Category Archives: Randy Couture

Dana White Implores Couture to “Be a Man”

Apparently unsatisfied with calling Couture a liar in the press and suing him in court, UFC president Dana White seems now to be embarking upon a campaign intended to shame Randy Couture into returning to the Octagon. Just recently White called Couture out publicly in the Canadian Press:

“Come on Captain America, step up and be a man and give these guys the opportunity to win the title,” White said.

“He’s the heavyweight champion. He signed a contract with us less than a year ago and I expect him to honour it. And I expect him to be a standup guy and give these guys the opportunities they gave him.”

When I hear of a quote like this coming from Dana White, I edge further toward the conclusion that he is purposely making himself the most hateable figure in the sport. Note the sarcastic use of the “Captain America” nickname for Couture, the implication that somehow his manhood is in jeopardy. This is pure Vince McMahon meets Lex Luthor. White obviously doesn’t believe that an incendiary remark like this will actually make Couture come back, so he’s settling for potshots from a comfortable distance.

It’s also interesting that White is now trying to frame the issue as if Couture is denying anyone else an opportunity at the UFC heavyweight title. He’s doing this, mind you, on the same weekend that two men are fighting for the UFC (interim) heavyweight title. Does that seem just intolerably disingenuous to anyone else?

It’s not as if the UFC has never taken a title from one person who can’t or won’t compete in their organization (B.J. Penn, Sean Sherk, etc,) and given it to someone else. White has said that he is purposely not stripping Couture of the title, vowing “we’ll hold on forever”, with the implication that it serves as a useful legal bargaining chip.

So now White wants to have it both ways. He wants to keep the title around Couture’s waist while simultaneously offering a different heavyweight title to Sylvia or Nogueira, and he also wants to criticize Couture for not defending the title that the UFC is insisting he maintain against his will. Have we all got that, now? Good. Just wanted to be clear.

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Filed under Dana White, MMA, Randy Couture, Sports, UFC

A Black Day for MMA: UFC Sues Randy Couture For ‘Irreparable Damage’

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.

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Filed under Dana White, MMA, Randy Couture, Sports, UFC

Couture Remains Adamant About Fighting Fedor

Say this for Randy Couture: once he gets an idea in his head, he doesn’t let go of it very easily. Couture showed up at HDNet Fights this past Saturday and made it very clear that he hasn’t given up on fighting the world’s top heavyweight, Fedor Emelianenko. To hear Couture tell it, right now it’s just a waiting game.

“Unless the UFC wants to do a co-promotion with M-1 and make the Fedor fight happen, I’m going to have to wait ’til my contract expires.

I have no intention of breaching that contract; that expires in July. My employment contract expires with them in October. So I would assume the soonest you’d see me fight Emelianenko would be in October.”

I can’t decide if I should be reassured by the fact that Couture is insisting this fight will happen, or if I’m just getting my hopes up for no reason. Maybe the better question is, who is Couture really hoping to put the pressure on by making these announcements?

Note the carefully placed remark about the UFC doing some kind of cross-promotional deal with M-1, the company that hopes to make a profit somehow by renting Fedor out again and again. By not ruling out the possibility that the UFC might step up and make this fight happen, Couture might be indicating to the UFC brass that they can either arrange the fight while he’s still under contract or wait until October and then lose him altogether. No doubt the UFC has some kind of legal contingency plan to keep Couture from taking a fight in October, but all that might do is delay the fight a few months. Couture’s not getting any younger, but it doesn’t seem to bother him much.

The truth is that the UFC isn’t eager to engage in any type of cross-promotional events, and why would they? They know they’re the biggest show in town. Other organizations need them, not the other way around. Still, the fact that their heavyweight champion and the greatest ambassador the sport has ever had (Couture gave a pre-game speech to the Green Bay Packers, while Tito Ortiz goes on Celebrity Apprentice…just saying) is making public appearances so he can look into the camera and say ‘I want Fedor’ over and over, it might be enough to make the UFC swallow their pride.

There’s no question that a Couture-Fedor fight would be a huge success in terms of revenue, and the UFC is already going to run into some problems trying to scrape up main events this spring with their light heavyweight title held hostage on a reality show. The best part is, it probably wouldn’t be difficult to make the fight happen as part of a UFC event if they move fast. M-1 isn’t even close to putting on an event of their own, nor are they close to having enough fighters to fight on it. They’re basically a Fedor rental operation at this point. The UFC should move to make this fight happen in the spring, before they lose Couture and before M-1 has a chance to dig in and match Fedor against a juggling bear or a boxing kangaroo.

