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Thursday, March 6, 2008
Updated: March 7, 4:16 PM ET
COUTURE/EMELIANENKO FIGHT A POSSIBILITY?

By Ryan Hockensmith

Couture and Emelianenko
Don't rule out this match-up just yet.
Don't consider a UFC fight between Fedor Emelianenko and Randy Couture dead just yet.      With Couture embroiled in a nasty legal dispute with the UFC and Emelianenko tied to M-1 Global's MMA franchise, the heavyweight dream matchup has long seemed to be the world's best bout that would never happen.      Now it could. Apy Echteld, one of Emelianenko's agents, confirmed what a source close to the situation previously told The Magazine: M-1 Global and Emelianenko will part ways some time in the next week, making the Russian a free agent. Divorce negotiations are ongoing right now, with a formal announcement likely for in the next few days. "Officially, yes, Fedor will be a free agent," Echteld says.      Of course, the UFC would have to be willing to re-open negotiations with Emelianenko's management. Previous talks dragged on for almost a year before falling apart amid plenty of name-calling and finger-pointing from both sides. UFC president Dana White was vocal in pinning the blame on Emelianenko's team, saying he never once spoke or met with the fighter. Would the head of the UFC be willing to enter the Fedor fray again? "Absolutely, 100 percent, in a heartbeat," says White. "People think he's the best—I don't, not even close. But if it's somehow possible, I would make it happen."      Reached on Thursday, Echteld was caught off-guard when told that White would be willing to revisit last year's stalemate. But he echoed the UFC's willingness to talk and vowed to speak with White as soon as possible. "We're open to a discussion," says Echteld. "If everybody is willing to put a little wine in the water, then we have something to work with. There is space for this to happen."      A fight involving Emelianenko and Couture would also require considerable fence-mending between Couture and the UFC. Couture has cited the UFC's inability to sign Emelianenko as a key reason for his sudden retirement. And now the two sides are locked in a bitter, months-long battle about the duration and terms of Couture's UFC deal. Over the past month, the situation has seemed to only be deteriorating. That could change if Emelianenko becomes available.      "I like Randy, I genuinely like to think he's a good guy," White says. "As much as we've gone back and forth on this, I would sign Fedor and do everything possible to get Randy in the octagon with him. I'd do anything, because a., it's a great fight and b., I think Randy would smash Fedor."      Through his spokesman, Couture declined to comment.