When Fedor Emelianenko (pictured) announced in July that he was going to cut his three-year retirement short to return to mixed martial arts, the most decorated heavyweight the game has ever witnessed claimed he wanted to fight the best.
For a fighter as revered as “The Last Emperor,” who many believe to be MMA’s GOAT – especially after Anderson Silva decided to taint his resume with steroids, that would be the only thing to justify a comeback at the age of 38.
It is believed Emelianenko is one of the few mixed martial artists who has made millions in his career, so a comeback couldn’t be about a quick cash-grab.
Seeing where he measures up against today’s top dogs and avenging some unexpected losses at the end of his career, OK, I’d bite. It’s not as though MMA is currently overflowing with superstars, anyway.
If fighting the best was the driving force Emelianenko’s return, that road would only lead to the UFC, the premier MMA promotion Emelianenko has spurned on at least three separate occasions during his illustrious career.
The UFC offers the highest level of competition for his weight class, and have Fabricio Werdum, Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and Dan Henderson under contract – the three fighters who upset Emelianenko and sent him into essential irrelevance before he hung up his gloves in 2012.
So why did Emelianenko decide to shun the UFC once again? It was reported the UFC was in talks with the free agent, which lead many to believe that his octagon debut was eminent because Bellator president Scott Coker said they were not in the running to sign Emelianenko.
Instead, Emelianenko opted to rekindle his partnership with Nobuyuki Sakakibara, the former PRIDE FC president who helped him make his claim to fame.
Spike TV will air the New Year’s Eve event. It’s possible Coker will lend Sakakibara one of Bellator’s heavyweights to face Emelianenko in Japan. Vitaly Minakov is Bellator’s current heavyweight champ, but that matchup isn’t putting butts in seats.
You know what name might make this box office? Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson. Even though Emelianenko has been out of the game for three years, he should still be able to easily dispose of Kimbo once it hits the ground.
If easy wins and some quick cash was what Emelianenko was looking for in his comeback, then he took the right route. It’s also the easy route, since the path towards fights that make the most sense for him at this stage lead to the UFC.
I guess Emelianenko just didn’t want to wear Reebok…