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Fedor Emelianenko is Training to Win the Strikeforce Heavyweight GP

The upcoming Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix has been garnering a lot of attention over the past few weeks, all leading up to February 12th where the tournament kicks off at a card headlined by none other than Fedor "The Last Emperor" Emelianenko squaring off with Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva. The inclusion of Fedor Emelianenko automatically takes what was a great tournament and makes it legendary, with the stakes for winning the tournament being more than bragging rights, but instead to lay claim to being one of the top, if not the top Heavyweight in the MMA world.

With the show just a few weeks out, it means that Emelianenko's media duties have begun, with the Russian Heavyweight only speaking to select media outlets and remaining entrenched in an aura of mystique. A few years ago I argued that part of what makes Fedor so great is the fact that he doesn't train in a state-of-the-art MMA gym with a team of other top fighters, instead he chooses solitude and a simple life. You won't find Fedor on TMZ.com out partying or knocking out college football players in Texas, instead you see stories of him jogging with his priest and just learning about Twitter.

Our good friend, Jon Luther, caught up with Fedor to discuss the Strikeforce Heavyweight GP, and Fedor is in it to win it. I also really enjoy Fedor's take on being "number one." It just shows that fans care more about status than most fighters do. [source]

"I can’t wait to compete again. Silva is a great athlete who is skilled in many areas. He has proven to be a very worthy and dangerous opponent. My training camp has been very strong. I feel proud to be representing my country in the tournament. I’m training to win the tournament.”

Eight of the top heavyweights in the world will participate in the tournament, leading many to believe that the eventual tournament champion should be in the running for the title of best heavyweight alive. To Emelianenko, his opinion on the matter is irrelevant.

“The tournament participants are all highly skilled athletes. As for whether the winner should be considered number one in the world, it is not for me to say. That is something left to the media and to the fans.”

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Sebastian Ciobanu to Make Boxing Debut

Sebastian CiobanuThe charismatic "Son of Dracula" Sebastian Ciobanu is trying something new.  The K-1 fighter will make his professional boxing debut on February 25.  Ciobanu will take part in an 8 man tournament titled Bigger's Better 4.  His opponent is not yet determined.

Ciobanu is coming off his career best year as a kickboxer.  The young Romanian has been a professional since 2005, competing mainly for Local Kombat shows in Romania and picking up some good wins over the likes of Doug Viney, Petr Vondracek, and Roman Kleibl.  He made his K-1 debut in late 2009, losing to Sergei Lascenko in the quarter final round of the Tokyo GP (the event won by Daniel Ghita).  But it was last year's East Europe GP where he finally turned some heads.  There, Ciobanu blasted his way to the finals, defeating Daniil Sapljoshin and Mighty Mo both via first round KO in a combined time of just over 3 minutes.  In the finals, he squared off with Freddy Kemayo in an excellent fight.  Despite losing to Kemayo, Ciobanu increased his standing in that tournament, looking very impressive in all 3 fights.  He has since bounced back from that loss with a win over Petar Valkov at the Local Kombat 10th Anniversary show.

Trying boxing may be a good move for Ciobanu, who has always relied more on his hands than his kicks.  That area of Europe is also seeing increased interest in boxing thanks to the big shows put on by the Klitschkos.  If Ciobanu can get on those Klitschko shows, there's a good opportunity for some higher profile fights.

As for his future, Ciobanu remains open to options, saying that he'll see how this fight goes before deciding how much he wants to pursue boxing.  Local Kombat promoter Eduard Irimia assured fans that Ciobanu is not done with kickboxing permanently, and will continue to compete for the company.

For all the details on Ciobanu's boxing career, check out our friends at Kombat.ro.

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Watch Michihiro Omigawa "Train UFC"

Nothing makes me laugh more than the term "train UFC." It has permeated into our popular culture and become a term of endearment for most fans. Most of us have known a guy who has gone to a gym and then boasts to his friends that he "trains UFC." Of course, that isn't the case with one of the top Featherweights in the world. Michihiro Omigawa. Omigawa is a case study in how a fighter dropping weight can go from mediocre to a world beater.

