There was a time not long ago when Fedor Emelianenko was considered to be the greatest heavyweight on planet. But despite his mystique, his titles and his indomitable streak, the Russian could never agree to terms with the UFC.
Now retired, Emelianenko recently attributed the insurmountable divide between the two sides to his belief that UFC President Dana White ‘personally hated' him. White, however, scoffs at the notion.
"Me and Lorenzo (Fertitta) were f--king laughing about that," White said on Thursday. "Yeah so I hated him. Who did I hate worse than Tito (Ortiz)? The guy lost f--king 100 fights in a row and retired in the UFC.
"We made every big fight with every fighter since we bought this company. You don't think we wanted to do Fedor vs. Brock Lesnar? I f--king wanted to make that fight so bad."
White claims that he and UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta met with Emelianenko's M-1 management multiple times at the height of Lesnar's popularity within the UFC, even flying to a remote island to hammer out a deal. Nonetheless, the two sides failed to come together, largely in part to a series of excessive demands from the Russians, which included M-1 co-promotion among other aspects.
"Brock wanted that fight. Brock wanted that fight bad," White said.
"We had to build a f--king stadium in Russia, and we had to do all this stupid s--t, stuff that no normal f--king human being would do. And now they lay in bed every night and regret not doing that deal."
There's no question that in late-2009, when both men were at the peak of their immense powers -- Lesnar fresh off a mauling of Frank Mir and Emelianenko still riding his incredible 27-fight unbeaten streak -- the match-up would've generated a box office explosion, potentially eclipsing UFC 100 as the most ordered mixed martial arts pay-per-view of all-time.
"I explained this to Fedor," White said. "‘We're catching a moment in time, right here, right now, where this fight between you and Brock Lesnar will be f--king massive. We're talking Dallas, Texas Stadium. This huge fight between these two big heavyweight guys. We're laying this massive f--king offer on the table.' I said, ‘You're one punch away from being worth f--king zero.'
"'This is the f--king moment, the time. We all need to seize this moment and make this f--king happen.'"
To this day, White refuses to reveal exactly how much Zuffa offered Emelianenko. Though he ominously insists that it was, without question, the most UFC lucrative contract of its time.
"It's not even that I regret it," White said. "Dude, when I tell you that we did everything -- someday I'll tell you the story of how much we offered that f--ker, too. People will f--king s--t. It made no sense. It's one of those type of deals.
"The NFL does $9 billion in television revenue. Makes no sense for the network. The network doesn't make a dime off the NFL, but you gotta have the NFL, right? The NFL pulls ratings like anything. This was one of those deals where it's like, this makes no f--king sense whatsoever. And literally when we got on the plane, when we were flying back, we were like, ‘Thank f--king God they turned that offer down.'"
The fight lost its luster soon afterward as both Lesnar and Emelianenko went on to suffer a string of subsequent defeats, ultimately leading to the retirement of both men.
Now the match-up is one of MMA's biggest ‘what ifs,' and White can't help but look back on one of the most substantial missed opportunities of his tenure as UFC President.
"Maybe he was (the best in the world)," White acknowledged of Emelianenko. "Maybe he was when he was fighting in Pride. Maybe he was. I don't know, because we never got to make some of the fights we wanted to make.
"Who knows. Maybe Fedor knocks out Brock, because we saw Brock against guys that hit hard. And that's probably what (Fedor and Finkelstein) look at it now. Like, ‘Goddamn.'"
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