“The Natural” Discusses His Future In Mixed Martial Arts And More
Whether it’s his legal issues with the UFC or all the fighters competing under the Xtreme Couture banner, one might surmize that Randy Couture will one day be considered the most influential fighter to ever compete in the sport.
While everyone has had a chance to ask Couture about his issues with the UFC we tried to conduct an interview with him where we talked about everything BUT those problems. Sadly, we only lasted eight minutes and thirteen seconds. Oh well, it was worth a shot. Here’s a taste…
Ariel Helwani: I guess it’s now time to talk about those problems. A lot has been said about your departure from the UFC so I don’t want to recycle the same questions all over again but I am curious as to what you think about the Sylvia-Fedor rumored matchup. Honestly, are you a little disappointed that Fedor has agreed to this fight so closely to when you expected to be free from the UFC?
Randy Couture: Anything’s possible. Tim’s no slouch. He’s a seasoned veteran and it’s still a fight. Anything can happen. I don’t think anyone is going to count Tim out. I do think everyone is expecting Fedor to beat Tim but I think it will be a great fight. It will certainly give me an idea of where I stand since I just fought Tim last March. It will be interesting to see how Fedor deals with the interesting problems Tim poses as a fighter and as competitor. I am not terribly concerned (though). Things will work out the way they work out. I will probably be free and clear sometime in July if the courts go the way we think they are going to go and whatever happens happens. I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about these things.
Ariel Helwani: Did Fedor’s management team talk to you before talking to Sylvia? Randy Couture: Well, I know he doesn’t want to wait around. He wants to fight and make a living. He is not going to want to sit around and wait to see what happens with me. He just fought on New Year’s against Hong Man Choi and he has taken some heat for not fighting anyone in the top ten but this fight is definitely against a top ten guy in Tim Sylvia. But does the fight lose luster should Fedor lose? I don’t know, it probably changes things but I think the fans will still want to see it. They still wanted to see Wanderlei and Chuck and both guys were coming off losses.
Ariel Helwani: So, for the record, you would still be interested in fighting Fedor even if he losses to Sylvia?
Randy Couture: Yeah, I would still be interested in competing against him but, again, I want to be considered the number one heavyweight in the world but, if he loses to Tim, that piece of the puzzle kind of goes away. So then what happens? Does Tim move up and become number one? Do we need to settle it again between Tim and I? Who knows what really happens. Maybe nothing! Maybe I’ll just walk away…
Ariel Helwani: It certainly opens things up a little bit and then you have to think about Minotauro moving up in the rankings since he just beat Sylvia. Would you then consider fighting him?
Randy Couture: I think that (Nogueira) is a fantastic fighter. I have watched him compete and have been ringside for several of his fights. He has an amazing ability to survive and get fights where he can find a way to win. My only concern or drawback to that whole scenario is that it would have to be with the UFC and I just can’t see going back and fighting for the UFC at this point with all the things that Dana has said and all the things that have happened…they have pretty much sealed that deal.
Ariel Helwani: Are you surprised that Fedor split from M-1 Global less than six months after we all thought he had signed with them?
Randy Couture: I wasn’t surprised. Everyone had heard rumors and inklings that (M-1) was kind of a shell and that there wasn’t a lot of money to get Fedor signed and outside of Fedor they didn’t seem to have a lot of other things going on. Outside of Fedor, there seemed to be an internal power struggle between the investors and Monte Cox and the Russians. There was kind of this whole rocky landscape and everyone wasn’t really surprised that it didn’t work out.
Ariel Helwani: What if Fedor would end up with the UFC, would you then consider returning? Randy Couture: I think if this whole thing has pointed out one thing to me it’s that I have an opportunity to control my own destiny a little bit and, potentially, through this process, change the way the fighters are paid and the way things are done in MMA and those are important things for me as a fighter. There are a lot of guys that are still scratching out a living and all the cards are held by the promotions. And, certainly, the most powerful promotion in the landscape is the UFC. So, would I say “never will I fight for the UFC,” well, I am not going to say “never” because there are circumstances where things could change but that’s the way I feel right now.
Everyone loves a countdown list so here’s ours: The top 15 combat sports moments of 2007. For the entire list click here.
#5 & #4 : Superman Returns…Then Departs
What: Randy Couture returns to the UFC and captures their Heavyweight title. Seven months later, he resigns from the company vowing to never fight for them again.
Where: Columbus, Ohio and Las Vegas, Nevada
When: March 3, 2007 – October 11, 2007
There was no way we could divide these two stories apart. For the record, we have slotted Couture’s title victory of Tim Sylvia as the fifth biggest moment and his resignation from the UFC as the fourth. The reason for this is that most believed Couture would eventually return to fight at least one more time following his first retirement in February 2006 (at least I did). There were rumors that he would even challenge Tito Ortiz if he would have beaten Chuck Liddell for the UFC Light Heavyweight title at UFC 66. Obviously that never happened but once an opportunity materialized to challenge Sylvia at UFC 68 for his Heavyweight crown, Couture jumped all over it. While it probably won’t be remembered as the greatest technical MMA fight of all-time no other bout has ever possessed the kind of emotion Couture-Sylvia had. There’s just something about Randy, I guess. After defeating Sylvia, Couture knocked off Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 74. Another inspiring victory and this time he finished off his opponent with a broken arm. At 44-years-old, Randy Couture was sitting firmly atop the MMA world.
