The cans are starting to align for Fedor

August, 11, 2011
8/11/11
2:08
PM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
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It wasn’t quite two weeks ago that Fedor Emelianenko lost to Dan Henderson and had people wondering if that was his unceremonious outro. Almost everybody wanted to know, after his third straight loss, if that was the last time we’d see Fedor compete.

Then almost as suddenly it was determined that Fedor wasn’t done yet -- not by a long shot, ya’ll! -- and Kevin Randleman’s name was running up the flagpole as a possible opponent for a fall card to be held in his native Russia.

Kevin Randleman?
If that's true, well ... at least we have an answer, and that is -- yes, it seems Fedor is done competing.

Here is what his manager and head of M-1 Vadim Finkelstein allegedly told the Russian website Champion AT when asked who Fedor’s next opponent would be: “There are many possibilities. I personally want the opponent to be one of the great fighters from Pride’s best times. It would be good if it was an interesting and competitive fighter, like for instance, Kevin Randleman. At any rate, we will chose a competitive, globally respected fighter.”

Interesting, marginally (in an uncanny resemblance to Grace Jones kind of way). But competitive? That’s borderline insulting.

Unlike Dan Henderson, who is 40 years old and looking 28, Randleman is more the usual kind of 40-year-old who loses to guys like Baga Agaev via first round submissions. He has dropped four fights in a row and eight of 10 fights going back to the first time he fought (and was destroyed by) Fedor Emelianenko in Pride’s heavyweight grand prix back in 2004. Randleman is cooked. And that’s exactly why Fedor’s camp is hand-selecting him to get off the skids. A warm body with a subliminal link to the past that Fedor can waltz through. Yet even using the word subliminal in discussing Randleman seems sort of irresponsible. The better words might be “transparent” and “desperate.”

Before Randleman’s name was raised, others like prolific journeyman Travis Wiuff and Mike Whitehead were mentioned in connection to Fedor. This gives you an idea of the value we’re talking for the string of upcoming fights for the “Last Emperor.” The idea is to restock his emptied legacy with -- what they hope to be -- an assortment of donated cans. And in the end, maybe that’s the best way to go about things when options are down to a scant few. Maybe a couple of wins and some Dutch training and Fedor returns to prominence. At least that’s what M-1 is now hinging on. As for Fedor himself, he would likely have no qualms whether you put Randleman in front of him, or Cain Velasquez. Fighting is what he knows. He just does what he’s instructed to do.

But Randleman is a hard sell as anything compelling. And the idea to revisit “Pride’s best times” comes off as a strange piece of nostalgia to roll with in discussing a man who has always been, in the very least, a prideful competitor.

(Note: M-1 has since claimed that the Randleman rumor was a fabrication).

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