Fedor Emelianenko: I have to go to the UFC to face the strongest opponents

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

Former Strikeforce heavyweight attraction and longtime PRIDE FC champion Fedor Emelianenko is still yapping about a return to the United States, under the UFC banner, no less, despite persistent rumors from the M-1 camp that he's slated to compete later this year in Monaco.

"The Last Emperor" snapped a three-fight losing skid with a unanimous decision win over Jeff Monson last November, before making it two in a row with a first round knockout finish of judo expert Satoshi Ishii in the DREAM: "Genki Desu Ka Omisoka" year-end MMA extravaganza in Japan.

But was it good enough to warrant an appearance inside the Octagon?

That depends on his prospective opponents, which despite a previously planned match-up at Affliction: "Trilogy," wouldn't include current Strikeforce Grand Prix entrant Josh Barnett, who torpedoed their initial pairing (and the entire promotion) after flunking his pre-fight drug test.

Emelianenko breaks it down for Sportbox.ru (Translated by RT.com):

I want to compete at home, in front of my countrymen," the Last Emperor stressed. "But at the moment, the strongest and most respected MMA organization is situated in America. It's the UFC. Therefore, I have to go to the US in order to face the strongest opponents."

"I really sympathize with Josh (Barnett), and we've been friends for a long time," he said. "Perhaps, he is the only fighter whom I wouldn't want to meet in the ring."

Emelianenko (33-4), who once tore through the ranks of Japan's mixed martial arts (MMA) scene like a rampaging Godzilla, seemed undersized and overmatched during his foray into stateside competition.

Despite a couple of first-round laughers against former UFC heavyweight titleholders Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski, who both succumbed to the wily Russian within the opening frame of their respective Affliction bouts, the Combat Sambo Champion was nearly greased by ex-mechanic Brett Rogers in his Strikeforce debut.

While he eventually secured the second round knockout win, his following three bouts would not only shatter his mystique, they damn-near sent him into retirement, with a brutal knockout loss to part-time middleweight Dan Henderson as the straw that broke the Soviet's back.

He's been able to get back into the win column in recent months, but most of the hoopla behind his abilities -- and the desire to see him compete amongst the UFC elite -- has long since dissipated.

Or has it?

Let's get some feedback on Fedor's most recent comments. Is there any chance in hell we ever see him mixing it up under the UFC banner? Or is he simply a victim of M-1 propaganda?

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