This weekend, Fedor Emelianenko returns to the cage for the first time in nearly two years when he headlines Bellator 269 against Tim Johnson. Emelianenko is an unquestioned legend of MMA and is widely considered to be the best fighter to have never competed in the UFC, but because he has not, opinions differ on Emelianko’s position in the “Greatest Heavyweight of All Time” debate and on just how well “The Last Emperor” would have done in the world’s premier MMA organization. And the answer for one former UFC champion is “not great.”
On Thursday, while debating fans on his new show Debate DC, former UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier was asked how Fedor would have fared in the UFC in the late 2000s when it seemed like the UFC might actually sign him, and Cormier was not optimistic about Emelianenko’s chances.
“We’re talking a window of 2009-11,” Cormier said. “(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.”
Back in 2009, Emelianenko was viewed by most at the peak of his powers. Undefeated for nearly a decade, with his lone career loss being deemed by most to be illegitimate - it was a TKO by cut stoppage from an illegal blow, but it was a tournament bout and he was unable to advance - the former Pride heavyweight champion had just demolished former UFC champions Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski in a combined 3 minutes and 50 seconds under the Affliction fight banner. With Affliction promotions collapsing though, Emelianenko was looking for a new home and UFC President Dana White made a strong push to sign Fedor. Ultimately, the two sides could not come to terms though and instead, Fedor went to Strikeforce where he fought the unheralded Brett Rogers and then lost to Fabricio Werdum not long afterward, which Cormier says proves his point.
“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,” Cormier 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?”
That isn’t to denigrate Emelianenko though. Cormier went on to say that “The Last Emperor” had finally run up against Father Time, and the inexorable advancements of the sport.
“We’re talking about guys with limited skill sets and that’s where I think Fedor would have struggled,” Cormier said. “The guys weren’t so singular anymore, in their skills.... 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.
“The only way he gets a belt is if he walks right into a title fight against Lesnar.”
Following his loss to Werdum, Emelianenko lost his next two bouts in Strikeforce, to Antonio Silva and Dan Henderson before moving on from the organization and retiring in 2012. Emelianenko returned from his retirement in 2015 and has fought regularly since, until the COVID-19 pandemic prevented him from competing last year. Emelianenko has said that his fight against Timothy Johnson in Moscow on Saturday could be the final one of his illustrious career.
Bellator 269 Press Conference.
Top finishes from UFC Vegas 41 fighters.
The PFL got Wiz Khalifa to write them a theme song. It’s no IFL rap but still.
Costa-Vettori press conference.
Between the Links. Debating MMA cornering, Paulo Costa’s weight, and Bellator’s 205 division.
SOCIAL MEDIA BOUILLABAISSE
Paulo Costa and Marvin Vettori.
Stop changes pic.twitter.com/nRP5DpthQM— Paulo Costa ( Borrachinha ) (@BorrachinhaMMA) October 22, 2021
Fuck you pussy 195 contract is signed. See you Saturday bitch @BorrachinhaMMA— Marvin Vettori (@MarvinVettori) October 22, 2021
This would be incredible.
Plot twist, Costa weighs in at 185lbs— Arnold billy allen (@Arnoldbfa) October 22, 2021
Paulo Costa aka Paulo Pasta aka Eating At All Costa showed up to fight week 25lb over weight. Welcome to the Blonde Brunson Cook-Out pic.twitter.com/FrBrKNhvZ6— Derek Brunson (@DerekBrunson) October 21, 2021
They should book this.
“Where You At Mcnuggets!?!” Time -2- Turtle Up MF’s Glad Moast Of You Got The Memo -CSO- Crew On -2- One. -Champ ♂️ pic.twitter.com/gem24Np71B— Tony Ferguson (@TonyFergusonXT) October 21, 2021
Dan Hooker is feeling frisky.
Let's make it 5 rounds?— Dan Hangman Hooker (@danthehangman) October 22, 2021
Seems we have a fight on deck.
Big one— Dan “50k” Ige (@Dynamitedan808) October 21, 2021
Cody Law (4-0) vs. Colton Hamm (4-3); Bellator 271, Nov. 12.
Thanks for reading, enjoy the fights, WAR Fedor, and see y’all on Monday.
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