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Couture: I’m not going to settle with the UFC

In a recent interview with PunchDrunkGamer.com, UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture closed out the Q&A session by ruling out a scenario in which he would settle with the UFC:

PDG: Well Randy that’s it. I appreciate you taking the time to do the interview; I know you didn’t really want to do any. I also wasn’t planning on bothering you about your issues with the UFC, but thank you for the comments.

Randy: Well I didn’t really want to do any interviews that would inflame the situation or prevent me from settling with the UFC in a positive way. But the ground work has kind of been laid and now the situation is I’m not really going to settle with the UFC so it doesn’t matter. People are getting the word now though, but it’s all good.

Couture also continues to talk about a potential match vs. PRIDE heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko as if it’s a near-certainty:

PDG: So you’re definitely planning on fighting Fedor at the end of the year?

Randy: Yeah, the last quarter of 2008 I expect to be in a position to find a way to make the Fedor fight happen. I know he’s going to have competition in between, and I hope those go well for him, and the status [of the fight] remains the same as it is now. I certainly have some acting and training to do between now and then that I am excited about. I’m going to focus on those things and stay in shape and stay sharp and be ready for that fight after my contracts have expired.

18 COMMENTS
  • Man, this is getting better and better for a few reasons.

    I’d love to hear how he plans on skipping a settlement and going straight to court. I’d also love to hear how he plans to prove that the contract was unconscionable and is unenforceable, if he plans to do so. It seems to me that he’s in a bad position in that manner.

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  • Da Pit says:

    1st of all i dont think that he’s going to be released from his UFC contract and be able to fight Fedor somewhere other than the UFC. Dana like he said many times that he’s in the contract business so i think he knows what he’s doing and UFC doesnt want Randy to leave! they offered him a fight with Big Nog (which he denied) and now Tim and Nog are fighting for the interem Title and Randy is still Champ so I think the contract changes if your champ! Randy aint going nowhere
    I hope Fedor puss ass loses to a nobody like Pedro R, so Randy can stop this shit and fight Big Nog! If Randy fights Big Nog and stops him in my book he’ll be better than Fedor who cant stop nobody thats in the top 10!!!

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  • Sam Caplan says:

    Leland, yeah, if Randy resigned from the UFC because he thought it would get him a match with Fedor, he received some bad legal advice. The UFC has multiple angles in which they can take to court when they argue that Couture contractually belongs to them.

    It’s a shame because if Randy wanted to walk away, then the decision to resign would make sense. And even though he says he’s okay with not fighting again, the more and more he talks about a match with Fedor, it’s clear he’s not ready to walk away. A career as historic as Couture’s should not end in a court room.

    At a certain point, cooler heads will have to prevail.

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  • Evan says:

    “he received some bad legal advice”

    Speaking of which…his lawyer really needs to tell him to stop talking to the media. The more he talks the more the UFC has evidence he violated his contract to enter into another one. Which will likely be their tactic in court should it go that far. Every interview he gives makes the UFC’s case that much stronger.

    Also they have all of that stuff that was posted on Randy’s blog that got taken down after a day where they laid out their grievances point by point. They were such strange postings and even his wife made entries.

    I know I may be in the minority here but considering who Fedor has fought lately I am much more into seeing Randy fight Arlovski, Nog and re-match Tim.

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  • mike wolfe says:

    It’s possible that Randy’s public statements about his plans to fight Fedor are part of his and his lawyers’ overall strategy, similar to criminal defense lawyers working the press about their cases. By continuing to push for a fight with Fedor, he may generate sympathy and support and put UFC on the defensive. It will be very interesting to see if he actually signs an agreement to fight Fedor without resolving things with the UFC. That would up the ante and force the UFC’s hand.

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  • Sam Caplan says:

    Mike, that would probably be their best strategy, to try and win this case in the court of public opinion. If a contract for Fedor vs. Couture is signed and the match is announced and the UFC is the only reason why it doesn’t happen, it’s not going to play well publicly.

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  • Evan says:

    “public opinion” – I am not sure the UFC cares so much about that on this issue. There is plenty of sites who already bash the UFC and Dana on a continual basis no matter what they do so whats one more story against them? They let Randy do this and the flood gates open for fighters to cause problems when they simply decide they no longer like their current contract. No matter what the UFC will stand firm and take hits from the MMA websites who will bash them. They have taken so much heat already over the years and been fine, they will survive this one unless they begin a precedent of allowing people to walk. This is a long term issue they are dealing with here and they cannot afford the risk of letting one fight cause them so many problems down the road.

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  • Sam Caplan says:

    ” ‘public opinion’ – I am not sure the UFC cares so much about that on this issue.”

    Evan, in light of some of the UFC’s media policies, you’ll have a hard time convincing me they aren’t concerned with public opinion.

    Maybe the UFC isn’t concerned about what the blogs say, but they are concerned about what the major media says. When they started taking some hits in the national media immediately following Couture’s resignation, it was long until we saw Lorenzo Fertitta and their CFO join Dana White during a press conference.

    If the boxing writers at the newspapers that the UFC is infatuated with (many of whom only cover the sport because their editor makes them, but that’s another story for a different day) start talking about how the politics of MMA is preventing one of the greatest bouts in the history of the sport from happening, the UFC will care.

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  • Evan says:

    That was a different issue. From their angle Randy, their HW champion, was lying and they were correcting facts. Last week you linked a story where Lorenzo stated he believes the UFC is growing, not MMA. So why would they care about a MMA fight outside the UFC?

