Now that the news has broken and Fedor Emelianenko has signed with Strikeforce, it's clear Emelianenko and his management team have no interest in fighting in the UFC.
Once in shambles, the UFC heavyweight division is now rich in young, talented prospects like Shane Carwin, Cain Velazquez, Junior dos Santos and, most importantly, champion Brock Lesnar. These fighters represent the new breed of MMA heavyweight.
Signing with Strikeforce shows that Emelianenko has no interest in his legacy whatsoever. He hasn't had a compelling fight in nearly four years when he beat Mirko CroCop by unanimous decision at PRIDE Final Conflict 2005.
Sure, Andrei Arlovski was a top heavyweight at the time, but he had known limitations. Limitations that led to his downfall in that fight. And judging by the odds at the time, he was distant to Emelianenko. Not to mention Arlovski was cast off by the UFC less than a year prior.
People like Tim Sylvia, Matt Lindland, Zulu and Mark Coleman were no challenge or test for Emelianenko. Josh Barnett was an intriguing fight but one Emelianenko likely would've had no trouble winning.
And lest we not forget Hong-Man Choi.
If he wants to be the best, he has to beat the best, something he hasn't done since fighting CroCop.
No offense to Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem and Brett Rogers, but outside of Rogers (because of his youth), all will be heavy underdogs against Emelianenko and deservedly so.
It's sad that Emelianenko's management was so unwilling to bend when the UFC nearly broke its back bending. Now the fans are robbed of seeing what would more than likely be the biggest fight of all time with Lesnar, not to mention a fight with Randy Couture.
While we don't know how many fights this deal is for, it's clear Emelianenko will have run out of challengers three fights in.
But hey, I'm sure Nick Diaz or Frank Shamrock would love to fight Emelianenko.
Strikeforce is a great promotion and this signing does a lot for them, but fighters who are No. 1 in the world don't belong in the No. 2 promotion.
Although the new incarnation of Strikeforce has put on great fights in its first two events (and appears poised to do so again Aug. 15), Emelianenko's shelf-life in Strikeforce is extremely limited after three fights. Nobody wants to see him rematch Sylvia and Arlovski is out of Strikeforce's pay league.
And if he loses to Werdum, Overeem or Rogers? What value does he have then? His mystique is that of being unstoppable. A cyborg. Unbeatable. If he loses to a clearly inferior fighter, that mystique is gone. Look what happened to Arlovski. He had that mystique before losing to Sylvia at UFC 59. Now where's he at?
On the other hand, if he goes to the UFC and loses to Lesnar, nobody is going to look at that as being a big blemish because Lesnar is a beast.
The MMA world is shrinking. The days of being able to be a nomad and get top fights are nearly over. If you want big fights, chances are you need to be in the UFC. Werdum, Overeem and Rogers are nice opponents and solid heavyweight contenders, but their biggest blemish right now is that they aren't Lesnar or Couture. They aren't even CroCop. Just one of those fights would add more to continue Emelianenko's legacy than all three in Strikeforce combined.
Unless Strikeforce has plans on bringing in top heavyweights to challenge Emelianenko or this deal elevates Strikeforce to being a major player on the American scene, it's difficult to see how this deal benefits Emelianenko, Strikeforce or the fans.
Best of luck to all involved, certainly, and I'd love to be wrong, but this direction certainly is not going to help Emelianenko's legacy one bit.