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Fedor Emelianenko blames Dana White’s tactics for failed UFC negotiations

Retired heavyweight legend Fedor Emelianenko discusses UFC President Dana White and the infamous negotiations on ‘The Island.’

Esther Lin

Back in 2009, you would have been hard-pressed to find an MMA fan who did not want to see Fedor Emelianenko in the UFC.

He was the golden goose; the fighter that presented an enigma in the shape of a Russian heavyweight fighting machine. Wherever he fought, fans tuned in, and violence ensued.

Many assumed it was just a matter of time and money before Fedor was brought into the UFC fold. After all, he was the greatest heavyweight alive, and according to UFC President Dana White, worth the effort and resources to bring into the promotion.

It never came to fruition.

According to Fedor, who returned to the United States for the first time since 2011 during his four-fight Strikeforce run, the negotiation process with the UFC was not as simple as they make it appear in hindsight. Not only were promises made that were later changed on paper, but White also appeared brash and rude during the entire negotiation process on the infamous island.

"We did meet on the island," Fedor told "It was very short. It was unclear why he (Dana) came. Of course, over the conversation one thing was promised, but when the paperwork was received it was something else. There was a very extensive dialogue between me and Dana, as well as Dana's lawyers, but it didn't go anywhere. In other words, Dana basically said, sooner or later you're going to end up fighting here anyway. You're still going to say yes to this contract I'm giving you."

Neither Fedor, nor his manager, M-1 Global President Vadim Finkelchtein, were very impressed with the tactics applied. They saw White's approach as a form of bullying and little left room for compromise.

According to the former PRIDE champion, White's strategy only changed once Fedor was in the twilight of his career.

"I got the invite [to fight Lesnar] only after I was retired," he says. "Everything has it's time and place, and it wasn't the right time for it. This is how God willed it, so it happened. I also believe it could have happened earlier had the UFC -- primarily Dana -- reached out and actually started a proper dialogue where both parties met halfway. Not just, ‘these are my rules, either take it or leave it.'"

Six years have passed since the failed negotiations on the island. Six long years where fans have witnessed a complete overhaul in the MMA landscape. None of the champions that reigned during that time period remain at the top of the game in 2015. Fedor himself is retired and happily employed as an advocate for MMA in Russia. He appears at peace with himself, as well as how his career had turned out. Money has not been an issue to him for many years; it was always a matter of respect, something he believes the UFC never attempted to show him.

"Throughout my entire career, I've heard and read on the Internet a lot of negativity coming from Dana," he says. "Someone who says a lot of negative things about you and then turns around and invites you to join him, how do you react to that? And it's not even about money. It's all about mutual respect, meeting each other halfway. Not just one saying one thing to the other."

Transcription taken from