Randy "The Natural" Couture and Fedor "The Last Emperor" Emelianenko are two of the most successful mixed martial artists to date. They are also two living legends who are still active as fighters. For MMA fans, the upcoming release of EA Sports MMA was presumably the only way anyone would ever see these two square off inside a cage. That is until we begin to piece together the events of recent past.
When Zuffa, LLC purchased Pride FC the deal not only included the Pride brand and the video catalog but also a number of fighter contracts. Unfortunately for UFC fans Fedor's contract with Pride had already expired and he moved on to fight for other promotions who for the most part have now gone defunct. That is until he found a home with Strikeforce.
The Last Emperor is coming off a loss to Fabrico Werdum at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum on June 26th, 2010. This fight not only marked the first legitimate loss on Fedor's record but was also the second fight on his contract. With only one fight remaining on his contract with Strikeforce, which will most likely be against someone without a title to defend, Fedor begs the question: What kind of legacy will he leave behind?
The Natural by contrast has not fought for a title, or defended one, since he lost the UFC Heavyweight Title to Brock Lesnar at UFC 91 back in November of 2008. Prior to this fight Couture was in a drawn out legal battle with the UFC brass. Couture claims the feud was sparked by the UFC's failure to sign Emelianenko, in addition to "other" disputes with UFC management. Couture wanted to fight the best, and at the time Fedor was the best.
Couture is currently getting ready for his fight with legendary boxer James Toney at UFC 118 next month. This will be his 4th fight on his current 6 fight/28 month contract. If we assume this is the last contract The Natural will have with the UFC before he finally retires for good, then he will have only two more fights before he turns 50. He will also only have two more fights to determine how he wants to finish his career and cement his legacy.
The future of Fedor has been on everybodys mind ever since his upset loss to Werdum. This thought has caused Dana White, president of UFC, to answer questions about the situation. White has long been a critic of Fedor and his legacy and makes no secret about it. But with the loss White had little to say except "I'm not interested."
If we take White at his word then we need to assume Fedor will never fight for the UFC. But if we read between the lines, is it so ridiculous to assume he is merely lowering the credibility and value of Fedor in an effort to force him into signing with the UFC under more "favorable" terms?
Dana White has a history of verbally assaulting those who would question him or go against the UFC. Most of the time when White attacks a fighter it is because the fighter is already in the UFC and has a contract dispute with the brass. This has happened with BJ Penn, Tito Ortiz, and the aforementioned Randy Couture just to name of few. In all three of those cases the tactic was used to force the fighter back into the UFC under White's terms. In all three of those cases the tactic has worked.
So I ask again, is it so ridiculous to think White is doing the same thing with Fedor? Before you answer, keep in mind it is the UFC business model to not grow the sport of MMA, but to grow the brand of the UFC, and have the two terms be synonymous, much like basketball and the NBA, football and the NFL, and baseball is the MLB. So if White can't have someone, and they can't be forced into the UFC, then why shouldn't he bring them down so no rival can fully capitalize on them (as long as we keep the UFC business model in mind)?
If these "hard ball" tactics eventually ware down on Fedor, and his management M-1 Global, then we may see him in the UFC. But with a loss to Werdum, and the fate of his next match yet to be determined, who would he fight inside the Octagon? If the goal is to put to rest the critics and finish on top then he should be working his way up the ladder. However, if the goal is to finish an already accomplished career on a high note, and at the same time give the fans the fight that never was, then a fight with Randy Couture seems almost necessary.
Even though Couture has dropped back down to the 205 division, his next bout against James Toney will be at a catch weight, so the thought of him fighting Fedor at heavyweight or a catch weight of 225 seems very justifiable. Even when he did fight at heavyweight, Couture was much closer in weight to Fedor, who comes in at just under 230, then he ever was to current champ Brock Lesnar.
Although Couture is 14 years the elder of Fedor, he is 15 years the elder of Brandon Vera who he defeated by unanimous decision back at UFC 105 in November of last year. Regardless of age, both fighters have a combined total of 63 fights (28 for Couture, 35 for Fedor) and are at the twilight of their careers.
Without breaking down the match piece by piece, it goes without question that each fighter would give it his all and put on a display for the fans that we will all remember. There won't be a title on the line, but that didn't stop Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva from putting on one of the greatest battles inside the Octagon at UFC 79.
So when we ask the question, what kind of legacy will these fighters leave behind, I hope the answer we get is a fight that goes down in history as a battle between two living legends who wanted to leave it all in the cage. Until then we will only be able to dream, speculate, and play video games.