At 12 years old, Fedor’s family could not afford to buy him the Judo suit and training shoes he needed for class, so his first trainer, Vasiley Gavrilov, bought them for him.
Fedor remains loyal to his earliest trainers, such as Vladimir Voronov, who has trained him since he was 12 years old, long before his MMA career began. Voronov specializes in Sambo and Judo. In 1997, he was training Fedor for the Russian national Judo team, in preparation for the Olympics. Since amateur athletes in Russia at the time received no economic support from the government, many fighters would work as hired muscle for the mafia. So in 2000, Voronov and Fedor decided to focus on MMA.
At that time, Fedor enlisted Alexander Michkov to be his second trainer and striking coach. Michkov is a “Master of Sport” in boxing, the highest level a boxer can achieve in Russia. He has been with Fedor and Voronov since 2000.
Fedor often travels to Holland to train with Yogan Vos and Lucien Carbin, two more reputable members of his training circle, who focus on developing his Muay Thai skills.
Stary Oskol- Russia
Stary Oskol is a small mining town in the Belgorod region of Russia, located 385 miles south of Moscow. The city sits on one of the largest iron ore deposits in the world. With more than eight million tons of iron ore mined there per year, most locals make their living in the mining industry in one form or another. The population of about two hundred twenty-five thousand live eight thousand feet above sea level. At this time of year, Stary Oskol is in the dead of winter and covered in a thick layer of snow. Although there is a small airport in the city, it is rarely used throughout the year, and never in the winter. Everyone in the town knows Fedor and praises his signature humility. Locals say that the 235 pound powerhouse is the most humble person they know, despite his great talent and success. Fedor still lives in the same apartment and drives the same Toyota given him by town officials in honor of his achievements.
A typical day for Fedor in the camp is marked by extremely cold temperatures. The highs throughout camp are in the mid-teens (Fahrenheit) and the lows are from negative four to negative eight degrees. It snows around 11 hours each day, and today left an additional 2.6 inches of snow on the ground. Tomorrow there is a 70% chance of snow. Fedor loves the challenge of these training conditions, because it gives him strength and perseverance.
Fedor trains twice a day—once in the morning at 10am and again at 5pm. He first does cardio before every training session. Then he works on technique and strength training for a couple of hours. He finishes with some grappling and sparring.
Living Accommodations While Training
Fedor’s living accommodations are very basic when he’s training in Stary Oskol. The team lives in small rooms near the training facility where everything is simple and clean. There are no big training machines, no treadmills, or other complicated equipment common to all gyms in the U.S. Fedor prefers to use the resources of his natural surroundings for training. He loves to exercise and run outside, even though the winters are very cold, and he makes a point to do certain exercises outside in the elements to get his blood flowing. The simplicity helps Fedor become creative, adaptable and train harder.
Fedor’s training partners from the M-1 Global and Red Devil stable of fighters are a combination of both youthful athleticism and veteran skills. The Red Devil Academy is in St. Petersburg, Russia. It consists of a team of MMA fighters who compete on a regular basis. Fedor and his brother, Aleksander Emelianenko, both belong to the Red Devil Academy. Fedor also works out with long time training partner and fellow M-1 Global fighter, Roman Zentsov. Zentsov is a veteran fighter who has competed in over 30 professional MMA fights. He fought Andrei Arlovski in an M-1 cage in September of 2000, losing by TKO. His specialties are boxing and wrestling, and he has been a sparring partner of Fedor’s for several fights.
Fedor also trains with his protégé, Kiril “Baby Fedor” Sidelnikov. Sidelnikov is a 20-year-old phenom, who will be appearing on the Affliction M-1 “Day of Reckoning” card against Paul Buentello. Most recently, Sidelnikov led the Red Devil team into the finals of the 2008 M-1 Challenge. Sidelnikov is a very talented fighter with great stand up and grappling skills.
Fedor does not have a cook or a specific diet, but sticks to eating three meals a day. While he strives to eat healthily, he does not go out of his way to limit himself. Mostly, Fedor’s diet consists of meat, fish, vegetables and fruits. He also takes in as much liquid as he can, such as fresh juices and herbal teas. Fedor tries to stay away from soda, french fries and candy—some of his favorites when not training. He also refrains from drinking alcohol when he is training.
Interview with Fedor:
What is your training regimen like?
“Generally, all fighters train the same. But everyone puts their own accents on preparation, their own unique styles and preferences depending on their needs at the time. Every fighter, myself included, has certain exercises that they focus on based on the task at hand. But there are no secret exercises that lead me to victory, just hard work in whatever I do.”