However, less than two months later, the honeymoon would end for the UFC and Couture. Whether it had anything to do with the UFC’s inability to sign Fedor Emalianenko, Couture’s contract or something else – we will never know. But, regardless the reason, you would be hard-pressed to find one soul who actually believed that by the end of 2007 Randy Couture and the UFC would be on the outs.
I am always surprised at how many similarities exist between the UFC and WWE not to mention Dana White and Vince McMahon. And, if you think about it, this spat is very reminisicnent of the Hogan-McMahon breakup of the early 90s. Much like most wrestling divorces McMahon and Hogan would make up and agree to work together again (too much money to be made, brother). But I have a feeling that this saga will end differently. In fact, why do I get the feeling that August 25, 2007 may have been the last time we ever see Couture compete in an MMA match again?
Somewhere Vince McMahon must be smiling. First, Randy Couture announces he’ll be holding a press conference to discuss his resignation from the UFC. A couple of days later, coincidentally or not, the UFC decides to hold a press conference to announce their new TV deal with Spike beginning 30 minutes prior to Couture’s. Never a boring day in the world of MMA. Some of the main points discussed were:
The UFC has signed a new deal with Spike TV that runs through 2011. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Their current deal expires in 2008 meaning this new one will run for three-year. There will be at least four more seasons of The Ultimate Fighter and twelve Ultimate Fights Nights (four per year from ’09-’11). Also, a brand new “fight series” will be launching in 2010. No more details of this new fight series were made available.
UFC president Dana White said he did not schedule this press conference at the same time as Couture’s press conference. He claims it was simply a coincidence.
White said he has yet to speak to Couture and is waiting for Couture to call him back. However, in his press conference, Couture said he spoke to White and Lorenzo Fertita yesterday. Hmmm.
When asked about Fedor Emelianenko signing with M-1, White said that he was disappointed they couldn’t agree on a deal but that in all his dealings with Fedor’s management not once did they ever talk about Fedor. “It was always about his managers.” He also said “Fedor sucks. He’s not even in the top 5.” He also called Fedor’s agent, Vadim Finklestein, “a fucking liar.”
The deal with HBO is dead. The UFC is looking elsewhere. The reason they love Spike TV so much is because they have never tied them down. Spike allows them to look for partners, as well. HBO wasn’t as flexible.
Chuck Liddell, Wanderlei Silva and Brock Lesnar were also on the call.
Liddell never really thought about retiring after the Jardine loss and is not concerned with his last two losses. He thinks that a win over Silva will propel him back into the title picture.
White said that the winner of Silva-Liddell will definitely be considered a number one contender.
White said that the UFC is dying to come to Canada. A Montrealer can only hope…
Take a listen to the UFC press conference. White is asked to address the Couture situation right off the bat.
Meanwhile, here are some of the highlights from Couture’s presser that was shown live HDNet and proelite.com were:
“I’ve had issues with Zuffa and the company since they bought it in 2001…It’s the little things that make athletes feel appreciated that weren’t done…weren’t being done from my perspective that were done for a lot of other athletes.
“Everyone’s trying to make a big deal out of the money. This was never a money issue. It’s been a prevailing feeling of respect that wasn’t being given for eleven years of my life I have tried to represent this sports with integrity…Represent this sport in a particular way for the owner before and the owners now and I’ve never felt that that was appreciated.”
“I think that the Fertitas and Dana White did a marvelous job in saving our sport. I think our sport was gonna die. Does that mean I agree with all the decisions they’ve made and how they’ve treated a lot of people…no, I don’t agree with a lot of that.”
“I’ve been taken care of, I’m the last guy to complain. People are gonna ask questions ‘oh you’ve signed a contract eight months ago you seemed perfectly happy with that contract then.’ Nah, I wasn’t happy with that contract then.”
“I asked for a signing bonus and wasn’t given one. I don’t really know why but I wanted to fight.”
The general theme, as expected, was that Couture was pissed they were offering huge contracts to the Pride fighters and he wasn’t making close to their contracts.
He said he heard Liddell made close to $17 million last year while his base salary for the Sylvia and Gonzaga fights was $250,000 per fight. He also made one dollar for 100,000 ppv buy and up to three dollars for 330,00 PPV buys. Not exactly the $3.25-3.75 million that had been reported.
He kept saying that it wasn’t about the money yet he kept talking about money.
Once the Fedor match was off the table, he felt as though he had nothing left to gain by staying in the UFC.
Couture claims that his “hollywood agent” (as White has called him) had nothing to do with this because his agent has been with him for a while and he is his sports agent.
“I’m tired of swimming up stream…something needs to change.”
“They were given every opportunity…I expressed face-to-face how I felt…I’m not going to get into a pissing match with Dana.”
Couture says that prior to returning to the UFC he was offered $3 million dollars to fight Fedor in Bodog and took that offer to the UFC. That is when White proposed the Sylvia match.
“I’m saying that I simply left the UFC at this stage. It would be silly for me to sit here and say I’m retiring again… nobody is going to buy that crap, anyway.”
Couture said that he received a bonus after the Liddell fights and the Sylvia fight yet he didn’t receive any kind of bonus after the Gonzaga fight. He was extremely bothered by that.
Couture acknowledged that he has nine more months left on his contract so he seems to be willing to wait it out and then look elsewhere.
Courtesy of RawVegas.tv here are two videos of Randy Couture’s press conference.