Omigawa's record since dropping to Featherweight is 8-2-1, with his first loss being the first time he cut against a now legendary fighter in the US, "The Korean Zombie" Jung Chan-Sung. The second loss was a close decision loss to Masanori Kanehara in the Sengoku Featherweight Grand Prix Finals. Omigawa's run in the Featherweight Grand Prix is now that of legend; a fighter who was down and out, who saw himself as a failure and goes into a tournament with a losing record as fodder for bigger stars emerges as the biggest star in the promotion. To this day, there has not been a fighter in Japan during this era who has went from nobody to big star like Omigawa.

I know certain Japanese MMA pundits will disagree with me, but in today's landscape in Japan everything is leftovers. Omigawa was becoming the first home-grown star since the days of PRIDE. Omigawa just went on a five-fight tear through SRC, ASTRA and DREAM where he demanded his title shot over and over again, when it didn't happen and UFC was set to begin promoting Featherweight bouts, it made perfect sense for Omigawa to accept an offer from UFC and head to the West yet again. Japan's loss is America's gain, as we get one of the most exciting, talented and emotionally charged Featherweights in the world fighting in the UFC yet again. Fighters like Omigawa would make me watch a UFC event.

Here is a video by Dan Herbertson of MMAFighting.com of Omigawa training for his return fight to UFC against Chad Mendes.

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Feb 5: Alexey Ignashov v. Roman Kleibl

IgnashovThis Saturday, February 5 in Slovakia is an event titled Ring of Honor with a featured bout between Alexey Ignashov and Roman Kleibl.

Kleibl is a good fighter who has picked up some solid wins in his career, including a 2009 tournament victory in K-1 ColliZion.  He's not yet been able to quite get over the hump and make an impact on the upper ranks, though he still has the chance to do just that.  Last year he competed at the K-1 East Europe GP.  I predicted he would do well there, but he was eliminated in the quarter final round by Mighty Mo.

As for Ignashov, what else is there to say at this point?  2010 was supposed to be the year of the comeback for The Red Scorpion, but instead he sat out most of the year before turning in a very underwhelming performance against Tomas Hron at It's Showtime to cap it off.  The common talking point about Ignashov is that he has all the tools to be top in the world but lacks motivation, although I'm not even sure that is true any more - he definitely had those tools at one point, but we have not seen them in ages.  A lot of fans still hold out hope for a return of the old Iggy; sadly, I just don't think that's going to happen.

This is the 2nd meeting between these two as they fought in May 2009 for K-1 ColliZion.  Kleibl took the decision win there, and I see no reason not to predict the same outcome here.

The rest of the card is a mix of K-1 rules, Muay Thai, and MMA with a few name fighters in there.  Here is the complete line-up, from The Science of 8 Limbs:

Muay Thai Rules: Abdoul Toure (France) vs Vladimir Moracvick (Slovakia) 75 kg

K-1 Rules:  Vladimir Konsky (Eastern Beasts) vs Mark Wildeboar (Netherlands)

K-1 Rules: Alexei Ignashov vs Roman Kleibl

K-1 Rules: Tomas Kohout vs Vitalij Akhramenko

MMA Rules: Atilla Vegh vs Hans Stringer

K-1 Rules: Erik Kosztanko /MTC BA/ vs James Asamoah /Holandsko/

K-1 Rules: Tomáš Šenkýr /Ares ZA/ vs Tomas Pakutinskaso /Litva/

K-1 Rules: Rudolf Durica /SVK/ vs Chyngiz Alazov /Azerbajdzan/

K-1 Rules: Lukáš Body /Kickbox Poprad/ vs. Fadi Merza /Rakúsko/

MMA Rules: Matúš Mečár /SVK/ vs Rudolf Kríž /ČR/

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