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Fedor Emelianenko says he's closer than ever to signing with the UFC

Fedor Emelianenko to the UFC? Finally? It could happen in 2016, said the man himself.

Emelianenko told Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour that he is closer than ever to signing a contract with the world's leading MMA promotion. And his next fight, after this weekend's bout under the Eurasia Fight Nights banner, could very well be in the Octagon.

"Yes," Emelianenko said through a translator. "In a word, yes. That possibility does exist."

Emelianenko will meet UFC veteran Fabio Maldonado at EFN 50 on Friday in St. Petersburg, Russia. The bout will air on UFC Fight Pass. After that, the MMA legend said he will be a free agent and ready to speak with any and all organizations. Emelianenko said he does have an offer on the table from the UFC.

"I always wanted to fight for UFC and I would fight for UFC, but at this moment we're looking at the deal and the deal has to satisfy both parties -- them and my organization," Emelianenko said. "Until there's no friction, until we are 100 percent in terms of seeing eye-to-eye, we are all basically in limbo."

Emelianenko, 39, and the UFC have negotiated multiple times, but it has never come together. There was even talks a few years ago about having Emelianenko face Brock Lesnar at Cowboys Stadium, but UFC president Dana White said Emelianenko passed on it after his father died.

Lesnar is now back in the UFC and fighting Mark Hunt at UFC 200. Emelianenko, though, said there has been no talk of that potential future matchup.

"All I wanted to say is for now we never received a proposal like that," Emelianenko said. "But if somebody were to make that proposal, we'll definitely look at it closely."

Emelianenko (35-4, 1 NC), a huge star in PRIDE and Strikeforce, went undefeated in MMA from 2000 to 2010, one of the greatest runs in the history of the sport. He is arguably the best heavyweight in MMA history and some would say he's the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all time.

"The Last Emperor" dropped three straight to finish his Strikeforce career and then retired in 2012 after winning three in a row in Japan and Russia. Emelianenko returned to much buzz this past New Year's Eve under the Rizin Fighting Federation banner, defeating Indian kickboxing champion Jaideep Singh via first-round submission (punches). The Russian star said he felt like his old self in that bout.

"I did get that feeling," Emelianenko said. "I feel like I am back. A fighter is measured by the last fight. I'm looking forward to illustrate I am back in my usual form."

Kamil Gadzhiev, an EFN executive, appeared with Emelianenko on The MMA Hour. He said his promotion is planning on being at the negotiating table with Emelianenko after Friday. There will surely be others, too, like Bellator and Rizin.

After the bout with Maldonado, Emelianenko will be a free agent again. And once again, the MMA world will be waiting to find out whether or not a deal between the UFC and perhaps the greatest fighter ever to never have fought for the UFC can finally be hammered out.

"Right now, I'm much closer compared to when I just came back to MMA," Emelianenko said. ... "Yes, we did receive an offer. But there are some finer points that we wanted to discuss."

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