What Might Have Been: Fedor Emelianenko in the UFC

On July 28, 2009, the Los Angeles Times reported that Fedor Emelianenko and the UFC were finalizing a deal that would result in an announcement by the end of that week of the top heavyweight in mixed martial arts finally agreeing to step into the Octagon.

That report was wrong, Fedor went to Strikeforce instead of the UFC, and now Fedor has lost two fights and lost the mantle of Best Heavyweight in MMA. The heavyweight division in the UFC, meanwhile, has moved on and looks a lot different now than it did a year and a half ago.

But what if the report had been correct? What if Fedor had accepted the UFC's contract offer and had been with the UFC over the last year and a half? Some thoughts on what would have happened are below.




1. Dana White would have praised Fedor. Although the UFC President went on Twitter to bash Fedor after his loss to Antonio Silva on Saturday night, White would have been singing a different tune if Fedor had entered the UFC. We would have heard White, accurately, describing Fedor as an all-time great who had rampaged through Pride and was ready to take it to the next level in the UFC.

2. Fedor vs. Brock Lesnar would have been booked. In July of 2009, both Lesnar and Fedor were as hot as they had ever been: Lesnar was coming off his destruction of Frank Mir at UFC 100, and fans were in a lather to see Fedor after his Affliction fight with Josh Barnett was canceled. UFC President Dana White had said he was prepared to offer Fedor a title fight right off the bat, and when they announced that fight it would have been sold, correctly, as the biggest fight in UFC history.

3. Fedor vs. Lesnar would have been canceled. The illness that forced Lesnar out of action for a year would have meant that after the big announcement of Fedor vs. Lesnar, the UFC would have had to cancel the fight. That would have left the UFC scrambling to find the right opponent for its big new acquisition.

4. The UFC would have settled for Fedor vs. Randy Couture. Although Fedor-Lesnar was the fight everyone wanted in the fall of 2009, Fedor-Couture was the one fight that wouldn't have felt like too big a disappointment once Lesnar got sick. Fans had been clamoring to see Fedor vs. Couture for years, the two fighters had been clamoring to take on each other for years, and making it happen would have salved the fans who were devastated that Fedor-Lesnar had been called off.

5. Fedor would have whipped Couture. With all due respect to Couture, he would have fared very badly in the Octagon with Fedor. Even if you're the world's biggest Couture fan, and even if you believe that Fedor was already past his prime in 2009, you'd have a hard time finding anyone who watched Fedor beat Brett Rogers and Couture lose to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira who doesn't believe that Fedor was a lot better than Couture in the fall of 2009.

6. Fedor vs. Lesnar would have been even bigger in 2010. By 2010, Fedor would have been introduced to UFC fans through his victory over Couture, and Lesnar would have been healthy and ready to defend his heavyweight title. A Fedor vs. Lesnar fight under those circumstances would have been absolutely enormous, surpassing UFC 100 as the biggest pay-per-view in MMA history.

7. Fedor vs. Lesnar would have lived up to the hype. I'd still love to know what might have transpired if those two bulls had ever locked horns. I could easily see Fedor connecting to Lesnar's suspect chin with one of those powerful looping punches, knocking Lesnar down and pounding him out on the ground. I could also easily see Lesnar taking Fedor down like Antonio Silva did, getting on top of him and destroying him with ground and pound. What I can't see is anything other than a great fight.

8. Win or lose vs. Lesnar, Fedor would have lost his next fight. Fedor would have beaten Couture and might have beaten Lesnar, but he just doesn't match up very well with the rest of the top heavyweights in the UFC. Depending on how things had gone in the rest of the UFC's heavyweight division, Fedor's next fight would have been against someone like Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos or Shane Carwin. I would have loved to see the Fedor of the Pride days against any of those guys, but the Fedor of 2011 just isn't as good as the UFC's top heavyweights (or as good as Strikeforce's top heavyweights). Fedor would have lost in the Octagon by now.

9. Fedor would be contemplating retirement in 2011. After losing to Silva on Saturday night, Fedor said in the cage that he might be done. That would be the case if that loss had happened in the UFC, too. Fedor is in his mid-30s, and he wasn't going to fight past his mid-30s no matter where his paychecks were coming from.

10. Fedor's legacy would be secure. Fedor is the best heavyweight in MMA history. That's true despite his losses in Strikeforce, and it would have been true if he had suffered losses in the UFC. Sure, maybe a few fans would have said, "See? He entered the UFC and then he lost." But most would agree that you just can't dispute Fedor's place in MMA history. Everyone who knows the sport knows that his dominance in the heavyweight division is unmatched -- even those who will always be disappointed he never fought in the UFC.

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