If the UFC is afraid of setting a precedent that will allow fighters to “resign” from their contracts, as Couture did, that’s understandable. What’s less so is if they let the fight of the decade slip through their hands just to make a point. I think it’s safe to say that whatever happens, Couture isn’t going to let this go anytime soon.

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Filed under Fedor Emelianenko, MMA, Randy Couture, Sports, UFC

Pithy Thoughts For a Monday Morning

The new edition of my weekly column is live at Crave Online . It focuses, naturally, on the issue of the moment regarding Dana White and Randy Couture. While I thoroughly enjoyed the back and forth between these two last week, I’m still baffled by some of White’s comments. Did he really say that Fedor sucks? Did he also really say that Fedor isn’t a top five heavyweight? Really?

Instead of arguing here that Fedor does not suck, which I take to be a given for any thinking MMA fan (at 26-1, if Fedor sucks, who’s good?), instead I’m going to argue that we should all extend some sympathy towards White. Obviously the man is hurting.

Why else would he lash out like this only after his repeated attempts to sign Fedor to a UFC contract? It’s like a boy in junior high who gets rejected by a girl he likes. The first thing he does is go tell everyone he knows that she’s ugly or stupid or a slut. Even other junior high boys know he’s just saying things that he doesn’t believe in order to make himself feel better. The appropriate response there isn’t indignation; it’s pity.

Anyway, I look forward to seeing a future match for the now-vacant UFC heavyweight title to determine who doesn’t suck. My guess is one of the participants will be Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, who Fedor beat twice, and my other guess is that he’ll probably win if he’s going up against Tim Sylvia, which seems likely at this point.

That’s going to be a tough moment. I mean, the only thing worse than having a heavyweight champion who sucks is having one who was beaten twice by someone who sucks.  That would really, for lack of a better word, suck.

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Filed under Dana White, Fedor Emelianenko, MMA, Randy Couture, Sports, UFC

Dueling Press Conferences: Dana White vs. Randy Couture

When Dana White announced that he would hold a press conference on the same day as the one already announced by departed UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture, it wasn’t hard to see what he had in mind. When he scheduled his media conference call to begin just thirty minutes before Couture’s Las Vegas media reception, it was obvious. White wanted to take some attention off Couture and his complaints about the UFC, even if he wouldn’t admit it.

After a reporter pressed the UFC president on the issue of whether he intentionally held his press conference to coincide with Couture’s, White responded:

“We’ve got a lot of s— going on and we’re here to talk about it. Is it a coincidence I signed Brock Lesnar, made Chuck Liddell-Wanderlei Silva, and signed a new Spike deal in the same week? …Am I doing a press conference to f-ck Randy Couture? No. I’m here to announce things.”

As for those things he was there to announce, most of them had already been made public. The signing of Brock Lesnar was announced at UFC 77, where Rogan did an interview with the former WWE star. The Liddell-Silva match had been advertised on the DirectTV website for days before its official announcement at the Spike TV Scream Awards on Tuesday night. And the new Spike TV deal is essentially an extension of the current Spike TV deal.

This was the big news that simply could not be announced on any other day or any other time? I don’t think so.

Obviously, the point was to pull media attention from Couture, whose press conference was streamed live on ProElite.com. That White used this tactic and then played innocent about it seems petty, but it’s not hard to understand why he felt it was necessary.

To hear Couture tell it, the UFC hadn’t been giving him the respect (read: money) that he deserved. He directly addressed a Yahoo! Sports article claiming he was in the middle of a four-fight contract that would pay him $3.25-3.75 million per fight, by showing his unsigned bout agreements that had him making around $750,000 per fight after pay-per-view bonuses were factored in.

Some people will point out that this contract doesn’t include the bonus money that the UFC hands out after their fights, which even Couture said is sometimes more than the athlete earns from the contract itself. But even if Couture was receiving a $1 million dollar bonus for each fight, he would still make only about half what the Yahoo! report claimed. Not to mention, the bonuses are not guaranteed in his contract, so it can hardly be said that he was in the middle of a contract that was due to pay him anywhere in the neighborhood of $3 million per fight (unless the pay-per-view buys eclipsed every known record several times over).

