For the first time, WAMMA heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko is speaking out about the disappointment of having his highly anticipated “Affliction: Trilogy” title fight against Josh Barnett scrapped due to his opponent’s inability to lay off the juice.
“Josh is a great, strong fighter,” Emelianenko stated at a press conference in Moscow earlier today. “I’ve always followed his fights and liked him as a competitor and as a person. I was very prepared, totally ready for a good, hard fight. But, what can you do? I am disappointed, though I’m glad that after all I don’t have to fight a friend.”
Fedor says that he hasn’t spoken to his good ‘ol buddy yet, however he doesn’t envision the topic of conversation to involve steroids once he does.
“We haven’t had a chance to speak to him yet, though I really want to,” he said. “And once we do speak, most probably we will not discuss what has happened in the last day.”
Barnett’s flunked drug test has been the only topic of conversation in MMA circles the last 24 hours. Now that he has left Affliction hanging high and dry just 10 days before the event jumps off inside the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, it’s up to the popular clothing company to land a substitute suitable for the Russian tank.
“We personally entertain the idea of having Brett Rogers step in since he knocked Andrei Arlovski out,” Emelianenko’s manager, Vadim Finkelchtein, told M-1Global.com. “But if there is any problem with Rogers, then it’s pretty safe to say it’s going to be Belfort. However, we are well aware of the fact that fans don’t consider Vitor Belfort to be a suitable replacement.”
Although Strikeforce’s director of communications, Mike Afromowitz, told MMAjunkie.com yesterday that Rogers was unavailable for the August 1st date, Emelianenko and Co. are talking like it’s a legit possibility.
“In regard to Rogers, I think he is a very serious opponent,” stated the WAMMA champion. “I think he is very physically strong, and possesses significant knockout power. And I think that taking this into account, Andrei [Arlovski] was too quick to decide to stand and trade with him.”
For now though, it appears that Belfort is the front-runner to land the gig and will step up in weight to face the world’s most dominant heavyweight. Although the fans aren’t particularly stoked about the prospects, Emelianenko acknowledges that Belfort does present some glaring problems.
“I have always found it harder to fight the lighter, faster guys, rather than the really big, plodding heavy and super heavyweights, and Belfort has always stood out in terms of his speed,” Fedor said.
Word is that Affliction VP Tom Atencio will make an official announcement regarding Emelianenko’s soon-to-be next victim on Friday.