One thing that is legitimate, at least based on a television news report in Russia, is that after the fight aired on television (it was the first MMA fight in history to be broadcast on a major TV station in Russia), that there was a huge increase over the past few weeks in Russian teenagers wanting to join MMA gyms and Emelianenko was seen as the reason why.
Up until that time, the average Russian had no idea who he was. For the few who did, he was the guy who fought on a show Vladimir Putin attended several years ago (the Matt Lindland fight), if that. This event was the first time he got any significant media exposure because a few million people saw him fight on television. One of his fights was on PPV in Russia, but nobody bought it and his subsequent fights didn’t air.
While people will have you think he’s some sort of household name in Russia, Japan and South Korea, based on Google trends, the place he’s most famous by far is Croatia, and that’s largely because he’s the famous rival of Mirko Cro Cop, who is a legitimate national hero in his country. After that, the countries he’s most popular, in order, are Finland (MMA is on television every night there on a sports channel and his fights with Andrei Arlovski and Rogers were on TV there), Peru, Canada, U.S., Sweden and then Russia, followed by Brazil. He can draw in Japan among hardcores but among the casual people in Japan, they wouldn’t know who he is. Even in Finland, his name recognition would be less than Brock Lesnar (although significantly more than any other UFC fighter).
What I don’t understand is how Fedor isn’t a draw amongst the Japanese casual fanbase. Fedor made his name in Japan fighting for PRIDE, and during it’s heyday, PRIDE was extremely popular. How do people in Japan not know who Fedor is? He destroyed people. He made fan favorites Cro Cop and Big Nog look like average fighters. He was PRIDE’s reigning heavyweight champion from 2003 to the day PRIDE died. He had the most epic entrance song ever. Okay, I’m stretching the argument with that last one, but seriously, I don’t get it. What, do you have to be 8 ft. tall or an ex-major league slugger to get the average Japanese person to notice you these days?
Video via MiddleEasy