Fedor Emelianenko Q&A on Life, Sport, and Fitness
Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko is a Russian MMA fighter. There’s no doubt he’s a great fighter, but that’s just one piece that makes up his total package.
Many fighters enter the ring high strung. They set themselves to be high energy or even angry. Fedor is different. He walks out cool and collected. After finishing the fight, he walks away cool and collected.
Let’s take a look at what shapes his inner values from his interviews.
His interviews are in Russian. I translated questions from his interviews into English.
Fedor on Physical Fitness
I have settled on the fact that today or tomorrow, I might have to stand and defend my homeland. Even though I have retired from sport, I still maintain my physical form not so much because I want to look good, but because I understand that anything can happen. All of us, especially men, should be ready to defend their homeland.— Fedor
Energy is everything. Today you don’t need to lift a heavy piece of furniture but tomorrow you lift a table and throw out your back. A man should be ready for tomorrow by training today.
Fedor on starting with yourself
The interviewer asks about the harsh realities of life, especially living in Russia.
You know, one can talk about what’s happening in our country (Russia): That all is bad, that there’s stealing and lying, and something else is going on. You need to start with yourself first. If everyone is out there stealing, you don’t steal. Then things will turn out good for you.
If you look around and there is no discipline, look into personal discipline. If I have my internal discipline and if I live with a habit of discipline, I’ll find that all around me will be fine. To change the world you have to start with yourself. — Fedor
Fedor on Defeat
Interviewer asks how Fedor handles defeat and if he was prepared for losing MMA matches.
How to handle defeat? I’ll tell you this. Even before my defeat I said that I’m ready for defeat. Those weren’t empty words, that’s how it was. When you walk out into the ring, you don’t know what’s waiting for you. I prepared for each fight as if it was my last fight knowing I’d have to give it 100%. All that I could do willingly, I did. But at a certain point, it’s God’s will. — Fedor
This reminds me of the serenity prayer.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Knowing how to lose is hard. Not just knowing, but being able to process loss. Do you prepare for it ahead of time?
Loss is rejection. Loss is failure. At least that’s how loss feels like to an unprepared mind. A prepared mind reframes loss as an experience.
Fedor on Tobacco
I feel sad for these folks because they’re a type of a drug user. In this case, a drug user with a ‘lighter’ drug. A drug this person cannot kick. They are dependent. Plus, he’s damaging his health, not so much only his, but also those that are around him, including the kids he’s raising. — Fedor
Interviewer mentions that there are quite a few number of women that smoke these days as well.
This is regretful. One needs to look inside their inner values. Place your actions around your inner values, let that be your axis. — Fedor
Fedor on no anger towards opponents
Interviewer asks: Do you have anger towards your opponent when you walk out into the ring? After all, you have to beat the opponent, so you have to psyche yourself up in some way.
No. I walk out to the ring as sportsman at a sports exhibition. One doesn’t need anger nor aggression here. I think that anger and aggression clouds one’s mind and doesn’t allow sober judgment. That means you won’t be able to make the right decisions during the fight. When these emotions take over, your logical mind dulls. — Fedor
He gives a similar answer from another interview:
No, I never feel anger in the ring. I don’t allow myself to cross over to anger or to psyche myself out. I consider that one should treat their opponent with respect. We not only perform for sport but it’s also a show. Quite a few fighters try to psyche their opponents out with strong words through undeserved actions. — Fedor
Fedor on emotional control and revenge
Interviewer: So you control yourself emotionally in the ring? Isn’t there a time you want to lash out at the opponent if he’s first spewing harsh words to you?
No, absolutely not. I consider that a person shouldn’t be thrown out of control with these empty words. A Russian man should act as a gentlemen because out in the ring, we’re representing our country. — Fedor
I found a great way to practice controlling emotions. I do it while driving. A guy in a truck will merge without signaling. Another will honk. Another will drive in the left lane going 55 in a 65. It’s tempting to say something in the moment.
Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac? -George Carlin
If I do say something in that hasty moment, I reflect on it and realize it was impulsive. I’ll mentally apologize because that guy might be having a bad day. What, I never have those day?
I was driven by a professional driver back when I was visiting Kazakhstan. The driving there was more extreme than we have here in the US. He was an army guy and although he had to swerve in an out, he never showed angry emotions. He was as cool as a cucumber. I was impressed.
The point is not to be perfect. The point here is practice. You recognize when you’re lashing out and reflect on it so that next time, you’re aware of the situation and skip the lashing out.
Fedor on emotional preparation
Interviewer: How do you prepare for fights psychologically and what would you recommend to the younger fighters?
