendary ground-and-pound technique from inside an opponent’s guard. Although many fighters become cautious under such circumstances, fearing a submission, or they look to simply loosen their opponent up with a few strikes so they can pass his legs, Fedor Emelianenko is renowned for administering a dominating punching attack while remaining inside the guard. It’s a skill that enabled him to handily beat Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, one of the best guard practitioners in the sport, on two occasions. From down on his knees, he’ll wind up his stocky body, cocking his punch back the way you’re told never to do in a stand-up fight, then hurl himself into the blow like a man throwing a javelin down into the ground. When asked if there’s a risk he’ll unbalance himself, he emphasized the importance of keeping the knees wide for a solid base. Then he explained how his body lands on the opponent’s torso, which he uses to maintain balance and stay somewhat upright. It was a fascinating change to witness a little of his normal reserve fall away as he became more involved in the techniques. Watching from the sidelines, Van Tornhout said she’d never seen him this way. Fedor Emelianenko confessed: “In my childhood years, I was very emotional. Now, maybe, all that energy goes into training.” It would be a mistake to assume he has no ego—almost all world-class athletes do, or they wouldn’t be where they are. When asked to allow Mousasi to place him in a few holds for photographs, he politely declined. No champion ever likes to be seen on the short end of the stick. It’s always tempting to read meaning and devious motives into every action of those in the public spotlight, but that kind of over-analysis isn’t necessary when it comes to understanding for Fedor Emelianenko. In the end, he may be that rarest of all modern celebrities, one about whom you can say, “What you see really is what you get.” What you do see is a thoughtful, reticent individual who genuinely doesn’t care for fame but who tolerates it because it’s part of his job. He also seems to be someone who, like a lot of martial artists, would be happiest simply hanging out at the gym with a few friends, swapping techniques on the mat. And whether in a gym or an arena, that may be something he does better than anyone else alive. (Mark Jacobs is a freelance writer and martial artist based in New York.)
Talks About Being a Smaller Fighter in a Combat Sport Ruled by Giants
At first glance, most people — most martial artists, even — will zero in on the smaller person in any fight and deem him or her to be at a distinct disadvantage. It's a natural tendency to draw this conclusion based on obvious attributes such as height, weight and reach. However, that tendency does not always lead to accurate conclusions.
Fighting Style<p>Johnson attributes much of his success to his background in pankration and wrestling, a foundation he laid before he embarked on a career in <a href="https://blackbeltmag.com/arts/mixedmartialarts/" target="_blank">MMA</a>. Both styles emphasize the strategic use of leverage, which makes them ideal for smaller fighters."</p><p>I try to find my opponent's weakness and exploit that," Johnson said. "Being well-versed and competing in several types of martial arts in my amateur career allows me to find that weakness, take [my opponents] there and then put them in that realm where they can't survive — and beat them there!"</p><p>This strategy, inspired by the teachings of pankration and wrestling, has proved a viable solution for Johnson time after time. In fact, it's his proficiency in both systems that's enabled him to excel in MMA. Consider the following:</p><p>Any observer of the fight sport will tell you that plenty of practitioners are proficient in one discipline, which they often augment by cross-training in techniques extracted from other styles that are believed to help them round out their skill set. These fighters tend to lean on their adopted techniques for setups and fakes designed to engage their opponents. Unfortunately, when fatigue sets in, they frequently fall back on their primary skill set in an effort to gain the upper hand — or, in some cases, just to survive.</p><p>This isn't the case for Johnson. He represents a new breed of combat athlete who's gained extensive experience in a variety of fighting disciplines. Being well-versed at executing a mass of moves, fighters like him need not rely on their primary martial art, which winds up making them more adaptable and unpredictable in a match.</p><p>Johnson's record of 30-3-1 offers tangible proof of his ability to exploit his opponents' weaknesses. Those 30 wins consist of 12 submissions and five knockouts via punches, head kicks and knee strikes, a testament to his proficiency in all the ranges of combat.</p>
BODY JAB TO HOOK PUNCH TO HEAD KICK
TAKEDOWN TO ARMBAR
