By the time 2010 rolled around, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White had conquered the world of mixed martial arts (MMA). White, wielding the financial power of Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, was able to lay claim to having all of the world's best fighters under one roof.
The Las Vegas fight boss tried every trick in the book when it came to signing former PRIDE Fighting Championship (PRIDE FC) Heavyweight Champion Fedor Emelianenko. He flew to remote islands. He shipped in boatloads of cash. He even promised a Brock Lesnar "super fight."
M-1 Global, the men behind the myth, weren't having it.
Fame and fortune were trivial things for the Stary Oskol-native, who was shacked up in a tiny apartment in his hometown behind the iron curtain. His direct report, Vadim Finkelchtein, had convinced "The Last Emperor" that an honorable deal would include nothing less than co-promotion.
UFC out, Strikeforce in.
Emelianenko finished up his duties under the short-lived Affliction banner, obliterating two former UFC heavyweight champions in the process. White could do nothing but sit idly by as Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski, famous for their exploits inside the Octagon, were systematically destroyed in first-round appearances.
A Nov. 2009 win over Brett Rogers -- his twenty-seventh straight -- crowned Fedor the new king of San Jose.
It was expected to be a dynasty, as the Strikeforce 265-pound division was booked piecemeal, at best. Josh Barnett had yet to join Scott Coker's immediate family and Alistair Overeem was too busy crushing cans overseas to defend his division title.
Enter Fabricio Werdum.
"Vai Cavalo" was slated to challenge "The Last Emperor" in the main event of Strikeforce: "Fedor vs. Werdum," held at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California, on June 26, 2010. He wasn't booked because he was a legitimate threat to Emelianenko, but rather because Coker needed to keep his prized stallion busy until someone better came along.
Namely, "Demolition Man."
Sure, Werdum was a two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) gold medalist, but he was also considered to be a UFC reject, losing a tepid slap-fight against the aforementioned Arlovski before getting KTFO by an unknown Brazilian boxer named Junior dos Santos.
At one point, the odds had him in the neighborhood of +600, which means somebody got paid.
Round one gets underway and Fedor cautiously gallops in, right hand cocked. Werdum uncorks an inside low kick that swings wide. As the crowd erupts into chants of "FEDOR! FEDOR! FEDOR!" the Brazilian initiates a wild brawl that draws a flurry from his challenger.
A right hand grazes "Vai Cavalo" and he falls on his keister.
Fedor -- like he's done so many times throughout his storied career -- gives absolutely zero fucks about his opponent's guard and just muscles his way in. Unfortunately for the overconfident Russian, the fight is less than a minute old. Werdum still has his strength.
And more importantly, he has an arm.
Emelianenko powers out -- but doesn't learn his lesson -- diving back into the fray for some of his patented ground-and-pound. Once more, the possum locks up an arm, but this time also secures the triangle choke. Neither fighter has perspired, making the grip as tight as Werdum can squeeze it.
Seconds later, Fedor is forced to tap, and the internet breaks.
Werdum would move on to fight Overeem for the Strikeforce heavyweight championship. While he was unable to strip "The Reem" of division gold, he was still given a second shot inside the Octagon, which two wins later, has earned him a rematch against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Once again, a title shot may hang in the balance.
They'll do the deed at UFC on FUEL TV 10 this Saturday night (June 8, 2013) at Ginasio Paulo Sarasate in Fortaleza, Ceara, Brazil. "Vai Cavalo" is hoping to avenge his loss to "Minotauro" under the PRIDE FC banner during the promotion's grand prix back in 2006 (more on that here).
As for Fedor?
He would go on to lose consecutive fights to Antonio Silva and Dan Henderson, before returning to overseas competition. White never did have Emelianenko compete under the UFC banner, but for all intents and purposes, he did have the last laugh.
For more on this weekend's UFC on FUEL TV 10 event click here.