Who’s the Best Fighter to Never Join the UFC?

Many consider the UFC to be the best MMA organization in the world. However, there have been many great fighters who’ve never fought in the organization. Here’s a look at the career of Fedor Emelianenko, who many consider to be the best fighter to never join the UFC.

Fedor Emelianenko’s early years

Emelianenko started his MMA career early in the year 2000. He often trained with his brother, Alexander, and the two would have a storied MMA career. Unlike his brother, whose life was full of controversy and crime, Fedor lived and breathed MMA.

His first fights were in the local Russian wing of the organization called RINGS and he fought mainly unknown and inexperienced men. He dominated them completely.  

However, in his fifth MMA fight, he suffered his first loss to Tsuyoshi Kohsaka. Many don’t consider this a true loss though since he suffered a cut on his head and the doctors ruled that he couldn’t continue. 

This was a controversial stoppage since Japan had strict laws about showing blood on TV. However, after that minor setback, Emelianenko went on a legendary winning streak that’s never been replicated since.

Fedor Emelianenko dominates PRIDE

After fighting and winning a few more times in RINGS, notably against UFC alumni Renato Sobral, Emelianenko joined Pride Fighting Championships, or PRIDE, and that’s where he’d make a name for himself.

Like LowKickMMA said, Emelianenko went on a 28 fight win streak at this point in time, and he often faced men who were also considered to be the best in the world. 

Other men, like Khabib Nurmagomedov, have a long win streak as well. However, Emelianenko, unlike Nurmagomedov, fought in the heavyweight division, the division where one lucky punch can mean a knockout loss. 

That’s why Emelianenko’s 28 fight win streak is so impressive. Every single one of those 28 men could’ve landed a hard punch or kick that knocked Emelianenko out, and many were close to doing that. But each time, he persevered and won. 

Many of the men that he beat were UFC alumni, and sometimes, even UFC champions too. Some of them include Kevin Randleman, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mirko Cro Cop, and Mark Hunt. 

In addition to those men, Emelianenko also rematched and defeated Kohsaka, thus avenging his first loss.

Strikeforce to retirement

After PRIDE went defunct, Emelianenko went to fight in other organizations. In Affliction, he fought and beat both Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski, both of whom were former UFC heavyweight champions.

Then he joined Strikeforce and that’s where his streak ended. Although he had a good start by knocking out Brett Rogers, who was a dangerous knockout artist at the time, he suffered his first legitimate loss at the hands and legs of Fabricio Werdum in 2010. 

This was his first loss in almost a decade, but the dam had been broken. Emelianenko lost his next two fights, first to Antonio Silva and then to Dan Henderson. He left Strikeforce after those losses. All three men that he lost to in Strikeforce would become great UFC fighters later on.

Emelianenko then fought three more times, winning each one easily before he retired from the sport in 2012. 

Bellator to present day

He returned to the octagon in 2015, but he was obviously not the same man who went on his legendary winning streak. In 2016, he defeated Fabio Maldonado in an extremely controversial decision where many think that the Russian judges and referees gave him the win even though he didn’t deserve it.

He then joined Bellator and his age started showing. He lost his Bellator debut against UFC alumni Matt Mitrione in a first-round knockout. Although Emelianenko beat his next two opponents, both of whom were UFC alumni also. Then, he got knocked out in his last fight against Ryan Bader, who is also a former UFC fighter.

Despite these brutal losses and his lack of success in Bellator and Strikeforce compared to his glory days in Japan, Emelianenko is still going to be fighting for the foreseeable future. In his prime, he was one of the best fighters on the planet and it would’ve been great to see him in the UFC.