This bonus system, it seems, has played no small part in the dispute between Couture in the UFC.

Couture said that the rift with the UFC grew after they failed to give him a bonus for his win over Gabriel Gonzaga in August. White, to the best of my knowledge, doesn’t dispute this. Couture said he received large bonuses for his fight with Chuck Liddell (which he lost) and his comeback fight against Tim Sylvia (which he won via decision after five rounds).

So the question here is, why wasn’t his performance against Gonzaga worthy of a bonus?

Anyone who saw that fight knows it was a gritty, dominating performance by Couture. He stopped Gonzaga early in the third round after having his arm broken by a kick earlier in the bout. This wasn’t worth a bonus, but getting knocked out by Liddell was?

Of course, you could make the argument that since it’s a bonus, he has no right to expect it. Couture painted a picture of the UFC bonus system that seem arbitrary and capricious, saying the checks were handed out in the locker room after the fights and were “at the discretion of the UFC.”

But if the bonuses regularly match or eclipse the contract money, and if he had received one for two previous fights of varying levels of success, it’s understandable that Couture would be confused at not receiving one here. From his perspective, it’s as if his pay had been cut in half even after he performed as well as anyone could have hoped.

Couture said he tendered his resignation two and a half weeks after a meeting in which he asked White and the UFC management why he hadn’t received a bonus. They gave him no answer, he said. Apparently, that was the wrong thing to do.

White seems to like to blame Couture’s “Hollywood agent” for the way this situation has unfolded, but he’d do better to look within his own house. A secretive and whimsical bonus system that isn’t based on any predetermined criteria and which can make a drastic difference in the money an athlete takes home is a recipe for discontent.

Certainly, Couture’s complaint is as much about money as it is about respect. But in the world of professional sports, the two are often synonymous. White should know that. And if he really wanted to get Couture back in the UFC, he’d swallow his pride and make amends. Maybe he will. Maybe we will see Couture back in the Octagon someday, maybe even against Fedor Emelianenko (who White says “sucks”). But don’t bet on it.

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Filed under Dana White, MMA, Randy Couture, Sports, UFC

Aftershocks From Couture’s Resignation Reach Far and Wide

Randy Couture’s announcement yesterday that he was resigning from the UFC and abdicating his throne as heavyweight champion has thrown the MMA world into a small-scale panic. Nobody wants to lose Couture, and nobody, at first, knew what to make of his decision to leave. I imagine the reaction by MMA fans was something like what our parents experienced when the Beatles broke up, with the two major differences being 1) we have the benefit of the internet to discuss it to death, and 2) only about half of us are stoned on grass.

At first, the wording of Couture’s official announcement sounded like he was moving on because the UFC had failed to sign Fedor Emelianenko and because he had other opportunities outside of fighting. But some subtle phrasing also suggested that he was unhappy with how he’d been treated by UFC management, and in an interview with Sherdog.com yesterday, that issue was magnified:

“I’m tired of being taken advantage of, played as the nice guy and basically swimming against the current with the management of the UFC. I have a lot of other things going on in my life that I’m doing just fine with. I don’t need the problems. I don’t feel like I get the respect I deserve from the organization, and that’s motivation No. 2 for the letter of resignation that was sent today.”

Couture went on to say that the money being offered to other fighters, especially Fedor, was “insulting” considering what he was making for being a marquee draw:

“I think the final straw for me was meeting with Dana and Lorenzo (Fertitta, UFC co-owner) where they claimed I was the No. 2 paid athlete in the organization, which I know is a bold-faced lie,” Couture said.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. Upon hearing this complaint, UFC president Dana White responded by blaming MMA web sites, ironically enough, during an interview with Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports. Obviously, White is referring to sites like Sherdog, whose forum tends to break more news (and spread more rumors) than their actual news site. White apparently felt that these websites were more responsible for Couture’s resignation than the UFC management:

“He felt he was not getting paid as much as Mirko Cro Cop, as much as this guy and as much as that guy,” White said. “We told him he was our second-highest paid fighter, but he didn’t believe us. Chuck’s the only guy who makes more, but he kept hearing all these rumors and he wouldn’t believe us.

White then launched into a tirade against what he called “the rumor mongerers on the Internet,” whom he said are, “the lowest of the low.”

