Dana White and Randy Couture both held press conferences on Thursday afternoon. White’s conference was at 4 PM EST and streamed live on Yahoo! Sports. It addressed the newest TV deal that the UFC has signed for the next four years, Brock Lesnar’s signing, and the most anticipated matchup that MMA fans have been waiting for, Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva. At nearly the same time, Randy Couture held a press conference at the Xtreme Couture gym in Las Vegas. He talked about his situation regarding his contract and the reasons he has felt the way he has been stating continuously over the last few weeks. Let’s get right into the nitty gritty on the conference notes.
Randy Couture vs. Dana White
The first topic I want to touch on is Randy Couture’s claims. During his press conference, Couture claimed that the biggest reason he decided to resign his position with the UFC was the amount of respect he received or should I say, the respect he didn’t receive. His main supporting statements involved monetary compensation from fights and the disrespectful actions from White. According to Couture, he did not receive a bonus for defeating Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 74. When he asked Dana White as to why he did not receive a bonus, he received a cold shoulder and was never told why he did not receive it. Couture stated he waited two and a half weeks before deciding to turn in his resignation due to the cold shoulder. He also stated that the final slap in the face was the fact that Fedor Emelianenko was offered a signing bonus that far surpassed any amount Couture had EVER received in a fight.
White made a few comments during their press conference regarding the Couture situation. Over the course of the long conference, White stated that he knew Couture was pissed at him and that they needed to sit down and talk about it. When asked about the contract issues, White claimed that Randy wasn’t trying to fight with anyone else and hadn’t stated he was trying to leave to fight Fedor. White also confirmed the fact that the title position is not vacant and is still retained by Couture until Couture tells White that he has retired. Subsequently, Couture stated that it wasn’t inconceivable to think that he would not be fighting in the UFC again.
All of this apparently could have been avoided had the UFC given Randy Couture a bonus for defeating the challenger in Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 74. Not only was Randy Couture the underdog during the fight, but the hype around the community of Gabriel Gonzaga made more of a case that Gonzaga would push past Couture with flying colors. Obviously, this wasn’t the case. Couture completely mauled Gonzaga and won the fight easily. Instead of rewarding the champion with a nice bonus for his efforts, they gave Couture the cold shoulder and failed to return an answer to him as to why. I’m not too sure I completely understand the UFC’s thinking in this matter. How does Couture not receive a bonus for that fight? He’s one of the oldest fighters in the sport, he was the underdog, he’s the ambassador to the sport, and he’s one of the most recognizable figures in MMA and most likely sells you some pay-per-view buys. He also stated that during those events, most of the cards around that time were receiving anywhere from 400,000-600,000 buys. Is the UFC saying that he wasn’t solely responsible for those figures? Well, he wasn’t solely responsible, but he had an effect on those figures. Plain and simple, a bonus that he should have got did get deposited in his account that should have been. We could have ultimately avoided this situation.
Next, the cold shoulder issue is definitely odd. Couture is revered as a fighter, and you would think the UFC wouldn’t be inclined to piss him off. This is the big issue as far as his statement about not receiving respect from the UFC. Even with this statement, fans still consider the issue regarding who has the more relevant words in this battle of stories. Let’s break it down just simply from the press conference. Who do you think is more respectful? White once again gave the Internet sites complete disrespect for reporting sources even though the Internet is considered one of the sources of the growth of MMA in the last few years. Namely, he said that Pro Elite should be considered “Internet whores”. Talk about classy. He once again claimed that Fedor wasn’t in the top 5 heavyweights in the world, Vadim Finkelstein is a “fucking liar”, and Fedor Emelianenko will never fight in the UFC. Last time I remember, Fedor has never came out gunz ablaze stating that Dana White is a “horrible President for a MMA promotion”. It’s odd how Dana has been handling the loss of not signing Fedor. It’s a complete lack of respect for him based on the fact that Dana never even met him. Add all of this up along with the various displays of crudeness and contradicting statements in the past and I would say Dana White is disrespectful. With that said, Couture’s story definitely seems to have merit.
