By Zach Arnold | February 14, 2013
If memory serves us right, Dana White said that he had been texting back-and-forth with Randy Couture about staying with UFC and if he would be appearing on Fox for the January 26th Chicago telecast. White said that Couture left him hanging by wishing him a Merry Christmas and didn’t reply back further. Dana, of course, went on a tirade about Couture being a bad guy.
Which led to this response from Couture on Clifford’s show.
“Well, I’m certainly not surprised that was the choice that Dana chose to make. That’s not accurate. I gave the UFC and Dana every opportunity to find a way to significantly use me since I retired a year and a half ago. They acted like they were doing me a favor by giving me the four events on Fox a year as a commentator, which I enjoyed. The guys at FOX are amazing, they’re great people and I enjoyed working with them immensely the four times that I got to work with them. But, in my opinion and estimation, not a terribly significant role in the organization and the company of Zuffa. So, I tried like hell to get them to keep me with the company in some significant way and they had nothing for me. I made them aware that this offer had come onto the table, that the TV thing was heating up for me, that there were significant offers being pushed to me — but I had a sign a Non Disclosure Agreement to even hear those pitches and could not tell them specifically what was going on or who was offering what. So, you know… in my professional estimation, they had an opportunity to keep me and use me, they chose not to — and a week later after this whole thing they give a job to Matt Hughes in a significant fashion and, you know, frankly that was a big ‘
fuck you’ to me from Dana and that’s exactly what he intended to do.
“That’s the way it felt to me. I’ve been trying for over a year to get them to use me in some way, shape, or form and they chose not to. They didn’t have anything for me, they continually told me that and then Matt, you know, announces his retirement and within a week has a Vice President position for fighter relations. You tell me.”
As for the basis of the hostility between Couture and UFC, it’s all about the past litigation battles between the two parties.
“Well, that’s the only thing that makes sense to me. I think I got on the wrong foot with Zuffa from the very early start and tried to fight for my ancillary rights with my management, Battle Management, at that time and I think from that day forward we’ve kind of had an adversarial relationship. I was never kind one of those guys who let them do whatever they wanted with regard to my career and how I saw it. I’m always trying to keep things simple, just be who I am and no pretense, no nothing. So… I can’t explain it any other way. Yeah, I stood up for myself after the (Gabriel) Gonzaga fight. I had some issues, I stated those issues with Dana and, you know, obviously the Fedor fight was a big deal to me at that point, trying to pursue that fight. It wasn’t going to happen with the UFC, tried to pursue it elsewhere.
“There are a whole bunch of those issues and I think that I was never forgiven for any of those things. I think those things were held against me and a large part of the decision had to do with that. So, you know, it is what it is. I have to do what’s best for me and my family, my career, the brand that I’ve built. Developing and training fighters is something that I’ve always loved. I loved the first season, second and fourth seasons of The Ultimate Fighter and now I get a chance to work with a bunch of young, up-and-coming athletes that are hoping for a shot in Bellator. I’m excited about that opportunity… and I have to be kind of true to who I am and what it is I like to do and unfortunately, you know, that’s not going to be with Zuffa and the UFC moving forward.”
As for the good cop/bad cop routine often used by Lorenzo Fertitta & Dana White on business dealings, Randy said that Lorenzo didn’t talk to him this time around.
“Honestly, I had conversations with Lorenzo back [in the aftermath] of the Gonzaga fight. He called me up and I spoke with him directly. The original breakfast I had with Dana and Lorenzo expressing my concerns and my issues with the company then that led to the resignation and all that stuff, but in this whole process the only person that reached out to me, the only person I talked to was Dana White and, uh… I think in some ways, you know obviously, Lorenzo and Frank are the, dare I say, the brains of the operation but they’re the ones who call the shots for sure. But in some ways I think they use Dana and wield Dana as a weapon. Everybody knows what Dana’s going to do and how he’s going to come across and so they channel that, they direct that and it suits their needs when they need him to and, you know, last week’s press conference with Spike and the new Bellator show coming out, I thanked him on that press conference for creating such a media sensation and in a lot of ways making this a lot easier decision. Had he been cordial, nice, and really approached me about doing something different and staying with the company, this would have been a much more difficult choice for me. But him coming out the way he came out, assaulting my manager, assaulting me verbally made that a lot easier choice and created a real nice media sensation for us to launch this new program. So, now since then I think they recognize that as well and have kind of gagged him, we’ve heard no more out of him.”
As for whether or not Randy has any regrets about his litigation battles in the past with Zuffa, he said the outcome turned out to be bittersweet.
“Well, I think I was one of the first ones to point out my issues in dealing with a bunch of fighters and seeing the issues both in fighter pay for the lower and mid-tier fighters, the fact that none of the fighters had any kind of health insurance. It sucks to get injured in training when we train very, very hard to be ready to fight and the only time we were covered is if those injuries occurred in the cage at the show and so I think, in some ways, I feel good that the UFC and Zuffa were listening in those instances. We now have at least accident insurance. It’s not full-on health coverage which would be very difficult to do with fighters, but at least accident insurance so if they do get injured in the training process they have some help, you know, alleviating some of those medical expenses. God forbid they should get the flu or strep throat or something but at least a catastrophic injury in the training process can be covered.
“But it’s a double-edged sword, you know. I stood up to exercise my rights as we read the contract to try and, you know, go and fight Fedor who at that time was considered the #1 heavyweight in the world and that’s the guy you want to fight if you feel like you want to be the best and I think through that exercise and the court interpretation of the language in the contract, uh, you know, Zuffa changed their contract a lot. They shored up what they saw as some of the potential holes in those contracts which made them a lot more difficult for the future fighters to deal with, with their ancillary rights, with all those things. So, I don’t know if I feel so great about that, you know, in essence by me standing up for myself I pointed out some of the potential weaknesses in the contracts they were having everybody sign and those things have been changed and shored up. Nothing’s iron clad but certainly you got a serious commitment in that contract. So, there’s a give-and-take there, you know, obviously I feel good that the guys have some form of medical coverage now but, you know, the contracts are still a much more difficult thing. Sponsorships and all those things that market us, aside from the economy, are a very difficult [task] to get a sponsor now with Zuffa and a lot of the promoters are taking the same toll in wanting to get paid for, you know, being an official sponsor. That makes it hard for the athlete to go out here and develop relationships with sponsors in an on-going basis. You may get a one-off here and there but to sponsor a guy for any length of time and develop a serious relationship, you’re going to have pay the company, you’re going to have to pay Zuffa to be considered an official sponsor and then that’s only going to fly if it doesn’t conflict with any of the official sponsors that they have based on those canvasses they have and all that. So, it’s a very tough thing to navigate. It puts a serious wrench in the ability of some of these fighters who make more money on some of those sponsorships than they’re making from their fights at this stage of their careers.”
Couture also stated that he doesn’t he will be able to go to the live UFC show that his son is fighting on because he’ll be filming a movie in Vancouver at the time.