Just when mixed martial arts (MMA) fans were beginning to accept the retirement of two of the most exciting heavyweight fighters in the history of the sport in Brock Lesnar and Fedor Emelianenko, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White decided to drop the bombshell that he was inches away from making a dream fight between the former UFC and Pride FC champions last year.
According to White, he had a match up between the American and Russian all but signed for an event at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas, in 2012; however, when the freshly retired Emelianenko suffered a devastating loss in his family when his father passed away, "The Last Emperor" decided a return to the sport was not in the cards.
White dropped the stunning news in a media scrum following the UFC on FOX 6: "Johnson vs. Dodson" post-fight press conference (watch it here) in Chicago, Illinois.
Here's how he explained the situation:
"I told you guys that story before, we were in deep talks with him we were that close to signing him. No [we were close to signing him] recently, right before his dad died...we were right there. When I was talking about doing that big Dallas Texas stadium show it was going to be Brock Lesnar versus Fedor. Remember when I met with him and I said it didn't get well? It actually did go well. It went well and then Fedor's dad died, he wanted to fight Fedor....Fedor was done, he said ‘I want to spend the rest of my life with my family.' We were negotiating for months. And then after his dad died he said, ‘That's it I'm done,' or whatever and then Brock said, ‘I'm done too.'"
There we some rumbles about a Lesnar vs. Emelianenko fight last year when White asked fans if they would later want to see the fight; however, he later backtracked saying he was only asking a question.
What makes the news so shocking is that the last time White spoke of Lesnar was when told media members his last meeting with the former UFC champion "couldn't have gone worse." White now admits his past statements about the meeting were inaccurate, and his conversations with Lesnar went "very well," but he did not want to state that to the media in fear the fight with Emelianenko wouldn't pan out.
White explained why he didn't share details of the negotiations with the media:
"Cause I don't have to tell you guys everything, you know what I mean? Cause then you guys (the media) starting looking around fishing for shit, shit that I don' t need you fishing for at that time."
Lesnar (5-3) retired from MMA competition in Dec. 2011 following a technical knockout loss to current UFC heavyweight contender Alistair Overeem at UFC 141. The 35-year-old went 4-3 in his UFC stint, most notably defeating Frank Mir and Randy Couture.
Emelianenko (34-4, 1 NC) closed out his career on a high note, winning three consecutive bouts overseas. Prior to the streak, the MMA legend suffered three consecutive losses to Fabricio Werdum, Antonio Silva and Dan Henderson, which to most spelled the beginning of the end to his prestigious career.
White was asked if he believes there is any chance the UFC will attempt to sign Emelianenko going forward; he said anything is possible, but if Emelianenko is set on retirement, he isn't going to try and convince him to change his mind.
"From what I understand, he has absolutely, positively made his decision not to fight ever again from what I understand, but I mean, anything's possible. You know, when the guy says he wants to retire, you're never going to see me chasing a guy that says he wants to retire. If you want to retire, you should retire."
Certainly an interesting nugget from the UFC President, and surely one we won't be hearing the last of.