Dancing with the Red Devil: Part 3
What's funnier than Fedor
Emelianenko's (Pictures) 43-year-old grappling coach,
Vladimir Mihailovich Voronov, trying to add photos to his Russian
Facebook page and being continuously thwarted by that code thing
that you have to decipher?
To tell the truth, it's one of the funniest things I've seen in a
long, long time. Aside from the view outside my window, which was
of a brilliant azure St. Petersburg sky and a cityscape bathed in
sunshine -- the fights won't be ruined by crazy Russian weather! --
the following scene greeted me this morning.
Upon entering the M-1 Mixfight office, I found a very, very irate
Voronov, all 230 pounds of him, swearing at the computer. The
problem was soon apparent. The "capcha," which is that little
rectangle of mangled letters you have to enter into a text field
(it prevents automated bots from interacting with a Web site), was
proving to be a fearsome opponent to the former wrestler. Rather
than brute force, which Voronov is used to and can handle, the
capcha perpetrated on him not only the English alphabet but also
mangled it in a way he found almost impossible to decode.
Before you leap to conclusions that Voronov is in fact a robot, and
so is Fedor (proving all the theories right), you'll be happy to
know that eventually he managed it. Fearing for its life, the
computer finally acquiesced but not without putting up one hell of
a fight first.
Russian swearing is much more elaborate and fancy than its English
counterpart. The average Russian male possesses a mat (swearing)
vocabulary that would rival in its quantity entire languages of
lesser-developed cultures. It's possible to have entire
conversations with only swear words; you have to hear it to believe
that it's possible. And even though, like last year, swearing was
almost non-existent during the whole camp, it was still reserved
for those moments when nothing else would be quite enough. Even
Russia losing 3-0 to the Spaniards in the semis of the Euro 2008
football competition didn't justify swearing. But this, this was
one of those moments. All Voronov wanted to do was upload some
photos to his Russian Facebook.
But that was this morning. I'm currently sitting on the bus with
the Red Devil and Legion Fight teams as we make our way to the
scene of the fights, the Flying Dutchman schooner, which is moored
on the Neva River in the center of the historic city often referred
to as the Venice of the North. As with this morning the weather is
incredible, and the city has totally come through. Tourists are
strolling through the streets, crowds recline on the grass of the
many parks and everyone is relaxing while taking in the best of
summer. In other words, it's a perfect evening for a lot of
The fighters spent the entire day lounging around in their rooms,
mostly sleeping or quietly resting. I mistakenly walked into one of
their rooms while looking for a storage space, and I was surprised
to find how calm and restful it was. Incense was burning, the
curtains were gently blown around by the breeze and everyone was
asleep or meditating -- it was hard to tell. The changing rooms at
the Flying Dutchman are exactly the same. Huge platters of cut
fresh fruit are elaborately assembled but incongruous amongst the
tapes, pads, gloves and other paraphernalia of our beloved sport.
The fighters quietly sit, thinking of what's to come or possibly of
nothing, preparing to do what almost none of those reading this (or
the writer for that matter) would ever be capable of.
Sitting in the press section of the fancy restaurant on the Flying
Dutchman, I was happy to meet a very nattily dressed Japanese
representative of Dream, Shinoda Sotaro. We briefly discussed the
state of Russian customer service (pretty dire), club life in
Moscow (best in the world) and some other stuff I don't recall
before he told me that he worked for Pride until the very end. I
loved Pride and told him so. We briefly shared a moment of silence,
smiling, staring off into space, as though for a dear mutual friend
who has since passed away. All in all, my visit to St. Petersburg
is so far proving to be a very existential experience.
I see that I haven't yet spoken specifically of the fighters. I
guess that I didn't interact with any in a significant way today.
The only interesting news came yesterday when Roman Zentsov (Pictures) withdrew from his superfight due
to a shoulder injury, almost leaving opponent Aleksander Timonov
without a fight. That was until Aleksey Olennik, on less than 24
hours' notice, decided to take the fight and flew at night from
Rostov-on-Don to be on time and weigh in officially in St.
Petersburg this morning. He came in at a trim 102.7 kilograms. What
is even more surprising than fighters taking fights on no notice at
this level is that Olennik has a tournament Sunday in the Ukraine,
where he also plans to compete. So there you go, maybe the Russians
are robots after all.
I thought I'd go down into the changing rooms one more time, just
to see what's happening so close to the moment of truth. Not what
you would think. Mikhail
Zayats (Pictures) was reading a historical account
of how Christianity came to be accepted as the main religion in
Russia and was definitely sheepish about enjoying it. Akhmed Sultanov (Pictures) was resting on his side, covered
by his training jacket and just staring at space. The rest of the
fighters were engaged in a lively game of cards with Voronov, who
had gotten over his earlier confrontation with the bot capcha and
was once again his relaxed genial self.
Well it's almost time for the fights. The ship is practically
bubbling with oligarchs and their model girlfriends, and the
martini glasses and champagne flutes are stacked sky-high. This is
most definitely a high-society event in St. Petersburg, which is
great to see. M-1's self-accepted challenge now is to bring MMA to
the masses in Russia. That is still some way off, but nights like
tonight bring the goal ever closer.
This is Evgeni Kogan, about half an hour from the start of the M-1
Challenge: Russia vs. Spain and Finland. From me it's over and out.
Check out my fight report and pictures a little later today at
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