After 20 years of running the UFC, there have to have been a few missed opportunities. Bouts that seemed like they should have happened, but didn’t. Remember when Jose Aldo was supposed to fight Anthony Pettis, or all the years wasted talking about a potential GSP vs. Anderson Silva matchup? Through it all, however, Dana White has only really seemed to have one fight that he wishes he could have made happen.
Even back in 2012, White seemed to know he’d slipped up. “I would have loved to make that fight with [Fedor] and Brock...” he told MMA Junkie. And 8-years (and several more failed attempts to bring Emelianenko into the Zuffa fold) later, that’s still very much the case.
“The only fight that I wanted to make that was never made was Brock Lesnar vs. Fedor Emelianenko,” White said in a recent interview released by the UFC. “We were going to do it at Texas Stadium. But I couldn’t get a deal done with Fedor, so it never happened.”
The reasons as to why that fight never got made are many. White would tell anyone that listened, for years, that it was all down to Fedor’s foolish management, headed by Vadim Finkelchtein.
“For the record? Vadummy, Vadummy knows,” White told Ariel Helwani back in 2011. “The deal that was offered to him, you know, and his fucking guy who was some political guy laughed at the deal. I bet you’re not laughing now, are you guys? It is what it is. I told you that day in the room, I told them. I said, guess what? He’s one punch away from being worth zero. Come in and take this opportunity, this is what the fans want to see, do it.”
Speaking to MMA Fighting in 2009, Fedor himself painted a slightly different picture of the negotiations. Most notably, Dana White’s bullish tactics, and the seeming insistence that the UFC didn’t need to negotiate – since Fedor wouldn’t find a better offer – were behind the breakdown—and not any failure to meet specific demands.
“Of course, over the conversation, one thing was promised,” Fedor explained of their meeting. “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.’”
Eventually, whatever the demands, whatever the reasons, and whatever the UFC’s approach in trying to get the ‘Last Emperor’ to step into the Octagon, the result was failure. And for White, that will mean there’s always going to be one fight he’ll have to regret not seeing.