On Tuesday, it was announced that Russian heavyweight legend Fedor Emelianenko would be returning to the mixed martial arts arena. The former Pride champion ruled the heavyweight landscape for ten years and had an aura so absorbing that UFC fighters were abandoning their Zuffa contracts to challenge 'The Last Emperor' in lesser known organizations.
Andrei Arlovski and Tim Sylvia left the UFC to test their mettle against Emelianenko under Affliction's MMA banner; both succumbed to the mighty Russian in the first round. Arlovski was swatted mid-air with a looping overhand right and Sylvia was choked into submission after being overwhelmed with a flurry of uppercuts and hooks.
Former two-division UFC world champion Randy Couture was also considering a switch to Affliction to face Emelianenko in 2008, but the 45-year-old was unable to terminate his Zuffa contract and returned to face Brock Lesnar at UFC 91. Now, seven years on and basking in retirement, 'The Natural' is thinking about what could have been, in his dream match-up with the Pride legend.
"Obviously I think it's a fight that in our heyday would have been an amazing fight and a crossover fight for that time," Couture told SI Now. "Whether or not I'd be willing to step out there now at 52 years old and come back out of retirement after four years of working on all the other stuff in my life, I don't know.
"It would be something I'd really have to think hard about."
Emelianenko had retired in 2012 after knocking out Pedro Rizzo in the first round at an M-1 Global event. Since the Russian's departure, former opponents Andrei Arlovski, Mark Hunt, and Mirko CroCop -- all who'd lost to Fedor -- have seen remarkable career resurgences.
'The Pitbull' has reemerged as a top UFC contender; ranked 4th in the official UFC fighter rankings, Mark Hunt came close to seizing the interim heavyweight title in 2014, and CroCop redeemed himself with a vengeful win over Gabriel Gonzaga in April.
Couture, who turned 52-years-old earlier in June, admits to getting the itch to return to combat anytime he's spectating ringside. Now working alongside Bellator CEO Scott Coker, the former UFC light-heavyweight and heavyweight champion says you can never definitively retire.
"Can you ever say no?" Couture asked. "Absolutely not. I don't think there's anything that's absolute in the world."
"I think anytime you sit cageside and watch fights you can't help but get antsy," said Couture. "You want to train or do something, but I'm pretty comfortable with the decision I made four years ago. I think I got out at the right time. Right time for me. I've been very happy and very busy."