In 2009 MMA fans came close to seeing Fedor Emelianenko, a legend of PRIDE FC, join the ranks of the UFC. The full story on the negotiations to sign The Last Emperor is yet to be told. Though, we know a private island is involved somehow.
Of course no deal would be made and the iconic Russian heavyweight would never sign one the dotted line for ZUFFA. So what we’re left with is one of MMA’s most agonizing ‘what ifs’ regarding how well Emlianenko, the greatest heavyweight ever to many people, would have fared against a field of UFC heavyweights that included Randy Couture, Shane Carwin and Brock Lesnar and was soon to feature Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos.
Someone who thinks Emelienenko would have found life hard in the Octagon is former UFC light heavyweight and heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier. He told folks on ESPN that the stoic fighter would have been “average at best” under these conditions.
“We’re talking a window of 2009-11,” Cormier said (ht MMA Fighting). “(That’s) where the UFC dealt with Fedor or at least tried to make something happen. The UFC was interested for a long time, until he went to Bellator and then obviously he’s off limits. But all the time, Fedor kind of flew around, fighting in organizations, things can still be done.
“Versus Brock Lesnar, I’ll give you that. I think he beats Brock Lesnar. But outside of that, I don’t think Fedor competes very well in the UFC. I think that, honestly, Fedor not going to the UFC allowed for the intrigue to stay, but the reality of the situation is he would not have done well against those guys like JDS (Junior dos Santos), he wasn’t beating Cain Velasquez, he would have struggled with guys like Cheick Kongo. He was not beating those guys that were at the top of the UFC at that time. I’m certain of it.
“I know you’re gonna say, ‘ Well he beat this guy, he beat (Antonio Rodrigo) Nogueira and he beat Frank Mir.’ For as great as he is, he would have been, at that time in the sport, average at best. I’m telling you. Fedor Emelianenko in the UFC between 2009-11, average at best.”
Despite saying Emelianenko couldn’t beat the best the UFC had in 2009, Cormier stressed that he “likes” Emelianenko—before then trashing some more career accomplishments.
“It becomes a situation where it makes me feel that I’m talking trash on the great Fedor Emelianenko, when in reality, I like Fedor Emelianenko,” he said. “But we’re talking about a guy that was fighting Brett Rogers. He was fighting Brett Rogers in Strikeforce. The story was that Brett Rogers was a Walmart tire employee and he had done so well because he can punch so well, but we’re talking about a guy that worked at the tire shop at Walmart, he made $100,000, his wife wanted to be a rapper, he got beat by Fedor and the faded into the background. So how are you going to tell me that leads you to believe that at that point in time he could compete with guys like Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos, and you can’t say (Fabricio) Werdum because Werdum beat him when they fought very recently after that?”
Cormier went on to say that Emelianenko was used to beating fighters with “limited skill sets” and that more well-rounded heavyweights, which Cormier said the UFC began to feature, would have caused him trouble.
“At the time that Fedor was going to go to the UFC, the speed had started to slow down and that’s where Fedor would have struggled. The hand speed that Fedor displayed early in his career was second to none and that’s why he overwhelmed people the way that he did. But as he got older, in that time frame, he would have beat Brock Lesnar because Brock Lesnar would have not enjoyed getting hit by him and he would have wilted, but these guys that are true fighters, they would have just kept fighting him and then as he slowed down, they would have found ways to break him down and win those fights.”
When 2009 began Emelianenko held a 29-1 (1) record, with his only loss being a doctor stoppage versus Tsuyoshi Kohsaka in 2000’s Rings: King of Kings tournament. That loss came due to a cut suffered 17 seconds into the fight.
In January 2009 he obliterated Andrei Arlovski with a first round KO. Then he knocked out Rogers. In 2010 he lost to Werdum by submission. In 2011 he was TKO’d by Antonio Silva and then Dan Henderson.
After those losses Emelianenko regrouped and reeled off a five fight winning streak in Russia and Japan. He returned stateside with Bellator in 2017 and lost to Matt Mitrione by KO. The following year he stopped Frank Mir and Chael Sonnen. In 2019 he was TKO’d by Ryan Bader and then KO’d Quinton Jackson.
Emelianenko is scheduled to face Timothy Johnson at tomorrow’s Bellator 269. It’s believed that this will be his final MMA fight.
About the author