Couture also stated that the numbers that were reported were completely untrue. White didn’t comment on this since he was holding a press conference at the same time, but it seems that the entire monetary issue can be pushed through if both parties meet and Couture can be compensated for the next two fights on his contract. Personally, I remain a bit optimistic at this development. Couture didn’t seem to comment on any of the issues revolving around his contract other than the fact that he has two fights remaining or nine months left. His lawyer and himself interpreted the contract to state that he had to fight those fights within the time constraint on the contract. If this is true, Couture’s contract would be up after nine months. I think we will be seeing Couture fulfill his final bouts in the UFC and then pursuing the biggest fight of his career against Fedor Emelianenko. It will take a significant boost in pay for Couture’s remaining fights, and many fans may think that because he signed a contract, he obligated to fulfill what it states. I do agree that if you sign a contract, you should fulfill it. In this case, the longer Couture is on the shelf, the less it benefits the UFC. The UFC has more than enough money to go around. Suck it up, pay him some more money with guaranteed bonuses, and make some big fights.
In other developments, Couture mentioned that when he was contemplating returning to fighting, he was offered a $3 million dollar deal with Bodog to fight Fedor Emelianenko. Couture decided to pass on the deal in order to sign with the UFC and fight for the heavyweight title right away. In retrospect, this seems like stupid logic and smart logic at the same time. If Couture goes out and fights Fedor… in the ring, he could have potentially been beaten. This would drop his worth possibly although that seems rather silly considering Fedor is considering one of the best fighters of all time. If he had won, he would have propelled his worth and could have signed a huge deal with any organization out there including the UFC. Either way, he would have been paid handsomely to fight in the UFC after the fight. Instead of grabbing up a $3 million dollar purse and then hitting the UFC’s cage to fight, he went to the UFC. We can only speculate whether he thought the UFC would eventually pick up Fedor, therefore he signed with the UFC. In the end, the deal proves that Couture can pick up huge numbers and it could serve as a gauge for what he could potentially bring in.
Maybe we should add to the fuel a bit. Here’s an interesting tidbit. During the conferences, both White and Couture were asked if they had spoken to each other. Couture stated that he had spoken with Dana and Lorenzo the night before or recently at least, and Dana stated he had yet to speak with Randy. Who is the liar here? History would lean toward White. Maybe it’s a small irrelevant fact, but interesting nonetheless. White also stated that he thought we would all see a happy ending in 3-6 months, and that anybody who hasn’t signed with the UFC when offered the opportunity is a “moron”. Classic crudeness by the President of the UFC. White also continued to comment on the fact that Couture’s Hollywood agent has caused all of this. In reality, it seems Couture cleared that up today.
Liddell vs. Silva
Let me first start off by saying that the UFC completely screwed the announcement for this fight. I don’t want to hear how DirecTV broke the annoucement early and it hurt the news. Who cares. It should have been announced at UFC 77. Instead, it was announced on a crappy TV awards show called Scream 2007 that literally nobody watched or cared about. Horrible move by the UFC.
With that off my chest, let’s drill down into some details from the conference. When asked why this fight has taken awhile to be made, White claimed that he was waiting for Liddell to be ready to fight Wanderlei and to sure up any injuries that he may have had at the time. Didn’t White claim before that Wanderlei Silva called off the deal when both sides were trying to ink a deal before to make this fight happen? Maybe I’m reading too much into this, maybe he meant after Wanderlei signed. Speculation once again.
Another revelation during this conference was the fact that Chuck Liddell or Wanderlei Silva may be in line for an immediate title shot after their fight in December. I’m not sure how this works. Chuck Liddell has lost to Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, the current champion, and to Keith Jardine, not even in the top 10 before their fight, and suddenly if he wins, he’s in line for a championship bout? I fail to see how he suddenly propels past someone like Dan Henderson who has yet to fight his second fight in the UFC. Dana mentioned Forrest Griffin being in the mix, I believe he deserves at least a chance at that title shot and if he wins, he should get that shot. If Wanderlei Silva wins, I have no problem seeing a Rampage vs. Silva III. It’s probably one of the more exciting rivalries in mixed martial arts. In retrospect, I would rather see Liddell vs. Silva get a title shot over the reported comments stating Bisping vs. Evans will get an immediate title shot. Dana needs to make up his mind.
