Everybody loves the heavyweight division. Especially their legendary figures like Mirko Cro Cop, Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira, Igor Vovchanchyn, Randy Couture…the list goes on.
Of course, when mentioning legendary heavyweights in MMA you simply cannot go without mentioning the legendary heavyweight, “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko.
Emelianenko has long been considered the consensus greatest fighter in the history of MMA’s largest weight class for over a decade now and will likely stay in that spot in the eyes of many longtime fans who witnessed his reign in Japan’s Pride FC. That is unless Stipe Miocic has anything to say about it… But that’s a topic for a different day.
Throughout Emelianenko’s incredible career he’s fought many of the division’s best including several UFC champions. Those of which he has all beaten to go 6-0. But one of the champions he was set to have one of his most compelling matchups against never ended up happening and now it has a chance to once again.
As some may remember, there was a time where the current US President, Donald Trump had his hands in the MMA world. This was during the start of the MMA promotion created by the Affliction clothing brand…Affliction Entertainment.
The short-lived organization only held two events, both of which were headlined by Emelianenko…and he was supposed to headline the third.
That was until his would-be opponent, the then still nicknamed “Babyface Assassin” Josh Barnett failed a drug test resulting in the fight and event’s cancellation just 11 days out from fight night.
Affliction wouldn’t be able to bounce back from the cancellations and each fighter would go on to compete for Strikeforce…where they for one reason or another wouldn’t end up crossing paths.
Fast forward seven years after Strikeforce was absorbed by the UFC and Emelianenko is in the middle of the Bellator heavyweight championship Grand Prix while Barnett has just been released by the UFC. There is hope once again!
For all the nostalgia alone that these two fighters bring is enough to get interest from fans. And that seems to be exactly what Bellator goes for these days.
It’s been made very clear that the old dogs are the priority over top-talent in one of MMA’s top organizations as evidenced by their planned booking to have Cro Cop vs Roy Nelson 2 headline over their middleweight title bout featuring Rafael Carvalho and Gegard Mousasi. So what’s to stop Scott Coker from trying to make this fight happen now?!
Well, really not much… It’s safe to assume as he even admitted today that he “would love” to have Barnett back under his wing and that they’re negotiating with him now.
Of course, as previously mentioned, Emelianenko is currently tied up in the heavyweight tournament where he’ll be taking on Chael Sonnen in the semi-finals next, therefore, meaning a win would have him advance to do one more fight against someone other than Barnett.
This just works things out even better for the matchup… Because really, it’s not about wins and losses at the point in these guys’ careers. Let’s assume that Emelianenko wins his next fight and Barnett signs to Bellator and fights once or twice in the meantime.
Barnett hasn’t fought since 2016 so it will just be good to get back in there and whether he wins or loses, it wouldn’t affect the possibility of the types of opponents he would fight after. And it’s just an interesting style clash regardless.
Having beaten all of their common opponents with the exception of Cro Cop on Barnett’s side, each fighter is extraordinary in the grappling department. Obviously, this is where Barnett shines and has made most of his name off of.
Of Emelianenko’s notable losses, they’ve come via knockout on the feet. In his first (real) loss of his career to Fabricio Werdum, he was submitted but it was with Werdum on his back, a position that Barnett has rarely been seen in during his career as he’s often working from the top.
Because of that, it creates an interesting dynamic as we’ve seen Emelianenko snatch many arms over the years off of his back which is a likely spot that he could wind up in against the former youngest UFC champion, Barnett.
On the feet, Emelianenko has his everlasting power that is slung in the form of his devasting hooks and haymakers. Barnett is often underrated when it comes to his boxing because of how good he is on the ground, but the edge would presumably go to Emelianenko. But with Emelianenko’s faded chin, things would be a lot more even that let’s say if they were both in their prime.
The fight means nothing really anymore but it would absolutely be fun and something we’ve missed out on. And if Bellator is going to keep putting on legend fights like these then gives us the one we haven’t seen before!
So hear me out, MMA Gods… The true time for affliction is now.
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 6/26/2018.