"How would Fedor Emelianenko do in the UFC?" It's a question that has lingered for over a decade, and while fans won't get an answer anytime soon, they have a chance to see the Last Emperor face a solid UFC alumnus in San Jose, California, on Saturday in Matt Mitrione.
But how did that come to pass? And what was it that once again kept him out of the Octagon? Emelianenko discussed what happened with MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani through a translator on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour.
"We had made great relations with Scott Coker," he said (h/t MMA Fighting's Marc Raimondi for the transcription). "I received a very good offer from Bellator. In addition, Bellator invited my entire team. So all of the guys will be performing as well."
From 2009 to 2011, Coker promoted Emelianenko in Strikeforce, with the former Pride champion competing four times. After debuting with a devastating knockout win over Brett Rogers, he dropped three in a row via stoppage and unceremoniously left the promotion, returning to the international circuit before retiring in 2012.
He put his gloves back on in 2015, joining up with Japan's Rizin FF before taking a one-off fight in Russia under the Eurasia Fight Nights umbrella. Those wins sparked new negotiations with the UFC, but according to Emelianenko, the two sides just couldn't come to a deal. The reason, naturally, came down to the price tag.
"One of the main reasons was the ability for my team to perform, for my guys to perform," Emelianenko said. "The other reasons were, we were not exactly on the same terms as far as the financial conditions and some other things, some other smaller things as well."
While it's naturally disappointing that fans were once again robbed of the chance to see Emelianenko in the Octagon, Saturday's fight with Mitrione is most certainly an interesting one. If he gets back into the win column, there's a real chance Bellator rebuilds its heavyweight division around him.