Daniel Cormier says Fedor Emelianenko would have been ‘average at best’ in the UFC during the late 2000s

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Credit: Bellator/Lucas Noonan

Former two-division UFC champion Daniel Cormier thinks if Fedor Emelianenko had signed with the promotion at the end of the last decade, his run would have disappointed long-time fans of the legendary PRIDE FC heavyweight champion.

Towards the tail end of the 2000s, when PRIDE FC was gobbled up by the UFC, there was a hope that the Russian sports icon would join other stars from the Japanese promotion and take his talents to the top MMA organization in the US. However, after several failed contract negotiations with the UFC, “The Last Emperor” instead competed for the likes of Affliction and Strikeforce. Having highs and notable lows during his first consistent series of fights in America.

Daniel Cormier sees an ‘average at best’ Fedor Emelianenko in the UFC

With the 45-year-old competing at Bellator 269 this Saturday, the question of what could Emelianenko (39-6) could have done if he signed with the UFC has come up again. In a new edition of Cormier’s Debate DC podcast on Vover’s YouTube channel, the UFC great gave his thoughts on the subject. And to the surprise of some, he thinks not signing with the Las Vegas-based promotion was the best thing possible to maintain Emelianenko’s valuable mystique. Because he doesn’t think he could beat the best the organization had to offer at the time.

“We’re talking a window of 2009-11. [That’s] where the UFC dealt with Fedor or at least tried to make something happen. The UFC was interested for a long time until he went to Bellator, and then obviously he’s off-limits,” Cormier said. … “Versus Brock Lesnar, I’ll give you that. I think he beats Brock Lesnar. But outside of that, I don’t think Fedor competes very well in the UFC. I think that, honestly, Fedor not going to the UFC allowed for the intrigue to stay, but the reality of the situation is he would not have done well against those guys like [Junior dos Santos], he wasn’t beating Cain Velasquez, he would have struggled with guys like Cheick Kongo.

He was not beating those guys that were at the top of the UFC at that time. I’m certain of it. I know you’re gonna say, ‘Well he beat this guy, he beat [Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira] and he beat Frank Mir.’ For as great as he is, he would have been — at that time in the sport — average at best. I’m telling you. Fedor Emelianenko in the UFC between 2009-11, average at best.”

Cormier not impressed by Fedor’s run in Strikeforce

Part of the reason the former UFC heavyweight champion came to this harsh conclusion — aside from knowing what it takes to be the best in the weight class — is from how Emelianenko faired against his competition during this juncture of his career. In Strikeforce, he lost three of four bouts and was stopped in all of those defeats.

One of those setbacks came against a future UFC heavyweight champion in Fabrico Werdum. The other’s to Antonio “Big Foot” Silva and middleweight and light heavyweight star Dan Henderson.

Emelianenko’s lone victory came against Brett Rogers. A fighter whose most memorable moment in the sport came in losing to the Stary Oskol-native.

“I like Fedor Emelianenko,” Cormier said. “But we’re talking about a guy that was fighting Brett Rogers in Strikeforce. The story was that Brett Rogers was a Walmart tire employee and he had done so well because he can punch so well, but we’re talking about a guy that worked at the tire shop at Walmart.

“He made $100,000, his wife wanted to be a rapper, he got beat by Fedor and then faded into the background. So how are you going to tell me that leads you to believe that at that point in time he could compete with guys like Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos?” And you can’t say Werdum because Werdum beat him when they fought very recently after that.”

Emelianenko competes in the main event of Bellator 269 against second-ranked Bellator heavyweight Tim Johnson. The bout will take place in Moscow, Russia and air exclusively on Showtime. The event’s main card begins at 3 pm ET.

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