Post-fight reaction from Fabricio Werdum’s big upset over Fedor Emelianenko

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Earlier this month, Fabricio Werdum was going about his training in virtual anonymity in Huntington Beach.

Saturday night, Werdum shocked the mixed-martial-arts world by forcing the mythical MMA figure Fedor Emelianenko of Russia to tap out 1:09 into the first round as Brazilian jiu jitsu specialist Werdum caught him in a triangle choke and an arm bar, stunning 12,698 inside San Jose’s HP Pavilion.


The loss was Emelianenko’s first in 28 fights since 2000 and revealed that the mysterious ‘Last Emperor’ is indeed human.

‘He got caught,’ said Emelianenko’s co-promoter Scott Coker, the chief executive of Strikeforce. ‘Everyone gets caught in this sport.

‘It was a Rocky-esque performance by Fabricio. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when I saw Fedor tapping out. This was a magic moment in the history of mixed martial arts.’

Werdum, 32, said, ‘I’m so happy. How do I feel? I wish everyone could feel the way I do right now.

‘Fedor’s the best in the world. Ten years, no losses. He’s my idol.. Now, I beat my idol.’

The Brazilian, a resident of Marina del Rey, was expected to be a legitimate test for Fedor but not as stiff as the Strikeforce champion Alistair Overeem, who may have been deprived now of a date with Fedor and Werdum; Emelianenko’s M-1 boss, Vadim Finkelstein, said afterward that he wanted to call for a rematch and ‘prove Fedor is still the best.’

Coker admitted ‘a lot of it depends on what M-1 wants to do.’ Asked if that meant that an Emelianenko-Werdum rematch on CBS or pay-per-view would likely become Fedor’s third and possible final fight with Strikeforce, Coker said, ‘Probably ... people will want to see a rematch.’

Fedor’s loss will clearly affect his negotiating leverage in future negotiations either to extend his deal with Strikeforce or join the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Coker said he believed Emelianenko’s next fight would be especially critical in revealing whether the Russian legend suffered just a hiccup in Saturday’s defeat or if his 33 years are getting the best of him.

Emelianenko admitted after the loss that he mistakenly relied on the notion that he could escape any problematic hold. ‘I didn’t work enough,’ he said, ‘I’ll have to work more.’

Werdum was decked in the fight’s opening seconds by a Fedor right hand, but on the ground, he had Emelianenko where he wanted him.

‘This was the plan,’ Werdum said. ‘On the ground.’

Werdum choked Fedor’s neck with his legs, made him turn and squeezed harder while pressing Emelianenko’s arm into a badly contorted spot. With his right hand, Emelianenko tapped Werdum’s side to quit. Emelianenko said it was the triangle choke that made him tap out.

‘I caught the chance, and I didn’t let him go,’ Werdum said, smiling while surrounded on the post-fight news conference by his friends Renato ‘Babalu’ Sobral and, Saturday’s winner, Cris ‘Cyborg’ Santos. ‘I never fear a fight. I like to fight. I looked at Fedor, and I was confident. I had a hard training [camp], and I believe in myself.’

-- Lance Pugmire

Fedor Emelianenko, left, and Fabricio Werdum trade punches in the first round of a Strikeforce/M-1 Global mixed-martial-arts match in San Jose on June 26, 2010. Credit: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press