John Gross of SI.com is reporting that Fedor Emelianenko could return to the ring in June against Josh Barnett. This comes from sources close to the Russian heavyweight champion and his promoters, Affliction Entertainment and M-1 Global.
The anticipated bout, which would put Emelianenko's WAMMA belt on the line for a second time, is the preferred choice for Affliction and its partners — Golden Boy Promotions, Trump Entertainment, and M-1 — as they build toward their third event.
Emelianenko, who is ranked as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter on most pundit's lists, has defeated everyone who has been but before him including five former UFC heavyweight champions.
That list includes Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera, Tim Sylvia, Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, and most recently Andre Arlovski. It's worth nothing that Nogueira did not become UFC champion, and subsequently lose the title, until after the pair's three memorable fights in the PRIDE organization.
Barnett, who stands as the youngest UFC heavyweight champion, could be No. 6. He captured the title from Randy Couture back in 2002 at the age of 24, but was later stripped of the title when it was discovered he tested positive for steroids. Barnett later fought in the PRIDE organization, but he and Fedor never challenged each other.
The two men share a close friendship and it's thought to be the reason the two have yet to meet. Many have accused Barnett of being the one to "duck" the fight, but it seems his "day of reckoning" has finally come.
While many hardcore MMA fans will undoubtedly be thrilled to see this fight finally come to fruition, others will likely reserve final judgment on Fedor's legacy until "if and when" he decides to fight for the UFC.
It has been reported that Fedor will meet with Dana White this summer to discuss the possibility of fighting current UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar. Lesnar first has to get by interim champion Frank Mir at UFC 98 and unify the heavyweight belt.
If Fedor does sign with the UFC, there is also the possibility he could finally fight Randy Couture, the man who left the UFC to pursue a fight with Fedor. Randy was later forced to return to the Octagon and finish out his UFC contract.
While the hype surrounding that fight has cooled since Couture lost his title to Lesnar, it's just one of the many intriguing possibilities which could be realized if the UFC is finally able to secure the services of the enigmatic Russian star.
First things first, though. It appears likely that Fedor Emelianenko will look to add Josh Barnett to his growing list of former UFC champions he has successfully faced.