The following interview was conducted by the Korean MMA site MFight with Fedor Emelianenko:
Q:You will be one of the carriers of the Olympic torch for the Beijing Olympics in St. Petersburg on April 5. How does it feel to represent Russia?
A:(Fedor):I feel very good. I was chosen as one of 5 carriers of the torch. I’m very happy and proud.
(Finkelstein): Many other famous Russian athletes will be carrying the torch including world champion boxer Nikolai Valuev.
Q: Do you know which course you’ll be running and how long?
A: I don’t know yet. There will be a meeting on this on April 3. I’ll find out how long I’ll be running then.
Q: It’s said that you have to be quite famous in Russia to represent the country as the carrier of the Olympic torch. I know it’d be a little awkward for you to answer, but how popular are you in Russia? Do a lot of people recognize you?
A: A lot of people recognize me. People recognize me on the streets but some people just pass by thinking it’s just someone who looks like me (laughs.) I sign a lot of autographs. I don’t know any statistic regarding my popularity so it’d be hard to tell you exactly how popular I am.
Q: You once said that you respect Alexander Karelin. How popular or influential are you compared to him? People in Korea are curious about your popularity in Russia.
A: I respect Alexander Karelin but I don’t think I can compare myself to him. We are in different fields. Aleksander Karelin is Aleksander Karelin, and I am myself. I just want to work hard on what’s put in front of me.
Q: You held a seminar in early March in the Netherlands. How did it go?
A: We had a seminar in the Netherlands and a lot of famous fighters were there. There were a lot of people who became interested in the sport while working out at the gym. The seminar was held in a very warm and laid back atmosphere. I really enjoyed it.
Q: Remy Bonjasky, Ernesto Hoost, and Peter Aerts were there as guests. There’s a photo circulating around of you putting on a submission on them. What did you guys talk about?
A: We always say hi and talk to each other when we meet. We asked each other how they were doing and talked about training together. They asked me to show them some submissions so I demonstrated some on them.
Q: A lot of fighters seem to be challenging you these days. Kimbo Slice, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and Randy Couture are a few.
A: I fought Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira twice and beat him both times. I heard he became the UFC Champion. I’m not under contract with the UFC so I won’t be able to fight him. Randy Couture is a very popular fighter who’s very tough. I respect him very much and like him as a person. I think I’ll have the opportunity to meet him again in the future.
Q: Who do you think would be the best opponent for you right now?
A: I don’t think about such things. I am an athlete and I just fight. I just fight whoever is put in front of me. I don’t think about who I want to fight in particular. I proved everything I had to to myself.
Q: You terminated your collaboration with Sibling Entertainment and Monte Cox. Is there still a possibility of a match against you and Randy Couture? If so, where will it likely be?
(Fedor):I trust my manager Vadim 100%. I agree with whatever he thinks and decides. If he thought severing the relationship between the American side was necessary, there was probably a valid reason for it. We’ve met with Randy’s manager a few times. I think there’s definitely a chance that we’d fight each other.
(Finkelstein): I think Randy Couture is the best opponent for Fedor. He has a good style and a good skillset. The fight won’t be able to take place now because he’s currently under contract with the UFC, but I think I could happen once his contract is up. Fedor also wants the fight to happen.
Q: UFC President Dana White recently said that you weren’t the best in the world. What are your thoughts on this comment?
A: I think Dana White is just a very weird person. So I don’t particularly care about what he says.
Q: What do you think about the UFC’s policy of signing exclusive contracts? Will you be willing to fight under an exclusive contract if they offer you the right money?
A: The offers the UFC has given me so far weren’t satisfactory. Like I said before, my manager knows more about these matters. But as far as I know the UFC hasn’t given me a good offer.
Q: What are your thoughts on EliteXC?
A: As far as I know my manager Vadim is currently in negotiations with the UFC and EliteXC.
Q: Your most recent fight against Hong-Man Choi has been a major topic of interest in Korea. What do you think about Choi?
A: He’s a very huge and interesting fighter. But I was able to beat him.
Q: The move Choi used to take you down was a sireum technique. How effective was it, in your opinion?
A: I don’t think the effectiveness of a takedown is that important. In my opinion, the most important thing is the result of the fight. Choi took me down but didn’t do that much damage. He only got the top position. The fact that I beat him using technique, is what is important.
Q: M-1 Challenge, which is using a “nation vs nation” format, will be held on April 3 in St. Petersburg. What opinions do you have on this event?
A: An event like this was necessary. Events that can scout promising young prospects are important. Events like this are also good for fighters like myself.
Q: Several Korean fighters will be participating in the event. Do you have any thoughts on them?
A: I’m afraid I don’t as I haven’t seen them fight.
Q: Team Russia will be facing Team Japan in M-1 Challenge. It’s been said that you’ve been training with members of the Russian team. What kind of training did you do?
A: Some great trainers including Voranov Vladimir, Nichkov Alexander (I’m probably waaay off with the names as I’m just guessing based on the phonetic pronunciation, sorry.), who built me up trained them. I just played the role of pointing out and correcting common mistakes the fighters tended to make. I trained with them a lot too. I’ll probably play a role as trainer more and more from now. But as of now I’m training with them as a trainee. I believe Team Russia will win the battle against Team Japan.
Q: There is a lot of changes going on in MMA worldwide. The power is shifting from Japan to the US. How do you see the worldwide MMA scene in 5 years?
A: I think MMA will gain more recognition around the world. I think more people will tune in to the sport. MMA is a new sport and will only get bigger.
Q: Your second daughter was born last year. How do you spend time with your family when you are not training?
A: I take a lot of walks in forests and outdoors and talk to my daughter a lot. She smiles a lot. I spend time with my family whenever I have free time.
Q: Do you still draw pictures in your free time?
A: I do sometimes when I have the time. I draw a lot of pictures for my daughter.
Q: There have been rumors of you making a silver screen debut. Have you been working on your acting for it?
A: No, I’m not doing any acting practice (laughs.)
Q: Mirko Crocop has starred in a movie. Have you seen it by any chance? Although it flopped…
A: Sorry, I haven’t seen Crocop’s movie.
Q: Russians like to drink. You’ve probably tried soju in Korea. How much can you drink, in bottles of soju? (soju is a Korean alcoholic beverage with about 20% alcohol, BTW)
A: I did try Korean soju. But I don’t drink to find out how much I can drink. I drink occasionally when I meet friends or have an important meeting. I don’t drink to get drunk so I don’t know how much I can take.
Q: You’re known to enjoy theme parks around the world. Where have you been to, and what is your favorite?
A: My favorite place (in terms of theme parks) is Japan. This one rollercoaster in Japan was the most impressive one I’ve tried. It was great. There was a good ride in Korea too. I like going to theme parks.
Q: Do you have a goal for this year?
A: My goal is to train hard, get many fights, and not lose a single fight. Raising my daughter well is also an important goal. My goals are basically the same as always.