For the last several years, there has always been this one elusive fight that, had it happened at the right time, probably would have been the biggest money fight in the history of the sport – Brock Lesnar vs. Fedor Emelianenko.
From late 2008 until the summer of 2010, when Emelianenko was still considered the best heavyweight outside the UFC, and when Lesnar was still UFC champion, it was the sport’s ultimate battle, perhaps not of skill, but of larger-than-life personas. White had tried several times to put the fight together, including a secret meeting on a mysterious islands, but he could never bring Emelianenko to the table because of the demands on Emelianenko’s side.
In an interview on the Dave and Mahoney show on CBS radio in Las Vegas on Wednesday, White, who hinted he was still open to the idea fairly recently, closed the book on the fight, saying both are retired, and that Lesnar isn’t coming back.
“He’s done,” White said regarding Lesnar, who is currently working on a very limited schedule as a pro wrestler with World Wrestling Entertainment. “He called me a couple of days ago. He’s never coming back. His body can’t take it. He said he can wrestle, but he can’t fight. He was contemplating coming back.”
Lesnar showed up at UFC 146 on May 26 in Las Vegas out of the blue, and had a meeting with White and Lorenzo Fertitta after the show. White seemed hopeful before the meeting that Lesnar, who drew some of the biggest pay-per-view numbers in company history, may come back. But after the meeting, White said that things couldn’t have gone worse.
But White said that in conversations since that time, Lesnar appeared at least open to the idea of coming back. His pro wrestling contract expires in April with the WrestleMania show at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.,, but given his success as a drawing card thus far in that world, it is expected he’ll get a major offer to continue.
White was asked whether those talks included a fight with Emelianenko, who had announced his retirement after his early first-round stoppage over Pedro Rizzo on June 21 in St. Petersburg, Russia.
“Could be,” he said.
But said it’s now a dead deal as far as Emelianenko, the biggest MMA star to never come to the UFC.
“They’re both retired,” he said.
Lesnar, 35, had a near fatal bout with Diverticulitis in late 2009. He came back in 2010 for two fights, beating Shane Carwin but losing his heavyweight title to Cain Velasquez. He took a beating in both fights which led to questions as to whether he was the same athlete he was prior to the illness. He had other flare-ups with the disease, including one in 2011 that led to cancelling his challenge to Junior Dos Santos before Dos Santos had won the heavyweight title. After surgery, he came back for one last fight, and looked uninspired in a first round los to Alistair Overeem. As soon as the fight was over, he announced his retirement.
He signed a lucrative one-year deal with World Wrestling Entertainment in April, and has since headlined two pay-per-view events. While not pulling the kind of numbers he did in UFC, both shows were significantly up from what similar shows had done the past two years, peaking with 350,000 buys worldwide for a show in August. The numbers indicated some of his UFC drawing power was transferable to pro wrestling.
Lesnar was an NCAA champion wrestler in 2000, who was signed shortly after the tournament by WWE and spent almost four years with the company. His career skyrocketed in 2002 when he was first introduced on national television and was given the company’s world championship in a match with movie star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Lesnar quit in early 2004, citing he hated the grueling travel schedule that included nearly 200 matches a year, and wanted to return to competitive sports before he got too old.
He first tried pro football, but he hadn’t played the sport since high school. His athletic ability was at the level of an NFL first round draft choice,but he admitted being lost on the football field. He was a late cut by the Minnesota Vikings, and turned down their request to learn the game playing for NFL Europe.
In 2006, he signed a one-fight-deal with K-1, for an MMA fight in Los Angeles. After winning, he signed with UFC where he debuted in 2008, and won the heavyweight championship with a second round knockout of Randy Couture in his third fight with the organization. He later retained the title beating Frank Mir in the main event at UFC 100, the most financially successful event in MMA history.