“Prodigy”. One who is blessed with prodigious talent.
This certainly applies to the younger brother of the greatest Mixed Martial Artist in the sport’s history, the younger Emelianenko following in Fyodor’s footsteps; Aleksander. The big man possessed a similar level of natural talent and athleticism to his godlike elder sibling, but with it a body five inches taller, twenty natural pounds heavier, and he kept his hair. He is also a world sambo champion, a professional boxer, a man blessed with the fastest handspeed in the sport, fantastic throws, a competent, improving submission game, and a 6’5″, 250lbs frame packed with (in prime) solid but lean muscle. He was a well skilled, well oiled machine.
But having burst onto the scene aged only 22 in PRIDE, whipping people and losing bravely to the likes of CroCop and Josh Barnett, even memorably smashing Sergei Kharitonov’s face in to conclude an All-Russian-Top-Team grudge encounter, somehow the anticipated rise to truly elite status i.e. being considered one of, or the, best fighters in the world never happened. The 23yr old of 2004 was expected to hold a top 3 spot by the time he hit 26, which was 2007, the year after he smashed Sergei to pieces… but PRIDE FC died. And seemingly, with that organisation, so too died Aleks’ career.
Rumours of Hepatitis from jail tattoos, heavy drinking, crazy tales of degenerate behaviour in Russia, and no high profile fights from 2006-2012, Aleksander’s promising career all but ended at the age of 27. This mirrors other prodigious talents, like the unstoppable, glorious Prince Naseem Hamed, but the difference is that when Prince retired at the age of 28, he had already dominated his division in world boxing for over six years, and beaten nine world champions, two legends, losing only once in thirty-seven fights, eighteen world championship wins, undisputed rule over the division. Aleksander faded into the background at 27 with one solid victory over the elite Sergei, some vicious knockouts on his HL reel over lesser men, and three solid losing efforts to more experienced elite competitors in CroCop, Barnett and Fabricio Werdum.
After a year in the doldrums (much like his brother, and other PRIDE stars who didn’t immediately defect) Aleks was scheduled in 2008 to fight for rising org Affliction… but after highly secretive and controversial behind-the-scenes dramas concerning medicals, the promotion announced that Aleks could not compete. He claimed it was due to lateness. One CSAC member claimed he would not be sanctioned “anywhere in the USA”. The details are still not known.
Aleks went back to Europe.
One horrific post-PRIDE black spot on his record during this European-exclusive part of his career is the loss to kickboxer Peter Graham, although in fairness, the bout was contested under rules that allowed for only 20 seconds of ground. Even so, that should have been long enough for Aleks to force a submission or ground’n'pound victory, but instead he stood and traded, and got banged out on the feet by the man who once KO’d Badr Hari with “rolling thunder”. Ouch. Another loss followed in M-1 Global to previously unheralded Magomed Malikov, taking his record from 17-3 to 17-5 (though it is debatable whether the Graham loss should count on there, as a modified rules bout).
Three wins have followed, taking him to an “official” 20-5 win/loss ledger (or 20-4), two of which were in M-1 Global, the latest being a second win over former PRIDE FC foe Ibrahim Magomedov. Where Aleks can go from here, with his now fluctuating weight, rumours of Hepatitis, the fact that members of the CSAC claim he will “never” be able to get licensed in America, and the fact he is now in his thirties… who knows. Time will tell.
For now, enjoy this fantastic HL of one of MMA’s most promising prodigies, and just hope he can turn it around one day – soon – and be all that he could be.
One can dream of an Aleksander comeback. Four years ago, it barely registered as such – he hadn’t gone anywhere, and was on “the brink”. With all his talent, he was about to hit America and compete in a division in which Brock Lesnar held a version of the world title, where 47-yr-old light-heavyweights like Randy Couture were holding belts and competing in title fights, where Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski and Brandon Vera were among the elite names at the top. Aleksander could have had free reign to do to American MMA in 2008-2010 (or beyond) what his brother did to Japanese MMA in RINGS and PRIDE from 2000-2007.
Now? It takes some optimism.
Just appreciate his talent, in M-1 Global and wherever else he fights. It’s all we can do – that, and dream.