Before there was Cain Velasquez, Fedor Emelianenko occupied the throne as the best heavyweight fighter on the planet. If he were in his prime, "The Last Emperor" would have loved for nothing more than to test himself against the reigning UFC heavyweight champ.
"Cain Velasquez," Emelianenko said, per Daniel Austin of the Calgary Sun, when asked what current heavyweight he would want to fight in his prime. "He has some technical difficulties, but he has ambition and he's fearless. He wants to win so badly and he's in great condition. He’s a thinking fighter."
Emelianenko, who is widely regarded as the greatest heavyweight in MMA history, officially retired from fighting back in June 2012.
The former Pride heavyweight champ never competed in the UFC, but his name stands alongside MMA's most iconic figures. Longtime fans reminisce of the days when Pride had the best stable of heavyweights, and Emelianenko dominated every opposing challenge.
From his ominous walkouts to his near decade-long unbeaten streak, Emelianenko represented a real-life version of professional wrestling's "The Undertaker" in the sports world.
Retirement life doesn't always go over so well for most fighters. Many get the urge to come back in hopes of squeezing one final drop of glory out of a dwindling career. Emelianenko, on the other hand, is quite happy with retirement life. His MMA fix now comes solely from training in the gym instead of actual competition.
"I still train, so there isn't much that I miss," said Emelianenko, per Austin. "A true athlete is someone who doesn't just stop training when they stop competing. It's a way of life and they keep in shape just to keep up that standard."
He added, "Plus, there's a lot of younger guys who would like to take me down, so I always need to keep up because I definitely don't want that to happen."
As Emelianenko enjoys retirement life, Velasquez continues to dismantle every heavyweight in his path on his way to making UFC history. No other heavyweight champion in the UFC has ever successfully defended the title beyond two opponents.
Ironically, Velasquez will have the opportunity to accomplish this feat against the man who broke Emelianenko's legendary winning streak.
On November 15, he travels to Mexico City for a showdown with Brazilian heavyweight contender Fabricio Werdum.
Jordy McElroy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the MMA writer for Rocktagon.
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