Fedor Finally Gets His Opportunity to Fight UFC’s Best

December 16, 2023
3 months

Jon Jones didn’t decide until late in his career to wade into the deep waters at heavyweight. The greatest light heavyweight of all time became another on the list of UFC multi-division champions by bullying Cyril Gane in his first attempt at winning a championship in the heaviest weight class. But how good could Jones have been at heavyweight if he had gone to the division earlier in his career?

Jones, whose career was wrecked by legal problems and failed drug tests, is still considered one of the best despite his issues outside the octagon. Fedor Emelianenko is one of the greatest MMA fighters to never step inside the UFC octagon. Emelianenko was PRIDE’s top heavyweight for years, reigning as champion until the promotion closed.

Despite many flirtations to set up a fight between Emelianenko and Brock Lesnar, the UFC could never lure the Russian overseas. Much of the issue in luring the fighter came from problems with money and co-promotion according to MMAfighting latest news.

Fedor Was King of Pride

In the early 2000s, the UFC was establishing its dominance in the MMA market. One weight class where many people agreed there was better competition elsewhere was heavyweight. With Emelianenko in PRIDE, many believed the Japanese promotion had a more talented pool of competitors.

Emelianenko debuted in pride with a win over UFC Pioneer Mark Coleman and never lost during his three-year run with the promotion that saw him win all nine of the fights he competed in. During this run, Emelianenko would pick up wins over Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mirko Cro Cop and Mark Hunt.

All five of those men would compete in the UFC. Randleman, Coleman, and Nogueira were all either heavyweight champions or interim champions during their time in the UFC. When PRIDE shut its doors in 2007, Emelianenko became a free agent and had an opportunity to be successful, according to the MMA latest updates.

Flirting With the UFC

Let’s face it. Brock Lesnar was a freakish athlete and could have been one of the best MMA fighters ever had he started younger. He did become UFC heavyweight champion but didn’t last long at the top because of his limited skill set. The idea of Lesnar and Emelianenko fighting once PRIDE closed, however, was enticing to both sides.

But UFC CEO Dana White and Emelianenko’s camps could never come to an agreement. Since White became involved in the UFC, he has been adamantly against the idea of co-promotion, believing that co-promotion led to too much corruption in boxing, with too many titles watering down the product.

Emelianenko would end up fighting in Affliction, picking up another win over former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski before setting in with Strikeforce.

Period of Decline Comes Quickly for Fedor

Emelianenko’s last day as a major MMA champion came when he knocked out Brett Rodgers on Nov. 7, 2009, to retain the WAMMA Heavyweight championship and improve to 31-1 on his career. During his next fight, Emelianenko took a surprising submission loss to Fabricio Werdum.

That was the start of a three-fight losing streak for Emelianenko. Emelianenko wouldn’t appear back in the championship picture until 2019. Now with Bellator, Emelianenko picked up victories over Frank Mir and Chael Sonnen to reach the finals of the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix.

Emelianenko lost in the finals by TKO to Ryan Bader. He would challenge Bader again for the heavyweight title in 2023 but also lost by a first-round KO. Emelianenko wrapped up his career with a 40-7 record with one no-contest. He won 16 times by knockout and 15 times by submission.

Jones Showed Natural Gift for MMA

Jon Jones never seems to hit too many bumps in the road. At least inside the octagon, anyway. Jones won the first nine fights of his career, including the first three in the UFC, with relative ease. The only loss of Jones’ career came by disqualification when it was ruled he hit Matt Hamill with illegal elbows while in full mount.

Jones would shake that off and continue to build his resume as the greatest light heavyweight in UFC history. He won the championship, and he beat Mauricio Rua by TKO in the third round in 2011. While Jones’ career would be slowed by his own poor decisions on the rim, ranging from failed drug tests to issues with the police, no opponent could catch him in the octagon.

Jones is tied with Demetrious Johnson for the most title defenses with 11, according to MMA news websites.

Jones Takes on a New Challenge

After being out of the octagon for three years, Jones decided to return in 2023 at heavyweight. Fighting former interim champion Cyril Gane for the vacant title didn’t prove to be so difficult. Jones got a takedown during the first few minutes.

Jones was able to quickly work for a submission that improved his career record to 27-1 all-time. He was supposed to battle Stipe Miocic in a heavyweight championship bout in July 2023 but was forced to pull out due to injury.

Could Jones Handle Emelianenko’s Power?

We may never find out how Jones could stack up to a true heavyweight’s power. There is always a threat of Jones retiring after his next fight with Miocic. A superfight between Jones and former heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, who fled the UFC for PFL, appears as though it will never happen.

In a hypothetical matchup between Emelianenko and Jones, Emelianenko’s power may be the equalizer. Jones wouldn’t be able to bully Emelianenko with his strong wrestling like he did with so many other opponents. This would be a fun matchup because both men showed the capacity to be well rounded.

Emelianenko’s power could be the difference, but Jones also has the movement and versatile style that would make it difficult for the Russian to catch up to Jones, who would likely be the lighter man in the fight.

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