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By: Justin Bolduc
Heavyweight Championship: Ultimate Fighting Championship vs. Randy Couture
In a special MMA Access we’re going to dive into the battle between the UFC and mixed martial arts legend Randy Couture. Below is a breakdown of what has transpired, as well as an update on what is next for Couture.
Stay tuned for a full interview with “Captain America” next week where he talks about Fedor, his Xtreme Couture gyms and clothing line, acting, and his life’s struggles and triumphs.
The Natural Resigns
On October 11, 2007, Couture announced that he was resigning from the UFC as their champion, as a fighter, and also as an analyst and commentator. Couture felt disrespected by the organization, unhappy with his financial situation compared to other fighters, as well as the UFC’s unwillingness to come to terms with Fedor Emelianenko and management – which would have undoubtedly set up the biggest heavyweight fight of mixed martial arts history.
Couture Denies Retirement, Maintains Resignation
On October 25, Couture held his own press conference where he denied his departure from the UFC was a retirement, and maintained his leave was a resignation. He once again brought up his sticking points in regards to why he was unhappy with the UFC, and stated when he believed he would be out of his contract.
The UFC Fires Back
Moving ahead to October 30, Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White pulled together a UFC press conference to discuss the Couture situation and share their side of the story. White claimed that Couture was paid a signing bonus and shared copies of checks paid to and cashed by Randy Couture. Zuffa maintained that Couture was under contract and would fulfill his contract.
Couture vs. Nogueira?
The UFC ultimately offered Couture a title defense against former PRIDE champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, which Couture declined. Most recently Couture has publicly stated that he will not fight Nogueira, but will instead wait out his contract and face Fedor Emelianenko in late 2008.
Exclusive: Randy Couture Interview
I had a chance to sit down with “The Natural”. Along with talking about the growth of his gyms, his clothing line, and his acting career, Couture also spoke freely about his situation with the UFC.
Couture on retirement vs. resignation:
I was basically willing to retire officially in exchange for getting out of my employment contract. When I resigned my employment contract had a one-year ‘no compete’ clause, which would preclude me from commentating from any other organization or promotion, in or out of the ring. So if they let me out of the ‘no compete’ clause I would have officially retired and not go fight anywhere else, but they basically started jerking me around.
On the UFC’s retaliation:
They did stuff like pull Wanderlei [Silva] out of my gym. He’s been training at my gym for the [Chuck] Liddell fight. They told him that they wouldn’t film him [at my gym] for the All Access show. He’s working out with my guys, like Shawn Tompkins and such, and they make him go to the Xyience training center and they make those guys take off their Xtreme Couture stuff. They wouldn’t film them with any of that stuff on.
Then they were threatening the athletes that we sponsor with Xtreme Couture that they were blackballing Xtreme Couture and they wouldn’t let anyone wear Xtreme Couture at any of the shows.
I’ve been pulled from all the promos and all the commercials – with the exception of the Chuck Liddell promo of course; they’ll show Chuck knocking me out [laughs]. But, they’ve just been using some kind of subversive, underhanded kind of crap. Obviously a lot more avert stuff then I was initially complaining to them about, but similar stuff.
On fighting Fedor:
Now I’ve kind of decided I don’t want to give up the Fedor [Emelianenko] fight, which was kind of the impetus for resigning in the first place. Fedor signed with M-1 so I know there is no chance the UFC is going to do a co-promotion to make the fight happen. At this stage of my career that is the only fight left that makes sense – most people consider him the number one fighter in the heavyweight division. In order to be the number one fighter that is who you have to fight. [The UFC is] offering me [Antonio Rodrigo] Nogueira – nothing against Nogueira, but he got beat up by Fedor. Why would I want to fight the guy that is somewhere down the list in the rankings? It just doesn’t make sense. So I turned [the UFC] down on Nogueira – which my contract allows. If they offer me four fights it doesn’t say I have to accept four fights in the eighteen months. So I turned down the Nogueira fight and told [the UFC] that I want to fight Fedor, “make the Fedor fight happen.”
I went so far as to get an official co-promotion agreement drafted and presented to them to make the Fedor fight happen between M-1 and the UFC – which they promptly turned down. Then they started yanking me around on the dates of when they would release me from the confidentiality agreement. So I just said forget it, I’m not giving up the Fedor fight. I’m going to find a way to make the Fedor fight happen, I’m going to wait until my contract expires and find a way to make it happen without breaching my contracts.
On the UFC:
It all boils down to the three-letter moniker, the brand being more important – in the grand scheme of things it’s more important for them to protect the three-letter moniker than to make the really big fights happen.
Stay tuned for next week’s exclusive interview with Randy Couture, featuring discussion about the UFC, Fedor Emelianenko, Xtreme Couture gyms and clothing line, being a legend, and his struggles and triumphs.