Fedor Emelianenko was once the obsession of UFC president Dana White.
“He has become my obsession, man,” White told Yahoo! Sports back in 2010. “I want it [Fedor Emelianenko in the UFC] more than the fans want it now. Believe me.”
At the time of White’s interview, The Last Emperor (as Emelianenko is known to many MMA fans) was riding a 31-1 record in mixed martial arts. For many, including Bloody Elbow’s Jack Slack, Fedor was one of the most well-rounded fighters.
“Very few men can claim to have Olympic alternate level judo and still able to out-strike the best kickboxer in MMA history.”
Emelianenko is also well-known for his ground and pound. Slack described Fedor’s ground and pound style as “dynamic,” as opposed to the “static” style used by the majority of wrestlers. Emelianenko, according to Slack, would often punish his opponents after baiting them and do some of his best ground work while changing positions.
Shortly after the White interview, though, Fedor’s career suffered some setbacks. Though winning his first match in Strikeforce, Emelianenko then lost three fights in a row, one of which was against current UFC heavyweight champion, Fabricio Werdum.
After Fedor Emelianenko’s third loss, White’s interest in The Last Emperor did an about-face. Only a little over a year after calling Fedor his “obsession,” White claimed he had considered Emelianenko “overrated for years.”
“You guys thought he was the pound-for-pound best in the world, I said he was overrated for years.”
After a three-year hiatus from mixed martial arts, Emelianenko made his triumphant return, defeating Indian-Japanese heavyweight kickboxer, Singh Jaideep, on New Year’s Eve at Japan’s Rizin Fighting Federation MMA.
Fedor is now scheduled to make a return to the Rizin ring against UFC veteran Fabio Maldonado on June 17.
Since returning, it appears Dana White may once again be changing his tune on Fedor. According to the Russian UFC heavyweight, Alexey Oleinik, the UFC was prepared to take whatever offer Rizin made and add $100,000 to it.
“Emelianenko said he was ready for any opponent, including UFC champion Werdum. He said he was open to all suggestions, but he was not satisfied with the terms. I talked with the leaders of the UFC, and was told that Fedor was offered excellent conditions. Any fee that Rizin FF offered, UFC was ready to increase by a hundred thousand dollars.”
Fedor may also be changing his stance on fighting for the UFC. According to recent comments Emelianenko made to sovsports.ru (via Bloody Elbow), the probability that he will fight in the world’s biggest mixed martial arts promotion is “very high.”
“We are continuing to negotiate with the UFC. We did not put a cross on the organization. The probability is very high [that I will fight there].”
But whether Fedor Emelianenko would actually get a shot at the champion can only be left up to speculation.
On the one hand, numerous other heavyweights stand in his way, Cain Velasquez and Stipe Miocic just to name a couple.
On the other hand, the possibility of high ticket sales could tempt the UFC to not only give The Last Emperor a shot at its heavyweight gold but a chance to redeem himself for his 2010 loss to Werdum.
Furthermore, the UFC has lost much of its star power. Though still the world’s top MMA promotion and home to almost all of the most highly ranked mixed martial artists in the world, the Ultimate Fighting Championship has lost many of his most marketable fighters.
Conor McGregor recently made headlines with his “retirement” and even if Ronda Rousey does make her way back to the octagon, she may not command the same respect that she did before her loss to Holly Holm.
Dana White may therefore once again want Fedor “more than the fans.”
In fact, he may need Fedor Emelianenko more than the fans – especially for that vacant post at UFC 200.
[Image via Jeff Chiu/AP Images]