Fedor Emelianenko. Photo courtesy of Affliction Entertainment.
As he spoke to the 11,287 in attendance at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, NJ, Fedor Emelianenko, long MMA's top fighter in any weight class, looked relieved.
Following his loss to Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva in the opening round of Strikeforce's heavyweight grand prix tournament on Saturday, Emelianenko revealed that he may have just fought for the last time.
"Something went wrong from the very beginning and I couldn't readjust myself," Emelianenko said after the fight. "Maybe it's time to leave. Maybe it's the last time. Maybe it's high time. Thank you for everything. I spent a great, beautiful and long sporting life. Maybe it's God's will."
Emelianenko has hinted at hanging up the gloves before, stating many times during interviews and media appearances since he began fighting exclusively in North America that his career was winding down and that he was actively thinking about retirement.
Despite all of this, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker still believes that the most popular fighter on his roster will step into the cage again in the future.
"Fedor always comes back in the third round, but he didn’t get a chance to today,” Coker said at the event's post-fight press conference. “As far as retirement, you know how that goes. People get very emotional during a fight, so we’ll see. My position is that we have many more fights with Fedor and that he’ll honor his contract."
Coker also touched on the possibility of Emelianenko serving as an injury replacement option for the tournament, despite three other fighters already in line for that opportunity.
"Fedor could absolutely be a replacement," said Coker. "A committee will decide who will move forward. I’m not even on that committee, but Fedor is definitely a possibility. It may be Fedor that goes in there depending on what the committee decides."
M-1 Global CEO Vadim Finkelchtein, Emelianenko's longtime manager, echoed Coker's sentiments about the chances of seeing Fedor back in action before calling it a career.
“Fedor is very upset, because he was really ready for this fight," Finkelchtein said. "Everyone saw how the fans greeted him. He’s had a wonderful career. I think that the stoppage isn’t such a clear-cut loss that he will stop. This loss will give him more strength to go on in the future.
“The decision is up to Fedor but I think I know him quite well. I think that he’s still full of strength and I think he will continue. Again, the decision is up to him, but I would encourage him, because I think he still has a lot to show his fans."
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