Contract negotiations between Pride FC heavyweight champion, Fedor Emelianenko, and the UFC have not gone smoothly and the lack of haste on both sides has left observers to speculate the consequences if they are unable to come to terms.
There are those who say that Fedor will walk away from the table because he nothing left to prove. He has gone unbeaten in over six years, dominated some of the top fighters of his division and is considered the top pound-for-pound MMA fighter by most sports writers.
With all due respect to his accomplishments and the opinion of others, Fedor still has plenty to prove and his legacy as the greatest of MMA fighter of all-time or even the greatest fighter of his era will come into question years from now if he doesn't compete in the UFC for the following reasons:
- To be considered the greatest of all-time, there has to popular consensus among the masses. This is big problem when you consider that most of North America and places other than Russia and Japan don't even know Fedor exists. It doesn't matter how loud the fanboys shout and whine because at the end of the day, no one will believe them unless they see it with their own eyes. Fedor has yet to fully establish his presence in what is now the Mecca of MMA.
- To be the man, you got to beat the man. To be the undisputed heavyweight champion, you have to beat the best fighters of the era and while many can question the caliber of fighter that Tim Silvia and Andre Arlovski represent, no one can deny that they were UFC champions at the time of his reign. Until Fedor defeats them in the octagon, he hasn't defeated the top opponents and the question will always linger.
- Randy Couture is taking names. At 44 years young, Couture is defying the odds and shaking things up in the heavyweight division by beating both Tim Silvia and Gabriel Gonzaga decisively while Fedor is accumulating ring rust from inactivity. The bigger Couture's star shines, the more Fedor's diminishes as fickle fans have short memories will eventually move on. A victory over Couture would go a long way to reestablishing Fedor's status and answering questions about his ability to conquer top-level UFC fighters.
- Pride fighters have performed poorly in the Octagon. The widely held belief among fanboys that Pride fighters are superior to UFC ones was given harsh wake up call when top Pride fighters Takanori Gomi, Cro Cop, Kazuki Fujita and Heath Herring were defeated by UFC fighters who weren't even the top of their division. We can't call Fedor the best until we know he can achieve victory under the unified rules with elbows and the ground n' pound dangers of fighting in the Octagon.
- Fedor has only passed one drug test in North America. With steroids and recreational drugs being more prevalent in MMA than most people imagined, Fedor needs to test cleanly several more times of performance enhancers under the scrutiny of independent-bodied athletic commissions in the United States. Until he does so, his previous record in Pride will have an unofficial asterisk given the lax nature of Pride's self-regulated drug testing that has come to light in recent months. Consistently producing clean tests does not definitively prove that his prior accomplishments were done without performance enhancers, but it does prove that he is able to compete and win cleanly on more than one occasion and it does aid public perception that he is a clean fighter.
Like it or not, UFC is the dominant promotion in MMA today and if Fedor has any desire to establish his legacy as one of the greatest MMA fighters of all-time, he must compete in the Octagon to solidify his place in history.