Miguel Torres has found himself the talk of the MMA blogosphere, and not because of anything he’s done in the cage. Instead, it’s for comments made about another fighter in a different weight division.
Torres was recently asked for his thoughts on Fedor Emelianenko‘s decisive (despite attempts by Strikeforce and Fedor fanatics to spin it to the contrary) loss to Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. Although Torres himself would admit that he’s nowhere near the status of Fedor in the industry, he does see some parallels between what’s happened to Fedor in his last two fights and his own career, where he went from being a champion in his division to a finding himself in a two-fight losing skid a little over a year ago.
“He’s at a crossroads in his life … (He’s been) dominating his division, plus the popularity, exposure and everything that comes with being The Man, a showman, a father, representing a country and people – and being a fighter. … He needs to adjust to the times and start working on being a cerebral fighter (again) and not a showman. He needs to play catch-up in a world he used to dominate. That stings really bad, but you man up or get left behind. … Russia will always be his home, but he lacks growth. Sometimes loyalty can hold you back.”
“I left to find growth – and everyone hates me for it, saying I’m a deserter and forgot where I came from. Even now, with my new style, people say I’m scared or not exciting. When I was training here, I didn’t give a s*** and fought for the fans. When I lost, everyone threw s*** on me saying I was nobody. My new style is actually cerebral and smart. I don’t get hurt anymore, but lost fans. When I get the belt back, they will (love me) again, but I won’t care. I’m all grown up. … I feel Fedor’s situation. It f***ing sucks, but s*** happens. All we can do is get better – and f*** everyone else.”
Of course, the comment everyone zeroed in on was “Fedor needs to man up.” As a result, many fans seem to have missed the point Torres was trying to make, which is that if Fedor is serious about continuing his fighting career (indications are that he is despite saying after his loss that he would retire), he needs to get out of his comfort zone.
Specifically, he needs to leave Stary Oskol.
Fedor is not the fighter he once was, nor is he ever going to be. He was once a dominant force in the industry, but in the present tense Fedor is a borderline relic who has not evolved with a sport that while not necessarily in its infancy was still nary a toddler when he began his ascent. His growth as a fighter was further stunted by a management team (M-1) that sacrificed long-term viability in the industry for immediate pay-offs. As a result he fought with less frequency and against inferior competition.
In short: while the sport and the Heavyweight Division grew and became more competitive, Fedor did not. While new game plans and styles were devised by potential opponents, Fedor was employing outdated training methods using a body that wasn’t getting any firmer, faster, or durable.
Again, I don’t think Fedor is going to be in any conversations about the best active pound for pound fighter, but that doesn’t mean he can’t still be a factor in Strikeforce’s Heavyweight division or that he can’t continue to make money for himself or the promotion. However, if he’s going to do so, he needs to either bring in a team that’s going to drag him into the current decade or relocate Stateside to train at a top-flight MMA facility. If he doesn’t, he’ll find himself at the losing end of another fight that he has no business losing.
The most important aspect of MMA isn’t the ground game, or striking, or punches or kicks or clinches. It’s growth. A good fighter is one who is constantly making adjustments to his game to adapt not only to his next opponent, but to general trends in his division and the sport as a whole. Like a shark, an MMA fighter needs to be constantly moving himself forward.
Otherwise the fighter will find himself in Fedor’s position – a creature who stayed still for too long and found himself adrift in a vast ocean.