There was a time when nearly everyone considered Fedor Emelianenko the top heavyweight fighter on the planet.
Many still consider him the best heavyweight mixed martial artist of all time, and hardly anyone would argue that he’s at the least amongst the best.
But Fedor’s career, which finished at 34-4 with 1 no contest and on a three-fight winning streak when he retired, comes with an asterisk. He never fought in the UFC, which is now considered the de facto gold standard in MMA.
There was a time when the UFC wanted Fedor and Fedor wanted to the UFC. They appeared inches away from closing a deal to pit Fedor against then-UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar. So why didn’t it ever happen?
“Well, the UFC didn’t want me to fight there,” said Fedor in an interview on the upcoming edition of AXS TV’s The Voice Versus Fedor. “We were unable to make a deal. They offered unacceptable conditions.”
Today, it’s a given that the UFC is the premier MMA organization in the world, and most wonder why Fedor and his management wouldn’t succumb to the promotion’s offer to fight in the Octagon.
But, as Fedor points out, it’s not always been that way. When the Russian fighter was ruling the roost in Japan, there was an argument that Pride, particularly in the heavyweight ranks, had the top fighters in the world.
“Actually, when I fought in Pride, we had the best fighters in the world,” he urged to interview Michael Schiavello. “Back then, the UFC had a very serious and big crisis. They were going through some hard times being able to get top fighters. All the best fighters were in Pride. Later on, when Pride ceased to exist (after the UFC’s paren company bought the promotion), the UFC didn’t immediately pick up speed.”
For those that believe Fedor’s interview might be sour grapes, and that he’s trying to downplay the UFC, he’s not.
The UFC and Pride were battling for talent before Zuffa bought the Japanese organization, but Fedor readily admits that the UFC of today is the world leader.
“Currently, the UFC is a super organization in the world, probably the best. There are several top fighters in every weight categories,” said Fedor, although he doesn’t necessarily call himself a fight fanatic.
“In general, it’s hard to see the whole picture, I’d say. So there are some fighters that it is interesting to watch, but the rest of them, it’s not interesting for me.”