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Dana White: Referee willing to let Fedor die on UFC Fight Pass, may sign him anyway

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Esther Lin

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White is still interested in signing former PRIDE FC heavyweight champion and longtime white whale Fedor Emelianenko.

That might come as a surprise when you consider how mightily "The Last Emperor" -- once hailed as the greatest heavyweight to ever compete -- struggled to overcome Fabio Maldonado, a middling light heavyweight boxer cut from UFC for losing multiple fights.

But whatever reservations White had about the fading 39-year-old Russian, who came out of retirement last December to recycle a kickboxing can on the Japanese circuit, yielded to the number of subscribers booting up UFC Fight Pass to watch Emelianenko compete.

From UFC Unfiltered with Jim Norton and Matt Serra (via MMA Junkie):

"They were going to let him die before they stopped that fight, you know that? But a testament to how tough and durable and mentally strong Fedor is, man. He was out. He was out. Literally, when he got back up ... when a guy is on crazy legs the way that he was on crazy legs, and it's not like he was on crazy legs and able to avoid punches after that. He continued to get hit with bombs by Maldonado and he made it through it. But I'll tell you this: Those refs were willing to let him die before they stopped that fight, No. 1. And No. 2, Fedor's got a chin and he's a tough guy. We've been negotiating for many, many, many years. I'll tell you this: Fight Pass did very well with that fight, so people do still want to watch Fedor."

Watch video highlights of "Fedor vs. Maldonado" here.

Emelianenko opted to sign with the now-defunct Strikeforce promotion after the fall of PRIDE, eventually setting sail when Scott Coker and Co. were acquired by ZUFFA. While a potential Brock Lesnar fight was "right there" in 2012, the deal ultimately fell through.

Better late than dead never?