Thursday, July 1, 2010 | 3:49 p.m.
There was once a time when the UFC's heavyweight division's weakness prompted a light heavyweight by the name of Randy Couture to move up in weight and claim the title that was there for the taking.
It's safe to say times have changed.
The UFC offers arguably the biggest heavyweight title fight in company history Saturday, when current champion Brock Lesnar looks to defend his belt for the first time against top contender Shane Carwin.
Both heavyweights were on hand for the pre-fight press conference Thursday inside the MGM Grand Hotel, along with UFC president Dana White.
After press conferences, White is known for sticking around and answering any questions the media have leading up to a fight.
Here are some highlights from the latest talk.
The heavyweight division is stacked
After surviving a stomach ailment that threatened to end his fighting career and even his life last year, Lesnar is back and claiming he wants to be known as "the greatest heavyweight ever."
According to White, it's the perfect time to create a legacy as a heavyweight than right now. The division is stacked with fighters who could make a run at the belt, including Lesnar, Carwin, Cain Velasquez, Junior Dos Santos, Roy Nelson, Frank Mir and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
"(Lesnar) wants to be known as the greatest heavyweight ever? Now is the time for that," White said. "The heavyweight division has never been more stacked. If you can run through this division right now, you're the man."
Fedor Emelianenko isn't the best because he doesn't fight the best
Russian superstar Fedor Emelianenko suffered his first loss in a span of nearly 10 years last week when was submitted by Fabricio Werdum in the first round on a Strikeforce card in San Jose, Calif.
White long has been irritated that media continue to place Emelianenko toward the top of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, claiming he hasn't proved himself against top competition in the last five years.
White gave Emelianenko props for the way he dominated the heavyweight division during his days with Pride, but said his run as the world's best is clearly over.
"To be honest with you, I have not believed Fedor is the great heavyweight everyone thinks he is," White said. "Yes, in 2005 and before, he was beating great guys in their prime. But to prove you're the best fighter in the world, you have to beat the best consistently.
"There's only one way to find out who can beat who and that's to fight — but (Emelianenko) won't do that. You don't get the honor of being called the best in the world if you're not fighting the best."
White went on to say that he has no interest in bringing Emelianenko to the UFC following the loss.
"How many times have you seen us sign a guy when he loses in another promotion?" White said.
White bummed on New York's decision to not sanction MMA
Despite high optimism by the UFC president, the state of New York stripped the approval of MMA from a budget bill this month, likely ending any shot of the organization holding an event there in 2010.
Although White said he was bummed by the news, he still believes that getting the sport sanctioned in New York eventually will happen as a new generation of politicians is elected.
"These kids who are 20 years old now grew up with the UFC," White said. "They get it. They like it. It bums me out. It's stupid, but it's inevitable.
"And at the end of the day, do I really need New York? Is New York going to change my business model? No. But it needs to get done. We're building a sport."
Chuck Liddell is done... at least in the UFC
White said he hasn't spoken with Chuck Liddell since the 40-year-old suffered a knockout loss to Rich Franklin at UFC 115 in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The two are set to meet for dinner Thursday, where White is expecting they will talk about Liddell's future.
Although Liddell has lost five of his last six fights, including three straight by knockout, he's said in recent interviews he's still not ready to retire.
If that is truly is the case, it appears as though one of the most famous UFC fighters in company history would have to compete for another organization, as White said there is no way he'll allow Liddell to compete in a UFC octagon again.
"He won't (talk me into fighting) again. It will not happen," White said. "Chuck's a smart guy. He's a reasonable guy. I'm going to have a talk with him (Thursday) that all the guys who have their head shoved up his ass won't."
White went on to say there's no doubt Liddell can still be beneficial to the UFC as a fighter, but that much is irrelevant to him. He also said if Liddell is absolutely set on still fighting, it won't be in the UFC.
"Can I make money on Chuck Liddell? Yes," White said. "But I don't want to make that kind of money. I guess if he asked me to release him, I'd release him."
Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].