UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture announced his resignation from the UFC, leaving two contracted fights, his job as an on-air analyst and his heavyweight crown on the table.
Couture is currently in South Africa filming the sequel to “The Scorpion King” in which he plays the lead. Couture made the announcement official in a letter to UFC president Dana White.
As we reported yesterday, Fedor Emelianenko signed with M-1 and the UFC’s inability to sign Emelianenko played a prominent role in the decision to walk away, according to Couture.
“I appreciate this opportunity the sport of MMA and the UFC has given me,” the UFC Hall-of-Famer said. “However, I’m tired of swimming upstream at this stage with the management of the UFC. It only makes sense at this point in my career to fight Fedor Emelianenko, and since he’s now signed with another organization, I feel like it’s time to resign and focus on my other endeavors.”
Couture also stated that his pay was one of the reasons saying, “I think the final straw for me was meeting with White and Lorenzo (Fertitta, UFC co-owner) where they claimed I was the No. 2 paid athlete in the organization, which I know is a bold-faced lie,” Couture said. Polling other athletes, said Couture, he learned that his compensation — some $250,000 a fight with pay-per-view bonuses, according to the Couture camp — was nowhere near what other top UFC fighters were making.
“All us athletes are all pretty tightly intertwined,” he said. “You hear what other guys were paid signing bonuses and what other guys were paid on the record and off the record with bonuses. I’ve heard Chuck’s numbers. Tito’s numbers. Hughes’ numbers. Quinton’s numbers. Cro Cop, Wanderlei. I heard what they were offering Fedor, and it’s insulting.”
According to Sherdog.com, Couture will have to wait nine months for his current UFC deal to lapse before he can go after Emelianenko. Over that span Couture said he will concentrate on acting, continuing to franchise his Xtreme Couture training facilities, and work on building his Xtreme Couture clothing line.
Dana White responded to Couture’s resignation in an interview posted at UFC.com. When asked about Couture’s resignation, White said “I wasn’t surprised. I met with Randy several weeks ago and he said that the only thing he had left to prove in his career and the only challenge left out there for him was Fedor (Emelianenko) because everybody thinks that Fedor is the best. And Fedor has that mystique where people think he’s number one, which I don’t agree with. I think that Fedor is completely overrated – he’s fought Mark Coleman and Matt Lindland in the last year, with Mark Hunt being his only legitimate opponent – and I actually think that Randy Couture would have smashed Fedor.”
When White was asked how Couture’s departure hurts the UFC heavyweight division, he responded “I don’t think it affects the division at all because after what we’ve seen over the last couple of years, anybody can win or lose on any given night. It’s what makes this sport so exciting. And now it’s like this big shocking news that Randy Couture retired. He’s 44 years old, he’s not 24. Is everybody really that shocked that Randy retired? Randy Couture has had an amazing career, he’s an incredible athlete, he’s pulled off more upsets, and has been the underdog so many times, what’s really left out there for him? I think he would have put a stone cold beating on Fedor, and he would have walked away with the same thing that he’s walking away with now. He’s walking out on top, and walking out on top is a smart thing to do. And it’s perfect for his acting career.”
About Couture being the face of UFC and how his departure affects the UFC, White replied, “People were saying to me four months ago that Chuck Liddell was the face of the UFC. Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell are two of many faces of the UFC. The UFC has the greatest fighters in the world, and Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell might be two of the best known fighters in the UFC, but everybody pulls their weight in this company and everybody works hard for it. Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes, Rich Franklin, Joe Rogan, these are guys who were with us early on who I credit for helping us get to where we are today. Is Randy Couture the face of the UFC? No, he’s one of many faces of the UFC, but he is one of the guys who helped us get here. I love him, I respect him, I still consider him my friend and just like any friendship, we don’t see eye to eye all the time, but if you’re true friends, you work it out, and I consider Randy Couture a true friend, and I honestly believe that when he comes home from filming, and when his scumbag Hollywood agent isn’t around, we’ll talk and we’ll square away our friendship. And as far as his retirement and him wanting to retire, I have nothing but respect for him and I don’t disagree with his decision.”