Fedor Emelianenko is widely considered to be one of the greatest heavyweight fighters of all-time, but he didn’t look like a world-beater on Saturday when he almost suffered a brutal KO loss to ex-UFC journeyman Fabio Maldonado at EFN 50, before rebounding later to claim a controversial majority victory.

The event aired on the UFC’s Fight Pass subscription service and had been heavily promoted by the company, which led to speculation that they were finally closing in on a deal to have Fedor fight in the Octagon, but his performance left major doubts as to whether they might now just decide to pull the plug.

However, during an interview on the new ‘UFC Unfiltered’ podcast with Matt Serra and Jim Norton yesterday, White seemed keen not to throw ‘The Last Emperor’ under the bus.

“They were going to let him die before they stopped that fight, you know that? But a testament to how tough and durable and mentally strong Fedor is, man. He was out. He was out. Literally, when he got back up … when a guy is on crazy legs the way that he was on crazy legs, and it’s not like he was on crazy legs and able to avoid punches after that. He continued to get hit with bombs by Maldonado and he made it through it. But I’ll tell you this: Those refs were willing to let him die before they stopped that fight, No. 1. And No. 2, Fedor’s got a chin and he’s a tough guy. We’ve been negotiating for many, many, many years. I’ll tell you this: Fight Pass did very well with that fight, so people do still want to watch Fedor.”

For his part, despite practically being beaten unconscious in that opening round, Fedor confirmed post-fight that he does intend to continue competing, so it would appear that we could yet see him compete in the Octagon, assuming they can hammer out a deal that makes sense to both parties – which could yet remain a major stumbling block.