UFC

Nelson wanted to fight Fedor

Roy Nelson vs. Fedor Emelianenko. PRIDE rules. Who's into it?
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Damon Martin

Damon Martin is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the sport since 2004. His work has been published in CNN, Bleacher Report, MMAWeekly.com, Yahoo! Sports, UFC.com and SportsIllustrated.com. He also co-hosts The Great Debate Radio MMA podcast, and has appeared on ESPN Radio and SportsNet Radio. Follow him on Twitter.

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Since the first day he entered the UFC Octagon by way of The Ultimate Fighter, Roy Nelson has had one goal in mind — fight for the UFC heavyweight title.

Now throughout his time in the promotion, Nelson has certainly seen his fair share of ups and downs. He's beaten some top names over the years, and knocked a few of them into the middle of next week with the sledgehammer he calls his right hand.

He's also had some setbacks along the way with losses to former champions like Junior Dos Santos and Frank Mir. Through it all, Nelson's perseverance has always been about one thing and that was the ultimate dream of attaining a UFC title shot.

Now the goals he's set ahead of his fight against Daniel Cormier next weekend in Houston remain the same, but he's also got a few other dreams he'd like to see come true before his time in fighting is over. Nelson just recently re-signed for a new multi-fight contract with the UFC, which is where he plans to retire one day, but that time won't come very soon.

So while he's still active and competing, the UFC title remains top priority and the other mission is to face the fighters he considers true legends of the sport.

"The goal is to get to the title. If I've got to sit back and wait for a couple of different things to fall into place, then I'll fight people I've always wanted to fight. Legends in the sport," Nelson told FOX Sports. "People I want to fight just because they were my heroes and people I've always wanted to fight."

Nelson has talked openly in the past about his affection for the heavyweight division that once thrived in Pride Fighting Championships, an organization that rivaled the UFC until they were bought out in 2007. For a number of years, Pride housed the best collection of heavyweight talent the fight world has ever known.

The Pride Grand Prix was also a staple of the organization where a laundry list of top fighters would get together for a tournament to determine who really was the best heavyweight in the world.

While those days are long gone now, Nelson still feels an affinity for the Pride Fighting days, and he holds those competitors in a higher regard than anybody else in the sport. Those are the kinds of fights Nelson envisions for his future if the title shot isn't going to happen.

"On the legends list would be somebody like Big Nog (Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira) people that I grew up with, and I guess people that are my age," Nelson said. "Just those matchups like 'I've always wanted to fight that guy!'. (Josh) Barnett definitely falls into that category."

Possibly the most legendary name from those heavyweight ranks in Pride was former champion and Grand Prix champion Fedor Emelianenko. The Russian fighter was an unbeatable killing machine during his run in Pride when he was regarded as not only the best heavyweight in the world, but the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet.

Emelianenko remained undefeated for 28 consecutive fights until Fabricio Werdum finally submitted the Russian legend by triangle choke at a fight in Strikeforce in 2010. Nelson still regrets that he never got the chance to face Emelianenko, and end the streak he was on long before Werdum stepped into the picture.

"I would have loved to have fought Fedor," Nelson said. "I would have loved to crumble the Fedor empire."

For the real MMA fans that love heavyweight fighting, Nelson says there really was no better time than the glory days of Pride. It's a period of MMA history he will always look at with a fondness that may never be matched again.

"That was just the classic stuff, and if you're a true MMA fan that's who you actually watched was like Pride," Nelson said. "It wasn't like the UFC, the UFC was just here in the states, but if you were a hardcore MMA fan it was definitely Pride."

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