It’s finally happened. The UFC has filed a lawsuit against their former heavyweight champion, alleging “irreparable damage”, “numerous intentional torts”, and conspiracy. Now things are going to get nasty. According to a report in the Las Vegas Review Journal, the UFC is seeking in excess of $10,000 in damages from Couture, as well as an injunction prohibiting him from participating in any competing promotion.
So much for working things out like gentlemen.
“What’s really tough for me, to be honest, is we have been friends for a very long time,” said Dana White. “The hard part is that he is not living up to his obligations. Captain America is not keeping his word.”
And so what do you do, naturally, to this friend who has been an ambassador for your sport and company? You sue him. For damages. In excess of $10,000. That should set things right.
There’s a lot we could say here about who we think is right or wrong. There are questions about what fulfills a contract, what constitutes acceptable compensation, and all that will likely be worked out in court. But the only thing I can think about right now if just how sad this is. Randy Couture, of all people, is getting sued. And by the UFC.
If MMA had any innocence left to lose, consider it lost. Now we’re just another big time pro sport, with big time pro sports problems. Are we happy now?
What’s interesting about this suit is that it alleges Couture has done irreparable harm to the UFC, presumably by speaking out against their bonus system and the way they handle closed-door fighter compensation and negotiations. I say presumably because that’s the only negative thing he’s said about the organization, at least that I can recall. If the UFC’s position is that this has done harm to the organization, I’d be interested in hearing them explain exactly how. Very interested.
If they claim that the way Couture characterized their bonus system is untrue, then that’s something. They’ll have to prove it. I’m not sure how they’ll be able to do that, and to my knowledge no one — fighter or manager or UFC representative — has taken issue with Couture’s description of the bonus system thus far. If they don’t claim that his statements were untrue, then it’s hard for me to see how his statements have caused them irreparable harm.
Maybe that’s what bothers me most about this suit. Trying to get the guy to stick to his contract, to come back and fight or at least not fight for someone else, that makes a degree of sense. Suing him for damages and alleging intentional tort, that’s just sticking it to him. Is this how the UFC wants to be perceived? As the organization that repays Couture for all the memorable moments and pay-per-view buys by going after him in court?
Consider the best possible outcome for the UFC in this situation: they win their lawsuit, along with $10,000 in damages (which means, what, Dana White can finally afford to really pimp out his Hummer?), Couture can’t fight (Fedor) in any other organization, his gym (Xtreme Couture) can’t field an IFL team, and the UFC will have made a point to all the fighters in their stable.
That point? Take what we give you, whatever it happens to be, or we’ll drum you out of the sport. That’s what they want to do to Couture. They want to force him to fulfill his contract by fighting in the UFC (which he really can’t do now, unless he wants to be seen as the man who cowed to their tactics), or make it impossible for him to compete anywhere else, effectively ending one of the most prolific and inspiring MMA careers of all time. And, I’m sorry, that will be considered a victory for the UFC? Really?
What the UFC isn’t seeing right now is that they have much more to lose than gain from this lawsuit. Dana White can go on and on about Couture being his friend and how sorry he is to have to sue him for $10,000 worth of tort and damages, but do you know what that’s going to do? It’s going to make it so that he can never again refer to any fighter as his “friend” without that fighter putting his hand on his wallet and backing toward the door. It’s going to make the UFC seem like an exploitative organization, the one that ended Randy Couture’s career before his time.
It’s a shame when money comes between “friends”. It truly is.