Randy Couture. Photo property of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Randy Couture has returned to the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
After a year-long feud between Couture and the UFC saw both sides battle it out in court and in the media, UFC President Dana White announced today that the promotion has inked Couture to a new multi-fight deal that will have him take on former professional wrestler and upstart contender Brock Lesnar at UFC 91 on November 15.
The mega-fight will take place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas instead of Portland, Oregon’s Rose Garden as previously expected and will be for Couture’s UFC heavyweight title.
“We’ve had problems with Randy over the last few months, but we’ve resolved them all,” White said on a media conference call this afternoon. “Randy has always been our heavyweight champion. We can basically put on fights that fans want to see now. Mark my words, Couture vs. Lesnar will be the biggest fight in UFC history.”
“I never hated Randy. I never said anything really bad about Randy. I called him confused I think, which is pretty mild for me. All I right about is Randy being back and fighting”
Couture’s fight with Lesnar will now be part of a “heavyweight tournament” according to White. Either Couture or Lesnar will fight the winner of a planned interim championship bout between current interim title holder Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and former champion Frank Mir on December 27.
Despite Lesnar’s lack of experience, Couture still believes that he will be a dangerous opponent and is taking the fight very seriously.
“I haven’t looked at the tape yet on him,” Couture said. I’ve been off [fighting for a long time] before and I’ve been very active the last nine, ten months [training-wise]. I can’t overlook someone as big as Brock. I’m going to take this fight very, very seriously.”
As part of the UFC’s new agreement with Couture, they will also attempt to have him fight perennial heavyweight king Fedor Emelianenko at some point next year.
Emelianenko is currently under contract to Affliction Entertainment, a popular clothing company turned promotional company that the UFC has waged an unofficial war with since their inception earlier this year. However White remains optimistic that he may be able to work out a compromise to fulfill Couture’s dream.
“We’re going do everything in our power to make that fight happen,” White said. “Fedor is under another contract right now to another promotion [Affliction] and if we can work it out with them, we will. But we’re not going to screw around with another contract.”
“We’ll offer him a fair deal, but his current contract is going to be the biggest obstacle”
White added though that he didn’t expect Affliction to survive another year, potentially fueling speculation that the UFC may instead wait for Emelianenko’s contract with the company to expire before attempting to sign him.
“These guys are dying on the vine,” White said. “I’ll be horrified if they survive until January. They are losing loads of money. When you’re losing the kind of money Affliction is losing, you’re going to have to sell a lot of t-shirts.”
As part of their new deal, the UFC has agreed to drop all remaining lawsuits against Couture. However the UFC’s current legal battle with HDNet Fights founder Mark Cuban may continue.
Cuban requested a declaratory judgment concerning Couture’s contract with the UFC after the two reportedly entered into an agreement together. However the UFC was able to have the request denied.
The UFC also filed a defamation suit against Couture in January, citing a breach of contract due to negative comments made about the promotion after the International Fight League attempted to use the name of Couture’s training facility as a league team this past winter.
Couture resigned from the UFC last October, citing irreparable differences between the two sides and dissatisfaction with his salary and treatment.
Couture believed that his promotional contract with the company ended on July 19 and his employment contract, of which Couture did television commentary and promotional appearances, was to expire on October 11. The UFC contended that Couture’s interpretation was wrong and that he still owed the organization two more fights.
“I think a lot of compromises were made on both sides,” Couture said, “We’re both ready to try and move forward. We’ve cleared the air and we’re both in different places than we were a year ago. Sitting [out] last year in legal fights was not something I enjoyed. I’d rather fight in the Octagon than anywhere else.”
Couture became the UFC’s first multi-division champion when he defeated Chuck Liddell and then Tito Ortiz in consecutive fights to claim the UFC light heavyweight title in 2003.
After briefly retiring following two straight knockout losses to Liddell, Couture returned to active competiton last year and won a unanimous decision over Tim Sylvia to once again claim the UFC heavyweight title.
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