I’ll leave you with a story of mine from when we both fought on Pride shock waves 2006. I had beaten Yoshida on the NYE Pride show and had come back to the hotel early from cerebrating as I was drained and I’d had enough for the night. As I entered the hotel lobby Fedor was standing front and centre swaying from side to side, he straightened up as I came through the doors and looked up towards me. I started moving from foot to foot as if he was still swaying and he burst out laughing at this and beckoned me towards him. As I approached him he lightly grabbed me and we started play fighting in the lobby, it was only messing around however I’d be lying if didn’t say a small part of me was praying he wasn’t a violent drunk and that he wouldn’t snap and sambo throw me on to the cold hard floor of the hotel lobby. If the Truth be told I was actually checking the floor during our ‘play fight to see if there was a softer part of it for me to land on should things have started to go wrong!
After we’d stopped with the play fighting, Fedor beckoned me towards his table which was in a kind of Lounge area with sofas and chairs crowded around a coffee table. I said hello to the inhabitants who were all Russian males that didn’t speak any English- apart from Fedors manager Vadim Finkelstein who spoke good English. Fedor picked up a sports bag and placed it on the coffee table in front of us all. I could tell from the clinging and clanging of glass that his Mma kit wasn’t in it. A couple of his Russian mates went to get glasses & Fedor started to produce these strange shaped glass bottles from his kit bag. What struck me as odd was that none of these bottles had labels on and you could tell that they weren’t bought down the local off license; they reminded me of bottles you might find in a pharmacy. As Fedor brought out all these bottles of different shapes and sizes I could tell which ones were the strongest (or the favourites) by the gasps and applause each bottle would receive. Fedor delved in to his bag of tricks once again and produced a square bottle which had Smokey dark blue glass and a long narrow neck. But what I really noticed was the reaction of the group, as for a second they were silenced- before hushed gasps of shock and Awe reverberated around the table.
Fedor held this bottle up as if it was the world cup before cuddling it in his arms as if it was a new born child and this brought laughter. He poured a large amount in to one of the glasses -I’m not sure if smoke came off the liquid as it was poured or if I’m just embellishing that part for the story, but what I do remember was that the liquid was clear and handed over the table to me by Fedor with great care. All eyes were now focused on the Englishman and I felt like I was part of some experiment and seeing that I know how seriously Russians take their drinking; I didn’t want to spoil my street cred by asking if they had any Orange juice to mix with it. I was somewhat nervous of the drink that lay before me, so I pictured that what was in the glass was the ‘secret elixir to what made Fedor great’ and by consuming what was in the glass, it would have the same effect on me. With these thoughts I threw back my head and downed it in one.
Now bear in mind this wasn’t a shot glass, it was a normal sized glass filled half full (not half empty). As the contents of the glass filled my mouth, my tongue recoiled and looked for a place to hide. The burning sensation I felt in my mouth, then throat, then chest was overwhelming but I’m English and we too pride ourselves on our drinking ability and even if It was petrol that he’d given me to drink (which is not completely impossible judging by the taste) I was downing this fucker of a drink, not just for my own honour but for the honour of England! I slammed down my glass, gave my head a shake and with the machoness I thought eastern Europeans would recognise, I tipped my glass implying that I wanted another one… which was the last thing I wanted. My new Russian friends loved this and patted my head as I ran my tongue over my teeth to check were still there. Fedor laughed at this and poured me another healthy glass of evil.
With that Josh Barnett came into our drinking area, he had fought Big Nog earlier and lost a close decision. Josh and Fedor had talked and straightened out some problems they’d had the day before and in the process they realised they actually got on very well (I knew this as my trainer/manager at the time had arranged their talk). Fedor greeted Barnett like a long lost brother. He pulled up a chair for him and poured him a drink. I was pleased with this as it meant the Russians had a new westerner to experiment on, plus it gave me a minute to collect myself- which was needed as whatever it was that had been pushed in my direction a minute earlier was coursing though my veins and making me blink a lot for some bizarre reason!
I talked to a mixture of people for 30 minutes or so which seems strange when I look back as there were only three people that spoke English including myself! I was still tired and I had to be up early in the morning for a stupid o clock flight home. My room (which was my original destination) for the second time that night, became my goal. I was saying my goodbyes to all my new friends when Fedor appeared and pointed to the (my) glass which I hadn’t touched since giving it the ‘big un’ half an hour previously in front of everyone. I felt a massive weight suddenly hang over my head again, I looked at Fedor pleadingly but he just held his glass up and tipped it just like I had done. I pick up my glass clinked it with Fedor and once again downed this un-godly liquid. It again felt like I was trying to down hot coals and I half expected my liver to write me a note whilst I slept that night stating that he could no longer take the abuse!. Fedor tried to make me have another drink but I’d said my goodbyes and I stumbled off to my room… I’m sure this thing I call the ‘Russian turpentine ordeal’ wasn’t a big deal for Fedor as he was just being himself and I doubt that he would hardly even remember all this, but for me it was a big deal and I love my story and appreciate Fedor taking the time and just being able to have a laugh. For me, this doesn’t make him a great champion…but it definitely adds to it.