Don’t get your hopes too up – it’s not likely to happen.
But UFC President Dana White on Saturday said the promotion was close to getting a deal done for a heavyweight megafight between Fedor Emelianenko and Brock Lesnar, a fight that fell apart following the death of Emelianenko’s father.
The fight, White said, would have been targeted for Cowboys Stadium in Dallas.
The news comes as a bit of a surprise given the UFC’s rocky history with trying to negotiate a deal with the legendary Russian heavyweight. The UFC couldn’t come to terms with him several years ago, and he then signed with Strikeforce. But with that promotion, he lost three straight fights before rebounding with three wins and retiring in 2012.
“We were in deep talks with him,” White said following the post-fight news conference for UFC on FOX 6 in Chicago. “We were that close to signing him recently. Right before his dad died. We were right there. When I was talking about doing the big Dallas Texas stadium show? It was going to be Brock Lesnar vs. (Fedor).
“Remember when I met with him and said it didn’t go well? It actually went well. It went well, and Brock wanted to fight Fedor. Then (Fedor’s) dad died, and he was done.”
Emelianenko’s father died in August 2012. His last fight was June of this past year, a first-round knockout of Pedro Rizzo in his home country of Russia.
Lesnar was the UFC’s heavyweight champion for nearly two years before losing the title to Cain Velasquez at UFC 121. At UFC 141, he returned after more than a year off due to a second bout with diverticulitis and lost by first-round TKO to Alistair Overeem. He announced his retirement following that fight, then returned to his pro wrestling roots with the WWE.
But he surprised some this past summer when he met with White following a UFC event, and rumors began to circulate that he was considering a return to the octagon.
Apparently that may have been the case, right up until Emelianenko cut off negotiations when his father died.
“He said, ‘I want to spend the rest of my life with my family,'” White said. “(UFC CEO) Lorenzo (Fertitta met with him). We were negotiating for months. After his dad died and he said he was done or whatever, Brock said, ‘I’m done, too.'”
And White doesn’t believe there’s any hope for salvaging it – even though he’s hopeful that the UFC could do its first show in Russia perhaps as early as this year.
“From what I understand, he is absolutely, positive made the decision not to fight ever again,” White said. “(But) anything’s possible. I don’t know. When a guy says he wants to retire, you’re never going to see me chasing a guy who said he wants to retire.”
As for Lesnar, White believes that ship has sailed, too, in terms of the chances he would return to the UFC.
“We were going to do the Fedor-Brock fight,” he said. “Brock came down, we met, he came to that event, we went to dinner that night, and he went back home. We were negotiating the Fedor thing. And I think when he heard Fedor was done, he said, ‘I’m done, too.’
“He’s going to do his stint in the WWE and then go away. He’s got a big farm up in Canada. He loves to farm and he loves to be with his family out in the middle of nowhere.”
For now, it appears Emelianenko-Lesnar will have to remain a fight that many fans were hopeful for, but never came to fruition. But White saying it was closer to happening than many realized likely will fuel hope and speculation still into the future.