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Farewell to Fedor: Retirement tribute to the 'First Emperor' of heavyweight MMA

"This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang, but a whimper." - T.S. Eliot

When the American poet wrote those words nearly a century ago, there's absolutely no way he could have known of a man who would be born in 1976 in then-USSR whose parents would name Fedor Emelianenko. There's no way Eliot could have foreseen the impact this unassuming character would have on the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) or how his legendary career would ultimately fizzle out.

The Russian, who once terrorized all manner of opponents inside the squared circle while doing the same to fight promoters outside of it, announced his retirement today (June 21, 2012) following his 90-second shellacking (watch the video here) of a long-past his prime Pedro Rizzo.

It wasn't in a bout promoted by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the premier fight promotion in the world. The closest Emelianenko came to stepping foot inside the Octagon was his fight against Dan Henderson in Strikeforce which came after Zuffa purchased the San Jose-based company.

And it wasn't a grand pay-per-view (spectacle) like the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) usually puts on or even the two shows Affliction ran with the Russian as its headliner. It's not expected to rake in millions upon millions of dollars, either.

Fans watched via internet streams of varying quality and legality. And those who did witnessed the end of an era.

They watched one of the greatest fighters in the sport end his career much like he approached it; quiet, reserved and with his faith and family at the forefront of his mind.

Here's to you, "Last Emperor."

For a time, the biggest fight that could possibly ever be made was to pit Emelianenko against then-UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar.

The only similarity between the two was the severity in which they dispatched their opponents. In every other way, there were polar opposites.

Lesnar was brash, arrogant and a bully. Emelianenko wore hipster-esque sweaters and loved ice cream.

The WWE Superstar sported a claymore tattoo on his chest and a giant skull was inked across his broad back. The Russian looked more like a delivery truck driver than one of the greatest fighters of all time.

In many ways, Lesnar symbolized the stereotype of MMA fighters and its fans while Emelianenko bucked all preconceptions. It's why many gravitated to him.

And the amazing knockouts and submissions didn't hurt either.

In 14 fights for the defunct-Japanese promotion, PRIDE Fighting Championships, Emelianenko never lost and only went to a decision four times. Once against Semmy Schilt, who would go on to win the K-1 World Grand Prix four times and the other three were against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira -- twice -- and Mirko Filipovic, heavyweight legends in their own right.

Three technical knockout (TKO) victories and a bevy of submission victories stand as testament to his dominance across the Pacific. When he began fighting stateside for Affliction, he racked up two more wins against Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski, adding them to a hit list including Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman and Nogueira of men who had or would wear the UFC heavyweight crown.

"The Last Emperor" accomplished all this while being small in stature. At six-foot and 230-some odd pounds, he's larger than your average man but in the world of MMA heavyweights who cut down to reach the 265-pound maximum limit, he might as well have been a welterweight.

Still, he won. And continued to win. It didn't matter if it was Kazuyuki Fujita cracking him across the jaw or Randleman German suplexing him nearly onto his head, Emelianenko always managed to get his arm raised at the end.

It wasn't until he faced off against Fabricio Werdum the Russian tasted defeat for the first time. Caught in the Brazilian's vice-like triangle choke, Emelianenko was forced to submit. And with a single tap of his hand, a god bled.

By the end of two rounds with Antonio Silva, the last hope of PRIDE was all but dead while a knockout against Dan Henderson nearly six months later only served to shovel more dirt on the grave.

What could now be known as the "Fedor Emelianenko Retirement Tour" started four months later in Moscow with an uninspired decision win over Jeff Monson. A quick knockout over Satoshi Ishii followed six weeks later.

And now, following his victory over Rizzo, "The Last Emperor" has walked away from the sport on his own terms.

His own terms; it's exactly how he approached the sport from day one.

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