While reported rumors had been running rampant in recent days, UFC President Dana White made it official on Tuesday afternoon that the promotion’s estrange heavyweight champion Randy Couture has re-signed with the promotion.
Calling it the “biggest fight in UFC history,” White also announced that Couture will be defending his heavyweight title vs. Brock Lesnar in his return at UFC 91 on Saturday, Nov. 15 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Both Couture and White confirmed that all legal issues between all parties have been resolved and Couture is returning to the UFC under terms of a new agreement. Couture revealed that the new contract was for three fights.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira will remain the UFC interim heavyweight champion and will defend his title vs. Frank Mir in December. According to White, the winner of Nogueira vs. Mir will fight the winner of Couture vs. Lesnar to determine an undisputed heavyweight champion in what he dubbed as a tournament.
White was asked about a possible fight for Couture against Fedor Emelianenko but White indicated that while the promotion was interested in making it happen, Emelianenko already has an existing contract that they will not attempt to interfere with.
Couture resigned from the UFC last Oct. 12 over claims that he had not been treated by the company with respect while also expressing frustration with the promotion’s inability to make a match happen between he and Emelianenko, the former PRIDE heavyweight champion.
The months that proceeded Couture’s departure from the UFC saw ill will expressed publicly from both sides and resulted in multiple lawsuits disputing the language of Couture’s contract with the promotion.
A common theme expressed throughout the conference call was Couture’s previously expressed desire to fight Fedor. When asked by a reporter why the Lesnar fight “made sense,” Couture stated that it was “a part of a resolution” and that the Lesnar fight makes sense in order to make a fight with Fedor happen. He added that he still wants to fight Fedor but that Fedor “needs to come and fight me.”
When asked about the feasibility of making the fight happen, White repeatedly said that the promotion would not try to interfere with Fedor’s existing contract with Affliction and that they had no interest in a co-promotion of any kind. Furthermore, he said he was not interested in working with Fedor on a one-fight basis.
On the surface, Couture’s decision to return to the UFC if the promotion is unwilling to relax its policy on exclusivity does not make sense. However, White was adamant that he does not believe that Affliction will continue to promote MMA events. He said that “Affliction is dying on the vine” and “could be history soon.” White added that he’d be “horrified” if the promotion made it to January and that Affliction is losing “s—loads of money” and stated that in the state of the current economy it is unlikely the promotion could secure additional funding.
Couture’s next opponent, Lesnar, was on the conference call but was nothing more than a subplot with reporters fixated on White, Couture, and Emelianenko. At one point Lesnar proclaimed “Who gives a s— about Fedor!? This fight is between me and Randy.”