LAS VEGAS – UFC president Dana White has nothing bad to say about Fedor Emelianenko. Still.
While the fighter's management team has drawn the scorn of White numerous times in recent years, he maintains he has no problem with the recently retired Emelianenko.
Still, White regrets he could never get Emelianenko booked for a fight with a certain ex-champion under the UFC banner.
Emelianenko, who retired with a 34-4 record (and three-fight win streak) following a June 21 knockout of Pedro Rizzo, began serious negotiations with the UFC in 2009. But they famously flopped, and Emelianenko later signed with Strikeforce (which the UFC acquired a little more than a year later).
At the time, White desperately wanted to book his reigning heavyweight champion – WWE crossover star Brock Lesnar – against Emelianenko for a pay-per-view blockbuster. White went as far as to say the Emelianenko signing and immediate title shot were "imminent" just prior to Lesnar's win over Frank Mir at UFC 100.
But it never happened. Emelianenko eventually flamed out of Strikeforce with three straight losses and returned to fight overseas this past year.
"Obviously, I would have loved to make that fight with him and Brock at that point in time," White told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). "It would have been awesome. But it obviously didn't happen."
The 35-year-old Emelianenko, who famously went 27-0 (with one no-contest) as part of his legendary PRIDE title run, had hinted at retirement before. But following the Rizzo victory, which came in his home country of Russia, he officially called it quits.
"I have nothing against Fedor whatsoever," White said. "He's definitely got some hardcore fans, man. I mean the guy can get knocked out four times in a row, and they still think he's the [expletive] greatest ever."
White still puts the blame on Emelianenko's longtime manager and the head of M-1 Global, Vadim Finkelstein. While the soft-spoken fighter had little interaction with White, the UFC boss said Finkelstein's outrageous demands kept "The Last Emperor" from fighting in the UFC.
"I don't hate the guy," White said. "There's definitely no hate at all for Fedor. It was always his management. Anytime you ever heard me talk, it was about 'Vadummy' or the guys who managed his career.
"But I have nothing against Fedor."