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MMA Fighter of the Decade

In looking back at the decade, I can’t think of another sport that grew so big quicker than MMA. In the United States, the UFC became a household name by the end of the decade. In Japan, MMA has dominated sports culture and shattered ratings records over the last ten years. While thousands have competed in MMA, only a handful have single handedly made an impact. Today I look back at the MMA Fighter of the Decade.

I can’t ever imagine another decade where MMA will experience the kind of growth that it experienced in the last ten years. The UFC came to pay-per-view here in the United States simply as a vehicle to promote Royce Gracie and Gracie BJJ. As we finish the decade, the “barbaric” events that created the UFC have morphed into a sport featuring Olympic and championship athletes from all over the world.

How do you come up with one MMA Fighter of the Decade? I based my decision on a variety of factors. The first factor would be success. It would be ridiculous to give this award to someone with a subpar record, no matter how big of a star he may be. Two, I look at the quality of opponents. There are some guys that step up and face the best, while there are others who do the best they can to avoid the competition. Third, I look at longevity. As impressive as Brock Lesnar is, he has had four fights in the UFC, and has only fought once in 2009. Four, I look at the impact of the fighter and how well they drew as an entertainer and box office attraction. Finally, I look at reputation and how the fighter is perceived in the world of MMA.

MMA Fighter of the Decade – Fedor Emelianenko

In doing the research for this blog, I put all of the obvious names on paper. The obvious names are Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre, BJ Penn, Royce Gracie, and of course Fedor. The more research I did, the more Fedor just kept blowing these guys away in all of the criteria. By the time I was finished with my research, Fedor ran away with this award. Let’s break down all of the factors and see why Fedor Emelianenko is the MMA Fighter of the Decade.

1 – Success. Fedor has only lost one match in the entire decade. As a matter of a fact, the only loss Fedor suffered came at the end of the year 2000. He hasn’t lost a match in nine years. His overall record is 31-1-1. He fights an average of just under three fights a year, which is a lot in an era where most of the UFC champions fight 1-2 times a year. He has 24 fights that ended by either submission or knockout. There is no other fighter that even comes close to Fedor’s MMA record over the last decade.

[adinserter block=”1″]2 – Quality of Opponents. Fedor is not a guy that won 31 fights over tomato cans. When Fedor finally made the jump from Rings to Pride, he fought top-level competition right off the bat. He has wins over four former UFC heavyweight champions. He has three wins over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (when he was considered arguably the best fighter in the world), as well as wins over Semmy Schilt, Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, Ricardo Arona, Mirko Cro Cop (when he was considered unbeatable), Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski, Matt Lindland, and Mark Hunt just to name a few. He fought most of those guys in their primes. There is no other UFC or MMA fighter that has the same number of quality wins overt he course of ten years that Fedor has. Not even close.

3 – Longevity. Fedor has been fighting for the entire decade. There were some years where he fought five times in one year. UFC president Dana White has criticized Fedor for not fighting frequently over the last few years. However, he has fought the same or more times than almost all of the top UFC fighters have over the last few years. In Pride, he fought 3-5 times a year. Just think for a second about how impressive it is to fight five times in one year! Randy Couture only fought more than twice a year once in 2000 and he is regareded as an MMA legend. Chuck Liddell never fought more than three times in one year. Fedor was a machine for most of the decade.

4 – MMA Impact. This is the only category where Fedor loses to anyone and that would be Chuck Liddell. Fedor was a ratings machine during most of the decade in Japan and some international markets. In the United States, Fedor has been a huge disappointment on pay-per-view and television. He had modest success with Strikeforce depending upon how you judge his CBS ratings. The chances are pretty good that Fedor could walk into a local gas station and nobody would know who he is, whereas Chuck Liddell is a mainstream celebrity. If the criteria were even all of the way for Fedor and Chuck, than Chuck would win based on the impact he had in MMA. Unfortunately, Chuck’s record and his slide over the last few years preclude that from happening. At the same time, Fedor was a megastar in Japan but those days are behind him.

As you can tell, this was really an race between Fedor and Chuck Liddell. While other fighters like Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz have had huge impacts on MMA over the decade, their records completely discount them from consideration. Couture was 23-8 and only beat one high-quality opponent in Chuck Liddell. I think Randy’s stature in the MMA world is more hype than fact. Tito hasn’t beaten anyone in years, unless you count an inexperienced Forrest Griffin three years ago as a huge win. There is no denying that Fedor has eclipsed all of the MMA heavy hitters in terms of big opponents and big matches.

I also think it wouldn’t be fair to write an article about the best MMA fighter of the decade without mentioning BJ Penn. Penn won championships in two different weight classes in the UFC. Penn has been one of the most dominant fighters in his division over the decade. It is arguable that if not for Penn himself, he may have run the table and went undefeated over the decade. Penn’s implosions kept him from reaching his potential until the end of the decade. Unfortunately those implosions came during the two biggest fights in Penn’s career. My suspicion is that if Penn could have pulled off those wins over GSP and Matt Hughes, we may be talking about BJ Penn as the Fighter of the Decade.