Technique Alteration<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM3OTQ5NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMjgxMjcyOH0.4UkgOc1GZ7yTg669vPYYZyapzuJhaTJmn137mIW17z4/image.jpg?width=980" id="b07bf" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5dd1006607f5c8bb7c069aa8adb2b1a7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>Alteration With the right coaching, almost any basic martial arts move can be altered to make it work better for a shorter fighter, Johnson said. He brought his point to life as he walked through setups for his combinations and takedowns designed to fell taller opponents during his Black Belt photo shoot. He started his explanation with the simplest punch of all.</p><p>"When a jab is thrown from someone at a lower angle, you can fit it between [the opponent's] arms and into this wide-open gap to the body," Johnson said. "[The opening] just isn't there with guys the same height as you."</p><p>He went on to say that this observation can allow you to elicit reactions from your opponent as he defends himself. That, in turn, can open other areas for you to target.</p><p>The same logic, Johnson noted, applies to takedowns. Here's how: Against a taller opponent, the conventional double- and single-leg takedown normally do the job. A shorter fighter's size, however, enables him to shoot in at a lower level, which makes the techniques harder to defend against and the shooter harder to grab. Furthermore, the shorter person's often-superior speed permits him to transition to a follow-up grappling technique before the pair even hits the ground.</p><p>"By grabbing the right spot on the wrist during a single-leg or starting to climb up their body as they fall during a double-leg, you can put yourself in the right position," Johnson said. An expert at such tweaks, he noted that advanced concepts like this have allowed him to dominate in the cage despite disadvantages in height and reach.</p>
New Challenges<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM3OTUwMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMjkwNjY3OH0.cdhkoclQKHqpeRWm3QDkeET7-uJIvVkkSXUkqPzxTaY/image.jpg?width=980" id="b7dc2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1c786eb156d34f93628ff1422aeaa94b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>New Challenges Johnson's decision to join <a href="https://www.onefc.com/" target="_blank">ONE Championship</a> in late 2018 means that his previous success as a flyweight in other fight franchises may be in jeopardy. </p><p>That's because the Singapore-based promotion touts a strict "no weight cutting" policy that will force the American to take on heavier opponents in his normal 135-pound weight class.</p><p>The new challenge is nothing he can't handle, Johnson said confidently, because he's well-versed in using his size to his advantage. On top of that, he has years of experience on the North American MMA circuit to back up his skill set.</p><p>Nevertheless, Johnson admitted that a fight is a fight and therefore unpredictable, and that his opponents from the Far East will not be easily conquered. In fact, because ONE is based in a part of the world where fighters tend to be smaller than in the West, he likely will have his work cut out for him.</p><p>"I'm fighting guys who are a lot taller," Johnson said regarding his ONE Championship opponents. "In my last fight, I fought [Tatsumitsu Wada], who is 5 feet 9 inches tall, and when he took my back, he was able to get a triangle on my body so easily." That feat, he added, is rarely accomplished on a person who is equal in stature.</p><p>Johnson's solution? When preparing to take on a taller opponent, he likes to abandon the "fighting tall" mentality that's so common in his sport. It revolves around the urge to strike the taller person's face while squaring off. That tactic is simply not an option in such situations, Johnson said.</p><p>Instead, you need to focus on your strengths as a smaller fighter, he said. Get low and use your leverage for offense and defense. Take advantage of the gaps that exist in the taller person's stance. When you strike, do so with intent. Get in, execute and get out. Don't get caught in between, taking your time — because sooner or later that mistake will catch up with you</p>
Future Fights<p>Whenever you're the first person to gain fame for achieving something, it means you have to pave your own road to success. When Johnson entered the martial arts in 2007, he found no prominent examples of smaller fighters who consistently saw success in the cage. Consequently, there was no one he could turn to for inspiration.</p><p>"When I jumped into martial arts, there was no avenue for me to go," Johnson explained. "[I was] sitting there as a kid, watching these guys who were all heavyweights in boxing and MMA. With me weighing a buck twenty-five, I never thought those were the professional athletes I wanted to be like."</p><p>The fight sport is different now. As Johnson enters his 13th year as a professional mixed martial artist, he serves as an exemplary lightweight role model — precisely the kind of person he failed to find early in his career.</p><p>As scores of smaller martial artists scramble to follow in his footsteps, Johnson has inadvertently secured the future of his weight division on the global stage. For an athlete as disciplined as Johnson, the notion carries no added burden.</p><p>"I'm at a point in my career where I'm just focused on the grind of putting on great performances," he said. "That way, when I'm done with this sport, that's it. I'm good. I can be done with it and with no regrets."</p>
SIDE CONTROL TO MOUNT TO ARMBAR