Spike TV Deal
To touch on this briefly, SpikeTV and the UFC have signed a new deal that guarantees exclusive rights for three years. In the deal, the UFC will produce 12 live events for the network over 3 years, 4 events per year. This doesn’t include any other events they may decide to produce in that time length. The consensus was that they would continue to broadcast some big events for free on Spike TV. The deal will also produce 39 new “Unleashed” episodes over the 3 years, 13 episodes per year. They will produce 26 episodes of TUF over 2 years, and a new fight series in 2010 and 2011. In those years, there will be one season of TUF and one season of the new series. Later in the conference, White commented that a new live fight show would be unveiled as well that would contain fight cards that are much better than the current TUF cards.
This is a great deal for the UFC. They lock up another 4 year deal until 2011 with full control over production and the idea that they can suggest events, ideas, and shows and won’t have to deal with a network that will shoot them all down. On the other hand, they have exclusively signed the dotted line. This opens up the possibility of a new promotion grabbing up the ESPN network. Rumors have been circulating that M-1 may be snooping around the ESPN network. I highly doubt this is an option since M-1 has just organized, but M-1 does come off as an organization that won’t have a person in charge that will spout off at the mouth, a professional production, and it does have the boxing ring that casual fans may be used to seeing. It’s so far-fetched of an idea, but I found it worth mentioning just for the mere fact the UFC is locked into an exclusive deal with Spike.
The HBO deal isn’t dead according to White. It may eventually be done and White says it will be someday. It was stated that the difference in who would produce the events was the problem, mainly branding. Both Kevin from Spike and White talked about video on demand as being the future as well.
- Lesnar’s advertising will be everywhere, including the possibility of it being advertised along side WWE events
- Lesnar also went into detail about his training, who he trains with (Greg Nelson), and some of the things he expects in the cage
- BJ Penn will most likely fight on the December 29th card
- White tried hyping the UFC 79 card by stating the 15-0 records of each fighter, I’m not convinced
- When asked about a “certain organization”, the question was hinting at M-1, White said there are many organizations coming into the MMA community every day and that most fail
- The UK should get 4-5 shows in the new year and White also stated the Newcastle hasn’t been confirmed yet
- Claims he has 250 fighters under contract, and none of them are “cans”. Sure.
- The UFC will never go public, used the IFL as an example.
There are some interesting tidbits in there, mainly the fact that BJ Penn will finally see some action. In my travels across the Internet, Joe Stevenson seems to be the most likely opponent. White tried to hype the main event at UFC 79 as a great battle. To be honest, I don’t mind seeing the matchup between the two unbeatens. However, I don’t believe either fighter will make waves once they hit prime competition, which to me doesn’t merit the matchup to be a main event. I found the comment regarding the UFC not having a single can in the bunch to be awfully optimistic in the fighter base of the UFC. I’m not going to suggest names, but there are many fighters under contract that should be in the lower ranks of the WEC or the IFL.
Overall, the one issue that stuck out was White’s continuous comments regarding Fedor’s status and how he is suddenly not a top 5 fighter. I find it odd that he would be whining like this. Be respectful, professional, and don’t try to downplay a deal that you couldn’t produce. Fact is, both parties could not agree. That’s all that needs to be said, not a name calling fest of calling a Russian agent a “fucking liar” and then carving up the Internet blogosphere once again stating that we as journalists stated the wrong numbers. Those were the numbers given to us, we talked about it, discussed, came to conclusions. So what? We still help hype your events, the current MMA news, and help promote MMA because we love it.
Fact is, the whole ordeal involving Couture could have been avoided by simply giving Couture the respect he deserved. One bonus and a bit more money that got near the amount that Fedor was being offered, that’s it. That may sound like a lot of money, but the fact is, the UFC is making huge amounts of dough on their pay-per-views. 400,000 to 600,000 buys during each of the last few events is more than enough money to throw around. Those figures are according to Randy though. I will say that I think Couture should have stuck with the contract and fulfilled it, but I feel that he does have some merit in saying the UFC was disrespectful to him. The disrespect he received sounds like something Dana White would do also. His image doesn’t help his case either. Being regarded as a grade school child with a dirty mouth isn’t something that garners respect. Overall, some great information from both conferences.