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Fedor, Brock, the Czar and his ministers

1/29/2013
Fedor Emelianenko was very close to walking into the Octagon for a fight with Brock Lesnar. Josh Hedges/Getty Images

In a media scrum this past weekend in Chicago, Dana White casually mentioned how close the world was from getting a battle of colossals. You know, Brock Lesnar versus Fedor Emelianenko -- the heavyweight fight he said was light years from ever happening. The moonshot dream bout between the sworded American (who comes unnervingly close to fiction) and the serious Russian (who is solemnly real).

On Saturday night White threw it out there in passing, like it bored him to rehash that old incident. When told that this was news to the entire phalanx of reporters, the cameramen and even some of the United Center caterers, he did one of those little half grins and rolled out the old, “oh, I thought you knew.” Or more accurately, he said “I told you guys that story before, we were deep in talks with [Emelianenko] and we were that close to signing him.”

No, he didn’t tell that that story before. “No?” He said. “We were close to signing him, right before [Fedor’s] dad died. We were right there. When I was talking about doing that big Dallas Texas Stadium show, it was going to be Brock Lesnar versus Fedor.”

If that weren’t enough, White went on to say that he purposefully duped the media into believing just the opposite was true all those months ago when the Fedor/Lesnar whisperings were hot -- back when he said his meeting with a retired Lesnar “couldn’t have gone worse.” That was around the time he went on the Underground and asked if people would be interested in Emelianenko versus Lesnar and kicked up the speculation to begin with.

Why was he less than forthcoming with the media back then? Because nobody likes a snoop. (Or, you know…something like that).

In any case, Fedor said he was done when his father passed away, and at that time, so was Lesnar. Emelianenko’s long-awaited UFC appearance never materialized. Lesnar’s novelty comeback fight died on the vine. Both fighters are resigned to quiet country lives where they can get on with eternity.

Now, I recognize that there’s nothing rational in play here. It shouldn’t feel disappointing to hear that a fight we’d already accepted was never happening actually “came close” to happening -- especially considering that neither guy was as consequential in 2012 as he was in 2009.

And yet it does.

There’s something about Lesnar/Emelianenko that remains captivating, regardless if they are older, beat up and beltless. This was the one that we never got. It would have been two of the fight game’s seismic stars finally meeting. It’s the type of fight that nobody needs but everyone wants. Think they’ve been demystified? Not when it comes to fighting each other.

And besides, it’s a fight that doesn’t carry delusions; neither fighter is going to be a champion again. Neither is even remotely contemporary. It would just be two legacies colliding right along with all of our curiosities, which would have been enough. Somebody would have gone down. At one point we were desperate to trade speculation as to what would happen in that fight for the real thing. That feeling still sort of lingers.

Why did White bring this up now?

Who knows. Perhaps it was to explain, off-handedly, why the big “Dallas” card never came together. Perhaps it was because it’s something he wanted to get off his chest. Or, maybe it was because Russia was one of the focal points of the week. The UFC is headed to Russia, probably in 2013. Perhaps it was White planting a little seed. Maybe he is tempting Fedor. Maybe he’s tempting Lesnar.

Or maybe it was simply remembering the one that got away. Whatever his reasoning, it becomes just another file in the company lore.