2019 MMA Fighter of the Year<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM3OTU2MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxOTU2MjM3Mn0.LrW3wCdX6bc_Ago2X34P1EG87EwZP6pUhXwJbpZ-Iec/image.jpg?width=980" id="ffa02" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="21aff8779f96ba47af9b40ef6aaedcb3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>When he hit the MMA circuit in 2007, Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson was a human tsunami. An immediate force to be reckoned with, he dominated the bantamweight and featherweight divisions of the sport thanks to his lightning-fast fists and his arsenal of grappling techniques. Like a true martial artist, he hasn't let his success go to his head.</p><p>"I am very happy with where I'm at in my career," Johnson stated. "The martial arts have given me and my family a wonderful life. If I were to stop fighting today, I'd be satisfied with the way everything has turned out."</p><p>That said, Johnson has no plans of bowing out of the ring anytime soon. In fact, he's gearing up for his next big fight, which will have taken place in Japan before this issue of Black Belt hits newsstands.</p><p>"I'm training for the World Grand Prix — ONE: CENTURY in October,2019" Johnson said. "It's a big event! This is the 100th time [it] has been held, and I'm very excited to be part of it. I grew up watching Japanese MMA, and now I get a chance to win one. It's awesome!"</p><p>From the moment Johnson first came to grips with an opponent in the cage, it was apparent that he was a rising star. Now, with a string of victories under his belt and numerous awards and honors bestowed on him, he's been dubbed one of the greatest mixed martial artists in the world. In a sport abundant with talent, Johnson has achieved rock-star status with legions of fans glued to his every move.</p><p>Why are they so devoted? A glimpse into Mighty Mouse's makeup comes from one of his most-talked-about fights in which he squared off against Miguel Torres. After breaking his fibula when he checked a leg kick in the second round, Johnson continued to wage war. He ignored the pain and concentrated on his grappling skills to survive. In the end, he won a unanimous decision.</p><p>"The key to winning, and sometimes the key to surviving in order to win, is having the ability to stay focused and take care of the task at hand," Johnson said. "That is how I approach my fights and my personal life. I know what I really want out of life, and I stay focused on that task — whether it's winning a fight or taking care of my family. My wife Destiny and my three children are the most important things in my life."</p><p>Because of his past accomplishments, his bright future and his pervasive martial mindset, Black Belt is pleased to make Demetrious Johnson its 2019 MMA Fighter of the Year. </p><p><em>— Terry L. Wilson<br>Photography By Patrick Sternkopf<br>Event photos Courtesy of ONE FC<br></em></p>
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Intuition is always right in at least two important ways. It is always in response to something. It always has your best interest at heart. — Gavin de Becker
When intuition grabs our attention to warn us of danger in our surroundings, it often feels like an alarm going off in our body. When danger is present, the sensation we feel, in the words of some people, is like an electric current that starts in the gut and radiates outward. Others have described the feeling as a chill running up the spine or a generalized lack of comfort.
The commonality is a definite sense of unease, a nagging feeling that won't go away. There also might be a flash of insight or a sensation that comes to us, one that we never sought out.
Bellator 242 will officially be the promotions return to the spotlight on July 24th since canceling its remaining events due to COVID earlier this year. The main event for the card will feature Ricky Bandejas vs. Sergio Pettis.
As promoters and fans alike begin to settle in to the new normal, Bellator MMA has announced it will resume fights beginning with Bellator 242 July 24th. With UFC, One Championship, Invicta FC, and many other small promotions having already returned fans have been anxiously awaiting Bellators next move.
Bellator 242 Fight Card<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ1OTcyNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjMzMzMxOX0.dwMAW6ofX38VmK6CzGPHFb1p9XRRlhKJ-nWneTWSbqg/image.jpg?width=980" id="0c999" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bc7599480d6967eb7d4ae4d1bdc38850" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Scott Coker President of Bellator MMA" />
Bellator President Scott Coker
ONE Championship is set to return on July 31 in Bangkok, and now the full card has been finalized with four ONE Super Series bouts and two mixed martial arts affairs.
Previously announced was the top of the ticket with two title tilts and an epic trilogy bout of two high-profile signees making their organizational debut.
In the main event, Rodtang Jitmuangnon puts his ONE Flyweight World Championship on the line against Petchdam Petchyindee Academy. This will also be a trilogy bout for the headliners with the series even at 1-1.
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