He said fighters read those sites and believe them to be true, causing friction at the negotiating table.

“This business is like a beauty salon,” he said. “These guys are all the toughest guys in the world, but they’re like (expletives) in a beauty salon. They pass along rumors and gossip, which has no basis in reality and they believe all the (rumors) they hear. The Internet is very powerful and one of the best promotional tools we have, but it’s a crazy place.”

I have to admit he’s right. The internet is a crazy place. It combines the lawlessness of the Wild West with the flashing lights of Vegas and the pornography of Times Square.

But let’s examine White’s beauty salon analogy for a moment. Notice how he says the fighters are like “expletives” in this metaphorical salon. Setting aside the observation that your swearing has become a problem when your analogies can’t be printed in full, what do you think he really said there? Customers? No, that’s not an expletive. Bitches? No, that’s only one expletive, not “expletives.” Fucking bitches? Possibly.

I guess only White and Iole know for sure, but we can safely draw this conclusion: whatever expletive he used to describe the fighters, it was derogatory and negative. And that seems like a big part of Couture’s complaint. He didn’t feel like he was getting the respect he deserved. After reading White’s explanation, I’m starting to see what he means.

Respect matters. The money matters too, for obvious reasons, but the money is also a way of showing respect. Couture was a huge draw for the UFC and a great ambassador for the sport. But if he didn’t feel he was being treated accordingly — if, for instance, he felt like his boss saw him as just another expletive in a beauty salon — he’s only going to put up with it for so long.

And White’s claim that MMA web sites exacerbated the problem also seems disingenuous. As someone who makes my living writing about MMA for internet sources, I’m on these sites everyday. Very rarely do I see actual figures named when talking about fighter salaries, and when those figures are named they almost always come from official athletic commission reports.

Of course, the UFC always claims their fighter payouts are much higher than what they report to the commissions, once bonuses and sponsorship money and everything else is added on. But they never say exactly what the final numbers are. Now White is complaining that fighters have a warped perception of those numbers thanks to internet speculation? If that’s the problem, why not disclose the numbers and end the rumors?

But the UFC obviously isn’t going to do that. It’s easier to blame the internet. Couture says he got his information about fighter salaries from the fighters themselves, and not the internet, which makes sense. It’s in the fighters’ best interests to tell one another what they’re being offered, and they do. The internet is not the problem. The money is the problem.

Still, this is about more than money. This is about respect, about treating MMA fighters like real athletes and not commodities or “products”, as White has referred to them in the past. Every organization should learn from this, and every fighter should be thanking Couture for making this stand and going public with his complaints. This is an issue that isn’t going away, nor should it.

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Filed under Dana White, MMA, Randy Couture, Sports, UFC

Randy Couture Leaves UFC

According to a shocking report by the Fight Network, Randy Couture has resigned from the UFC in a letter to Dana White, citing the organization’s inability to sign Fedor Emelianenko as a contributing factor in his decision:

“I appreciate this opportunity the sport of MMA and the UFC has given me,” the UFC Hall-of-Famer said. “However, I’m tired of swimming upstream at this stage with the management of the UFC. It only makes sense at this point in my career to fight Fedor Emelianenko, and since he’s now signed with another organization, I feel like it’s time to resign and focus on my other endeavors.”

The announcement comes while Couture is in South Africa filming “The Scorpion King – Rise of the Akkadian”, in which he reportedly has a starring role.

While I sincerely hope he isn’t walking away from MMA for an acting career (particularly one that hinges on the success of another Scorpion King movie), it is somewhat understandable that he might feel there are not enough mountains left to climb in the UFC at this point.

There are plenty of opportunities for Couture to make money without having his bones broken, and at forty-four you have to think that even Couture can’t have too many more fights in him.

That being said, the announcement has to be a major shock and a disappointment to the UFC. They could not hope for a better spokesman and ambassador than Couture, who also appeared from time to time as a very competent on-air commentator.

Now one can’t help but wonder whether M-1 will attempt to entice him into a big money fight with Fedor. Whatever undisclosed American company that bought the organization will certainly need deep pockets to make it happen, but it’s the kind of move that could instantly put them on the map.

Read the full article here.

Update: read the expanded explanations and accusations from both sides here

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Filed under Fedor Emelianenko, M-1, MMA, Randy Couture, Sports, UFC, Uncategorized