Why do you choose to live and train there?
“There is no other choice. This is my home. This is my land. I would not want to choose anywhere else.”
Do you think this will be one of the hardest fights of your career?
“Yes, Andrei is a very skilled and dangerous fighter, another tough UFC Champion on my resume. I expect a very difficult fight similar to my fights with Noguiera. I must be very prepared.”
What are you worried most about and what are you working on in camp to prepare for this?
“Andrei is very quick on his feet. When he uses his speed in his stand-up, he can be very dangerous. We must work to neutralize his effectiveness on his feet.”
How do you stay calm before a fight?
“I just try to approach every fight in a smart manner, so I am completely prepared for anything that can happen. And I always try to keep my composure and think quickly in the ring. Good preparation leads to calmness.”
What does the gym look like that you train in?
“It looks like any other training gym. Mats, ring and training equipment. But it is the location that is the difference. We are high in the mountains and the high elevation is good for cardio and muscle endurance. We train in an area that is famous for its strong people. It feels more like home here.”
Do you get nervous before a fight; and if so, when does it happen?
“I get nervous just like anybody else but I try to compose myself around fight time. I have good trainers that help me stay calm. I just know that I have a job to do and I just try and go out and do it professionally.”
Do you do any other exercises outside?
“Yes. Nature is always more tasty. I love to do exercises outside although it has been cold. But we still run outside and do certain exercises to get the blood flowing.”
Do you have to watch your weight when training?
“No not really. I am usually in pretty good shape. It is just a matter of getting into fighting shape. The training allows my body to find its natural weight for the fight.”
What time do you wake up and go to bed?
“I wake up around 8am and go to sleep around 11pm.”
What are your favorite foods you have to give up while training?
“Well, there is no drinking vodka for one thing. And I can’t have any sweets.”
Fedor spends most of his time with his family. He has two daughters—Marina, who is nine years old and Vasilia, who is one. He likes to play with them, take them to the zoo, take them for rides and shopping, but he particularly likes to read books to them. He has two younger brothers, Aleksander and Ivan, and an older sister, Marina. Both of his brothers have trained in MMA. His father, Vladimir, was a steel worker and his mother, Olga, was a teacher. Fedor attributes much of what he has accomplished to his mother as she always encouraged him to pursue martial arts.
Do you see your family when you are training?
“Yes. It calms me.”
Is it hard to be a father having to be away from home when you are traveling for business?
“Yes. I am always looking for a department store or toy store when I am traveling so I can bring something back to my kids. I am also always talking to them on the phone.”
Do your kids know what you do? Have they ever seen you fight or watched one of your fights on tape?
“My youngest is too young, but the oldest knows. She has never seen me fight however.”
His best friend is Dennis, a friend since they were kids. Dennis helps him train, comes out to all of his fights and is always in his corner.
Fedor is also an acquaintance of the Former President of Russia Vladimir Putin.
What is your relationship with Vladimir Putin?
“We do not talk on a regular basis. It is just that he had seen one of my fights on TV and took an interest. Vladimir Putin has always been very kind to me and I have always appreciated his interest in my career and the sport of MMA. We have in common our love for Sambo, the National sport in Russia as well as MMA. Vladimir Putin is a black belt in Judo and a master in Sambo. I have promised him that I would always participate in Sambo if I was able to, so that I could be a role model for young people in Russia and continue the rich tradition of the sport. After I beat Matt Linland in Russia, Vladimir Putin was very kind and invited all of the fighters and their camps to the Presidential Mansion.”
Outside of Training
Most of Fedor’s free time is spent with friends and family. He usually just goes with the flow, depending on what his friends want to do—barbecuing, fishing, or whatever. On his own time, he goes to church. He also enjoys reading and drawing.
Favorite Movie/ Actor:
He likes American action movies and Bruce Willis is his favorite actor.
When he was younger, Fedor was musically gifted, but his mother made him choose between the accordion and Judo. He chose Judo. Fedor enjoys listening to anything from classical music to hip-hop.
He loves a good steak and lobster.
What were you like when you were younger?
“I was a pretty independent and responsible child. My two focuses were studying and training. I fell in love with Judo at the age of 12.”
What other sports do you like?
“Soccer, swimming and basketball.”
Do you like traveling?
“Not really. I like staying home and being with my friends and family. I miss them when I am away.”
What countries do you like to visit?
“Japan and the United States and any place that has scary roller coasters.”
How would you like to be remembered in the sport?
“As someone that was a good ambassador of a growing sport, that always wanted to fight the best fighters and always gave the fans the best he could give.”