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Dana White: Fedor Emelianenko not ‘one of the greatest of all-time,’ should have retired ‘a few years ago’

Fedor Emelianenko
Esther Lin

Dana White and Fedor Emelianenko never managed to do business, which is just fine with the UFC president.

On Saturday, the legendary Emelianenko competed in his retirement bout in the main event of Bellator 290, where he lost by first-round knockout to heavyweight champion Ryan Bader. Afterward, Emelianenko was celebrated in an in-cage ceremony that included other legends of the sport, including former UFC champions Randy Couture, Matt Hughes, Quinton Jackson, Frank Shamrock, and Mark Coleman.

Later that evening, White was asked for his thoughts on Emelianenko fighting for the last time.

“Listen, what is the guy, like, 46?” White said at the UFC Vegas 68 post-fight press conference. “He shouldn’t be fighting. But he’s a grown-ass man who can do whatever he wants to do, but yeah, he probably should have hung it up a few years ago.”

Emelianenko is widely recognized as not only one of the best fighters of all-time, but the best to never compete inside the octagon. There were several reported stop-and-start negotiations between Emelianenko’s team over the years, but the sides never came to an agreement. Couture actually attempted to arrange a bout with Emelianenko outside of the UFC amid a contract dispute before eventually returning to the promotion in 2008.

Despite their tumultuous history, White insisted that the failure to come to an agreement with Emelianenko was never personal.

“No, I don’t dislike Fedor or anything like that,” White said. “But no, it didn’t happen. We gave it a shot. You can’t say we didn’t try. We gave it a shot and it is what it is.”

When White was asked if he felt that Emelianenko tarnished his legacy by fighting well past his prime, White attempted to be diplomatic before making it clear that Emelianenko’s résumé isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be in his opinion.

“I don’t want to s*** on the guy,” White said. “He’s retiring tonight and all that stuff, but you guys know the deal with interviews with me, I never thought Fedor was that — I mean he got knocked out by middleweight Dan Henderson.

“I think some of the guys in the business, people liked him, so they praised him, he never got to test himself over here. I was never one of the guys that thought he was one of the greatest of all-time.”

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