I always advise younger fighters not to think about the fight right before the fight. Think about anything else you want, but not about the fight. If you’re going to fill your head up with the fight then you’ll burn yourself out internally. It’s like stepping out to the ring before having fought, but inside you already feel like you’ve been fighting and you’re mentally tired. As for me personally, I pray. I’ll hang out with friends that support me. I’ll play chess. I’ll relax. — Fedor
Fedor on relaxing
Interviewer: How do you relax?
I love to read. When I have free time, I’ll read, especially if I’m traveling. At home, I’ll spend time with family and with my daughter. Hanging out with friends and going to a Russian Sauna (Banya). — Fedor
Fedor on worrying before a fight
Interviewer: Do you experience worry when you come out to the ring?
Always. On the day of the fight, every fighter experiences this light feeling of worry (anxiety). — Fedor
Fedor on living healthy
Interviewer: What advice could you give for keeping a healthy way of life?
I think one simple ideal way is to do light running. Every…okay, not every, but at least 3 times per week, do a light run of 2 or 3 km (1 or 2 mi). That will be wonderful for you. Your blood will circulate through your body, saturating it with oxygen, and your lungs will work well. — Fedor
Keep it simple. Keep your eyes on the 90% that matters. The other 10% is likely not worth your time unless you’re training to be an elite athlete.
That 90% is simple running and working on body mobility.
Fedor on living with values
Interviewer: For many people and young kids, you’re a big example and authority, not just in Russia but worldwide. What advice would you give to these kids about how to live, what do do, how to grow up a good man? If you could give a couple of short sentences…
It’s easy to lose your face (values and individuality). One misstep is enough to lose confidence of those around you. Then again, even if one is not living a good life, it is possible turn your life in a moment and say “This was in the past, and now I’m a different person”.
I tell you this from personal experience. I lived in a wrong way. Not only me, but also our Vladimir “Red Sun” (Vladimir the Great). One of his words were “I lived as a beast, but then accepted Christ”. That’s to say one might have lived wrong but in one moment, turned his life around.
Each of us has their lives in their hands. None of us knows whether they’ll wake up tomorrow from their bed or whether they’ll come back home tonight. Still, each moment of life should be lived honorably and so that there is no shame. Don’t go against your consciousness (values).
Fedor on MMA vs Faith
Interviewer: It’s apparent you’re a man of faith, how do you reconcile the harshness and cruelty of this sport with faith?
I wouldn’t say MMA is a cruel sport. Cruelty can be seen between people. It’s how people relate to each other in life and sports. If one keeps the value of a human being, there won’t be a place for cruelty. Regarding harshness, yes, this is a harsh sport. If it’s my place to be here and I participate in this sport to represent Russia then that’s the way it has to be. — Fedor
Fedor on important values in his life
Interviewer: What’s most important to you in your life?
God. He gave me life and a family. On this earth, my family is most important. Of course family is the most important thing we have in life. Afterwards comes vocation and everything else. Most important is my family and all I do is for my family. — Fedor
Fedor on being supported
Interviewer: How do your loved ones and closest people support you? They must worry a lot.
They do worry, but they continue supporting. No tells me to quit. They support me. Even the people I meet day to day, they support my participation in the sport and ask that I don’t leave. — Fedor
Fedor on life after MMA
Interviewer: Have you wondered what you’ll do after you retire from your MMA career?
I’ll still continue to fight for now. I’ll continue to give my knowledge to the younger generation of men. I’ll look for a way to be more useful to my country and my people. — Fedor
Fedor on training partners
Interviewer: Why do you train with the fighters from your club rather than buy sparring partners as many other fighters do?
I believe in my boys. I can see that they are competent and can win. I see them as competent future fighters. This is why I don’t see the point of buying international sparring partners. — Fedor
Fedor on his biggest fear
Interviewer: What is Fedor most afraid of?
I live with God. Everything that happens to me is in the hands of God. Everything that happens is his will. — Fedor
You’re in control of yourself. Saying it is one thing, living it is another. It’s tough. It requires practice. That’s why I take cold showers. It teaches me how to calm my head and step into the water.
An opponent is standing in front of you. “You’re going down!” he says. You’re still in control of your response.
A guy in your office will say you’re incapable, how will you respond?
An opposite sex will say “I don’t like you”, how will you respond?
The interviewer will say “You’re not what I’m looking for”, how will you respond?
Those are strong attacks. The automatic response is to either fire back or internalize it. What’s needed is controlled exposure to these situations. That’s called building thicker skin. It’s a skill that’s built through exposure. Instead of a physical workout, you’re training your emotional reflex.
Here’s a video of a bouncer handling a teenager (NSFW language). This is what emotional control looks like. This is what martial arts looks like. He disarms the man through wit. Wit arises because his emotions are controlled and his mind is clear.