The UFC’s Biggest Battle in the New Generation

The UFC has won battles in the past.

All we have to do is look no further than the tale of how Zuffa came in and saved the promotion that was nearly driven into the ground by Senator John McCain and the idea that mixed martial arts was nothing more than human cockfighting. Fast forward almost seven years later and the UFC has become the driving force behind MMA’s giant growth in popularity in recent years.

Now the UFC is seemingly on top of the world. Yet they have another battle to take on.

Earlier today UFC Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture announced that he was leaving the company, vacating his title, and seemingly severing all ties he had with the promotion. Couture cited the UFC’s failure to sign Fedor Emelianenko, generally regarded as the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter.

Yesterday, reports revealed that Emelianenko had instead opted to ink a deal with M-1, an MMA promotion located in Russia that was recently purchased by an undisclosed American company which will reveal itself via a public press conference later this month.

However that wasn’t the only reason why Couture decided to pack his bags.

There’s always been a general feeling that the UFC has been “short-changing” their fighters for some time now. Couture’s latest remarks on the issue only further the notion that White and company are holding back serious bucks, even when it comes to their most popular athletes.

Couture publicly stated that he felt he was being taken advantage of by the UFC. In a recent interview with Sherdog editor Josh Gross, Couture elaborated on his pay scale while under contract with the UFC, deeming it “insulting”.

“I think the final straw for me was meeting with Dana and Lorenzo Fertitta, where they claimed I was the No. 2 paid athlete in the organization, which I know is a bold-faced lie,” Couture said. “All us athletes are all pretty tightly intertwined,” he said. “You hear what other guys were paid, signing bonuses and what other guys were paid on the record and off the record with bonuses. I’ve heard Chuck’s numbers. Tito’s numbers. Hughes’ numbers. Quinton’s numbers. Cro Cop, Wanderlei. I heard what they were offering Fedor, and it’s insulting.”

Couture’s comments may very well open up a whole new can of worms when it comes to the debate of fighter salaries in the UFC, giving long-time critics such as the UFC’s own Tito Ortiz more fuel for their fire.

Ortiz has made headlines recently for clashing heads with UFC management, stating that the UFC should have offered him more money for potentially headlining the UFC’s return to New Jersey in November. Ortiz declined the offer and has instead chosen to take the rest of the year off in order to heal lingering injuries.

Couture and Ortiz aren’t the only ones that have recently encountered similar problems.

Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovski is currently in limbo while his management team continues to have problems with Zuffa officials, who refuse to add Arlovski to any events in the near future unless he signs a contract extension with the company. The same can be said for recent UFC Middleweight title challenger Nate Marquardt.

Former PRIDE star Joachim “Hellboy” Hansen is currently living in his own personal hell while he awaits the remainder of his acquired Zuffa contract to run out since they apparently refuse to match the same salary he made while over in Japan.

The UFC has let fighters such as Paul Buentello, Yves Edwards, and Ivan Salaverry walk away in the past after they believed they were worth more than what the UFC was offering. Those decisions have worked out well to date as neither of the three have done anything since then to make the UFC look back.

Couture walking away presents a different kind of threat, a threat that isn’t going to come from Couture himself but rather the fighters that share similar feelings as “The Natural”.

The UFC has been grossing larger gates and PPV revenues than boxing and pro wrestling for long enough. It’s time they start to share the wealth.

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