As the fireworks explode inside the Izod Center on Saturday night, Fedor Emelianenko will walk toward the cage. Those steps will be different than before. For the first time in more than 10 years, Emelianenko will be fighting off of a loss. His 27-fight win streak was ended last June by Fabricio Werdum.
Emelianenko, who fights Antonio Silva in the quarterfinals of the Strikeforce World Grand Prix heavyweight tournament, says he expected the loss.
“Nothing has changed with my mentality after the loss," Emelianenko said. "I treat and I think about that loss as something which had to happen. The thing is, sooner or later, all fighters lose. I’m always ready for the loss because that’s how life is.”
The crowd that night wasn't ready for it. Most of the MMA circles weren't, either. But now there's a little less luster around the mercurial Russian, a little less aura and mystique. That could change Saturday night with a win. Or with a loss.
Either way, Emelianenko is a huge draw for Strikeforce. And New York. Fans have clamored to get a glimpse of "The Last Emperor" throughout the week at various events. Will that translate inside the Izod Center?
“I hope for a very warm welcome and for support because I’ve always been met here in a very warm way because this is a city where beautiful people live," Emelianenko said, "and there’s a lot of people here."