[adinserter block=”1″]I don’t think there will be another fighter to dominate a decade like Fedor did. BJ Penn has a shot over the next ten years, but he has to win a few Super Fights to be considered. Sure, there will be guys like Brock Lesnar that may fight once or twice a year but I don’t know if he will ever have the consistent level of competition that Fedor had in Pride FC. I can’t ever envision a fighter that fights and beats high-quality opponents five times a year the way Fedor did a few times over the last decade. Dana White can make fun of Fedor all day, but nobody in the UFC has ever accomplished what Fedor has been able to do in MMA over an entire decade.

Fedor Emelianenko is truly the MMA Fighter of the Decade.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. In my opinion Fedor is a good fighter but due to the lesser opponents has looked great but there are 2 fighters that deserve fighter of the decade more.And thats being kind because I could go on and give reasons more would place ahead of Fedor.But Anderson Silva and GSP are much more desreving than anyone else.I can't say who is a better fighter Silva or GSP a fight will deside that.But I give it to Silva only because of GSPs loss to Matt Huges witch he came back and showed he was a much better fighter.The same with Matt Sara how got as luckey as a fighter could witch was proven in the remach.So In my opinion it could go to 1 of the 2 but i guess due to very unlucky surcumstances Silva would get the nod by alot of MMA fans.But Silva was dominated by Sonnan I hope I got the name right it seems to be sliping my mind.But he pulled it of luckly with about 14 secounds left but was beaten the hole entire fight by I would say a lesser fighter than GSP and probably a much lesser wrestler.So I guess its a flip but even though I think GSP could possibly win against Syilva Syilva would probably be fighter of the decade.

  2. Say all the bad things about Fedor,…but MMA addicts know Fedor is the best and probably the greatest. That's what separates true MMA fans w/ these craps. 2K decade belongs to Fedor.

  3. Fedor fighter of the decade. WHAT A JOKE. The only award Fedor should get is MMA fight ducker of the decade. There are a lot more fighter that diserve that title and has done a lot more for the sport.

  4. Ok Fador is a great fighter but your Ouality of fighters statement is a joke. The last time Fedor had any real compition was in 2004. Since then he has fought no bodys and has beens but people still jump on the Fedor Band wagon and cheer like idoits when he beat a irrelevant opponent. Fedor might not be ducking the best fighters in MMA but M1 sure is. They want to keep there cash cow winning at all cost because once he loseses m1 is out of business.

    Fedor is good but Fight of the decade no way!The fighter of the decade has to fight the best of best not run to strikeforce and fight leses oponents. As a former Fedor fan I demand he fights better fighter and I can't believe other Fedor fans let this crap stand. Fedor is the only fighter in all of MMA that fights lesses oponents and still get worshiped like a god. Total BULL @#$%.

    Any true champion will only fight the best and will not stand for any thing less. M1is a disgrace to the sport of MMA. There greed keep the fans from seeing truly great fight. The fans make this sport what it is and M1 could care less about us.

    Fedor fighter of the decade NO WAY!!!!!!!

    • Okay, if not Fedor than who? Name me another fighter who fought and beat more top opponents in his division than Fedor over the course of a decade. Keep in mind, this is a fighter of the decade piece. Has Fedor fought the best in the last few years? No, but not many fighters have. Over the course of an entire decade, there is no other fighter that fought and beat the level of competition in their primes than Fedor. If so, who?

  5. quality of opponents u give to fedor? when ova the last couple yrs he beat matt lindland whos a middleweight, hong man choi in his 2nd fight ever, zuluzinho who is pretty much a japanese novelty, tim sylvia who is a big doofy mess since randy laid the 5 rd beatdown on him, arlovski whos chin turned to glass, and brett rogers who works a day job at sams club. really this is a list of world beaters that give fedor the nod for quality opponent. how many that i listed r ranked heavyweights? rogers so 1. and as for those former heavyweight champs theres a reason y arlovski and sylvia r no longer in the ufc cuz they couldnt hang wit guys like big nog, velasquez, carwin, mir, or brock. the rest i agree wit although for chuck liddel to get mma impact i think ud hafta throw randy in there as well cuz they both coached season 1 of TUF.

    SUCCESS-fedor and only as a techniquality. yea hes won but against weak competition IMO.

    QUALITY OPPONENTS-has to go to bj penn. the man from the fight wit gomi on has fought nonstop top flight competition.

    LONGEVITY- theres alot of fighters that have been fighting the entire decade so put there name on a dart board and start throwin.

    MMA IMPACT- randy/chuck for there appearance on season 1 of TUF

    • I can somewhat see your point about Randy Couture. Although I don't think he is anywhere near the mainstream celebrity that Chuck is.

      Has BJ fought more high quality opponents over ten years than Fedor? I don't think so. Not too mention, he lost his two biggest matches against GSP and Matt Hughes. Say what you will about Fedor, but he beat everyone.

      There may be a lot of fighters that have fought through the entire decade but none have went undefeated. Fedor did.

  6. I couldn't agree with you more. Fedor is definitely the best fighter on the planet. It doesn't matter who he fights, either. He wins all his battles.

    GSP comes in close, but Anderson Silva has to be runner up, because although his recent fights have been crap, he still hasn't lost since that fight against the underdog in Japan (Japanese fighter submitted Silva). That was long ago. Same with Fdeor's loss; long ago.

    • Thanks man.

      GSP definitely is right up there but his losses to Serra and Hughes definitely tarnish his dominance of the decade. Anderson's losses as well kind of put him behind the eight ball. However, in a Top 5 they would definitely have to be included.

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