Randy Couture and UFC officials were about to head down a familiar road. The former UFC champion and star of EA Sports MMA game had one fight left on his contract. The road was avoided and 46-year old Randy Couture signed a new six-fight UFC contract. Was this about keeping a legend or did the looming shadow of Fedor Emelianenko help get Randy Couture a new UFC contract?
Make no mistake about it, UFC officials did not expect Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira to win at UFC 102. Conspiracy theorists have speculated the reason Brock Lesnar’s next fight was rushed was to avoid a Randy Couture rematch. The theory was that with one fight left on his deal, it would be a bad business move to put Couture into a title fight. Dana White doesn’t have to worry about that now.
Couture fought a hell of a round against Brock Lesnar last year. Yet, Lesnar caught Couture in the second round likely due to Couture’s slowing reflexes. The same thing happened against Nogueira. Couture did very well in the boxing game, yet couldn’t knock out Nogueira even after some brutal punches. The power and the speed just isn’t there anymore for the Natural.
At this point, I think it would be best for Couture to move down to light heavyweight. In the end, I really don’t think it will make that much of a difference. At his age, Couture is obviously out-powered at heavyweight. A drop in weight class would help, but what about the speed? Could Couture really hang in there with the blazing hands and kicks of the elite UFC light heavyweight fighters? I just don’t see any viable matches at heavyweight left for the Natural.
UFC made a big decision to make here. Couture is going to be paid main-event money. Why not? He could go out there and sign a blockbuster deal with M1, Showtime, or promote on his own like elite boxers do. At the money, UFC will have to put him in main-events against guys that he won’t have much of a chance against. Couture still wants to fight and unlike Chuck Liddell, had the upper hand as a free agent.
This all goes back to Fedor Emelianenko and his contract with Strikeforce. Fedor and Randy are friends and came close to doing business a few years back. Is it possible that Fedor avoided signing with UFC to wait out Couture’s deal? Fedor only has a three fight deal with both Strikeforce and M1. Is it possible that Couture and Fedor had preliminary talks to make this fight happen at the end of 2010?
The speculation alone was enough to give Randy enough leverage in contract negotiations against Dana White. UFC wouldn’t be losing a great fight, but a fight like that is exactly what a new promotion needs. What if other fighters started to follow in Randy’s footsteps and started talking about promoting their own fights ala Golden Boy Promotions? There was potential for a huge can of worms to be opened here if Randy walked.
In the end, I think it was more important for Dana White to do business with the devil he knows rather than the devil he would meet if Randy became a free agent. Welcome back to the UFC Randy Couture. It was like you hardly left.
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