It would appear that the long-time feud between UFC president Dana White and former UFC champion Randy Couture has reached an end. Couture confirmed on Tuesday that he has signed a contract to work with Bellator MMA, signaling the final “nail in the coffin” in the relationship between himself and White. In addition, the UFC boss made it quite known how he feels about “Captain America” and the way everything went down.
“I’m happy that he’s gone and he’s gone forever and he’s with them,” White stated.
Couture will be working with the upcoming Bellator reality series, which is expected to be similar to “The Ultimate Fighter”. He is also slated to appear on SpikeTV numerous times for other projects – an obvious reason for his jumping to join Viacom.
But this Couture versus White battle didn’t just start in December when “The Natural” stopped talking to his then-boss. No, it dates back to 2007, when Couture was the UFC heavyweight champion.
The Couture vs. White Saga Begins
With two fights left on his contract, and a position as an on-air analyst, Couture left the UFC with the title belt still around his waist. He cited a failure to sign Fedor Emelianenko as one of the reasons for his disagreement with UFC officials, and he was gone.
White, who continued to view Couture as the UFC heavyweight champion, refused to release him from his contract. Couture announced his retirement and planned to stay “retired” for nine months until his contract expired. The two would sit down and talk a number of times over the next few months, but nothing could be worked out.
“The Natural” Re-Signs, Begins Expanded Role with Zuffa
Zuffa, the parent company of the UFC, fought Couture in the courts and won, and the two sides eventually came to an agreement in 2008 that brought the champion back into the Octagon.
Couture wound up dropping the heavyweight title to Brock Lesnar, but the seemingly irreparable rift between Couture and White appeared to be fixed for the time being.
A new six-fight contract was even signed in 2009, which would likely take Couture up to his in-ring retirement. That came two years later, and, while also filming roles in several major-budget movies, Couture started to work on Fuel TV and FOX as an analyst again.
The End of Couture in the UFC
Last December, Couture bailed on a gig working for FOX. White started investigating. It turned out that Couture was in talks with Viacom, although according to White, the Natural denied that any of that was taking place.
January rolled around and a press release was sent out stating Couture would be present on a conference call with Viacom and SpikeTV officials. The questions started coming at White left and right. White told his side of the story – as usual, pulling no punches.
During the conference call announcing his signing with Bellator, Couture was reluctant to talk about White in great detail, but he did pay him a back-handed compliment.
“I do want to thank Dana White because in a lot of ways, he made it easy (to sign with Bellator),” Couture said. “The media storm sensation has been wonderful, and I thank him for that. I respect his passion for what he does; it’s very admirable.”
Who was in the Right: Couture or White?
Did Couture have the right to take steps to secure his future employment in the sport if there was a better offer on the table? Of course he did. It is his life and his career. And, unless he broke a contract between himself and the UFC, it was his right to seek another job.
Was White’s disclosure of information concerning Couture, the UFC and FOX right? Sure. He wanted to make it known what went down on his side of the situation?
White has enough control of the UFC to keep Couture out forever now after this latest ordeal, though the Couture name may remain in the Octagon. His son, Ryan, appears set to still compete for the UFC later this year after crossing over from Strikeforce when the promotion folded.
White also plans to leave Couture’s vicious knockout of Tim Sylvia in the highlight reel that starts all UFC pay-per-views, because, as White put it, he respects what Couture has done within the cage. What has gone outside of the cage is, however, another story.