    This has turned into a athlete whining about his contract. How often to the general public side with a athlete when he complains about his contract? Especially one who can’t seem to get his facts straight. They will be able to handle this and brush it aside.

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  • Sam Caplan says:

    Evan, your argument was in response to my statement that the UFC could react to pressure from losing a case in the court of public opinion. I don’t see how you can dismiss their initial reaction to Randy as merely a different issue.

    We’re not talking about Fertitta and his belief that the UFC is growing even though MMA isn’t. Why would they care about an MMA fight outside of the UFC? Because it involves a fighter they believe is under contract to them. And, if spun a certain way, it could be made to look like the UFC is pulling a box-type maneuver in stopping it from happening. I’m not saying that is truly the case, only saying that many mainstream media writers came out against the UFC when Couture initially resigned and the UFC didn’t like it. The same could happen again.

    The general public rarely sides with an athlete bitching over his contract. But if a match between Fedor and Couture is signed and M-1 promotes a signed contract, a well-orchestrated PR campaign could make the UFC look like an evil corporation (yes, I know, they are an LLC) that’s using litigation to prevent a highly-anticipated match from happening. Again, I’m not saying that’s truly the case, merely saying that it could be spun that way to the press. It might not be so easy to brush aside if Couture, Fedor, and M-1 decide to push the issue.

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  • Tanner says:

    I really hope that Randy has something up his sleeve because to me he keeps coming across more and more ignorant concerning getting out of his contract and being able to fight Fedor. Maybe he knows something we all don’t.

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  • Mike Wolfe says:

    Couture s probably an exceptional case due to recent wins and status within the sport. UFC could spin a settlement along those lines so other fighters don’t try the same thing. They probably can’t negotiate something right now, however, because it will look like they’re backing down. The parties and their lawyers will have to tussle a bit more for appearances and negotiating advantage.

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  • Evan says:

    “I don’t see how you can dismiss their initial reaction to Randy as merely a different issue.”

    Well, initially the Randy issue was about respect and money. And a side issue was the Fedor fight

    Now it is all about the Fedor fight.

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  • roomservicetaco says:

    From reading the fighter contract on Sherdog a while ago, Randy believes his contract expires 9 months from his ‘resignation’ date and the UFC believes that the contract extends (IIRC) for 18 months following his ‘retirement’ (as designated by the date he turned down a championship fight w/Nog).

    Does anyone know what recourse the UFC would have if Randy were to fight Fedor outside the country, say Russia, pay him in rubles to a Swiss bank account? I suppose a US court could prevent ppv broadcast in the US, but would an injunction be upheld in a foreign country?

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  • Mike Wolfe says:

    The big issue Couture faces if a US court issues an injunction against a fight with Fedor is that he would be held in contempt if he violated it regardless of where the fight took place. That could be very expensive for him and very damaging to any ongoing lawsuit with the UFC. Enforcement in a foreign country of an injunction issued by a court in the US would depend in substantial part upon the laws of the foreign country. Both sides would have to lawyer up in the foreign country and proceed to court there to sort that one out.

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  • tom says:

    If Dana just flat out said “We cant risk having our champion in a fight with an individual from an outside organization – if he were to lose it would devalue the HW division and put the UFCs reputation at risk”, I would understand.

    As champion, Couture represents the best of the UFCs best. A champion in many ways is the face of the organization, and as such, it would no longer be a simple randy vs. fedor fight, but the UFC needing to validate itself as home of the best in MMA.

    Its a lot at stake for one fight, perhaps more than its worth.

    Therefore, I suggest a simple solution — Randy “gives up” his belt.

    No longer the Champion and representative of UFCs best (there will be a new UFC HW champ by Feb 2) there would be less burden on Randy to “represent” the UFC. This is the only way I can see both sides saving face, and puts a “win-win” spin on everything.

    They could even put this as a co-headliner, the other main event would be the new UFC champ vs. whoever, just to re-inforce the notion that the man with the belt is the champ.

    We all know a fight of this magnitude would be on the cover of everything and gain the sport untold publicity. It would also allow the UFC to start using Couture in their marketing again. It seems a shame to think that all of Coutures work will be buried if things continue on as they are.

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  • JacRabbit says:

    Very well thought Tom. I agree 100% Although everyone would love to see Randy fight Fedor, it just doesn’t seem worth it to either party. Maybe Randy does have something up his sleeve?

    Either way, in the end it will all depend on how much the fight actually means to Randy… he’s on the worse end of the stick. We can expect the next wave of UFC contracts to receive a tune-up after this court battle. I don’t foresee an increase in fighters having contractual issues in the future.

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  • roomservicetaco says:

    Mike Wolfe – thanks for the explanation. I didn’t realize he’d be in contempt of court in the US regardless of where he violated the injunction. That would seem to be enough to deter Couture without having to compel a foreign government to enforce the injunction.

    Tom, I think your suggestion is the way Randy tried to play it. His letter to the UFC said that he had resigned as heavyweight champion. Unfortunately, the UFC did not accept his resignation – neither they nor their contracts had contemplated such a thing and they want to ensure that they hold rights to Randy’s fights.

    A co-promoted (UFC/M1) non-title superfight seems to be the only way to get the fight done. Randy would probably also have to pay back some of his signing bonus to the UFC. The big problem is that, unlike boxing, there is not parity in the promotions and the UFC would be doing itself damage by promoting on an equal basis with a start-up enterprise like M1.

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