Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, well, you know the saying. Fooling us all in the MMA world, yet again?

This week on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani (the newly reinstated with UFC credentials Ariel Helwani, thankfully), The Last Emperor, Fedor Emelianenko, believed by many to be the greatest heavyweight of all time (or at least of his generation), revealed that he was once again “close” to signing with the UFC. The contract is on the table, he confirmed. “I’m much closer compared to when I just came back to MMA,” he told the show.

And the MMA world heaved a collective sigh.

See, at this point, until a Fedor signing is official, he’s pretty much Bigfoot in the UFC, and we don’t mean Silva. Sure, there are sightings, close encounters, rumors, but it’s all meaningless because we’ve been here before, again and again. Fedor is “closer than ever” to signing with the UFC. Negotiations are getting serious. Everything is going great, until it isn’t.

In the past, you could blame Fedor’s ties to Russia’s M-1, and his camp’s insistence that they co-promote with the UFC. Yet when the former Pride champion came out of retirement, there was no such sticking point in sight. Suddenly, many were certain Fedor was UFC-bound. He went so far as to post a photoshopped image of himself at a UFC weigh-in on social media; Dana White responded with a smiley face. Best buds, right?

Then he signed with Japan’s Rizin FF, to face a virtual unknown in Jaideep Singh. Next, he’s fighting for Euro Fight Nights against former UFC light heavyweight journeyman Fabio Maldonado, a game slugger who will stand and trade with Emelianenko, resulting in one of two possible outcomes: he goes down as fodder for Fedor, or pulls off the biggest upset win of his career (and totally devalues the Last Emperor in the process).

Either way, the EFN fight this coming Friday is only moderately more legitimate than the Jaideep Singh spectacle in Rizin. Maldonado has fought at heavyweight before, but the results were disastrous. No one is expecting much from the fight, nor should they.

They also shouldn’t expect to see Fedor in the UFC any time soon. For every “closer than ever” there’s a “but” and this time out was no exception. “There are some finer points that we wanted to discuss,” said Fedor of his UFC offer, and of course there is. There always is. At this point, going public with negotiations is actually part of the negotiation, so take it all with a grain of salt. It wouldn’t be at all shocking to see Fedor announce he has signed with Bellator next week. Or go back into retirement. Or fight whoever Rizin FF can dust off for a big money freakshow fight.

Realistically, any hope of seeing Fedor how we all wanted to see him — in the UFC, fighting the likes of Couture or Lesnar — died in 2011. Even if by some miracle (say, the WWE is fine with Lesnar taking a second fight) a fight like that was to happen, all those involved would be a little long in the tooth at this point. And Fedor fighting the top heavyweights of today? Well, we all saw what happened in Strikeforce. Time waits for no man.

Nor should the fans. Don’t wait around holding your breath hoping for the second coming. If Fedor signs with the UFC at this point, great. If not, we haven’t lost nearly as much as we thought. We’ve always got Pride, and it might just be for the best, because at this point, it’s hard not to see a late-career attempt by Fedor at making it in the UFC as a letdown.

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.