On Thursday, October 25th, Randy Couture hosted his first press conference, since resigning two weeks ago from the Ultimate Fighting Championship.LAS VEGAS – On Thursday, October 25th, Randy Couture hosted his first press conference, since resigning two weeks ago from the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Couture had been in South Africa filming the prequel to “The Scorpion King” movie and questions and rumors have been swirling, since he left the UFC on October 11th. He hosted the news conference inside his Xtreme Couture gym in Las Vegas, Nevada to a group of selected media representatives to address these questions and rumors. These issues included, everything from the war of verbiage between what Couture calls his “resignation” and what UFC president Dana White refers to as Couture’s “retirement.” Another point of interest surrounded the accusations made by Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports in regards to Couture’s alleged payout per fight. Then of course there was the topic involving this week’s culmination of the new MMA organization known as M-1 Global and their subsequent multi-million dollar signing of MMA heavyweight superstar Fedor Emelianenko, a man whom Couture has long wanted to fight, a fight that fans have wanted to see for an even longer period of time, and a fight that would be monumental for the sport of MMA as a whole.
The press conference started off promptly at 1:30 p.m. PST with Randy Couture seated behind a podium that was set-up inside of a boxing ring inside his gym. Pro Elite was on hand broadcasting and streamlining the footage live via the Internet, as Couture started by thanking his wife, his fans, and his teammates. His wife Kim and many of his teammates such as Jay Hieron, Tyson Griffin, Martin Kampmann, Mike Pyle, Scott Bieri, Shawn Tompkins, Gina Carano, Joey Varner, and Elena Reid were present to show their support. The only other people allowed in to the conference were a selected group of media representatives, which included representatives from ESPN, Sherdog, HDNet, OTM, Pro Elite, Yahoo! Sports, and The Fight Network.
Being that this was a press conference that Couture himself arranged, he was very prepared and began by addressing the main issues at hand, before the “Q and A” began from the media. He mentioned that he had just gotten back from his trip to South Africa, where he just finished filming his 7th motion picture “The Scorpion King: Rise of the Akkadian”. He was very open addressing the fact that he has had issues with the UFC management, in particular president Dana White, ever since Zuffa, LLC took over. He went on to mention the problems that he has had with them, including everything from issues involving the Ancillary Rights in his contract, where he then had to have his character removed from the UFC video game, and how he was also removed from the Carmen Electra/UFC advertising campaign. For years he felt like the odd man out in an organization that he helped create. Money was never an issue to him, but the lack of respect always was. “The amount of money any organization offers an athlete in any sport is the level of respect that they are showing them and that’s the bottom line. It’s not about the number of 0’s after a number on a check. It’s about being offered less 0’s than someone else who hasn’t done anything for the same organization you work for.” He spent 11 years representing the sport of MMA with integrity, but felt he was never used appropriately. He stated that he had several smaller examples too, but wouldn’t get into them, as it would only seem catty and take away from the real issues.
He went on to state that he was not retired from the sport of MMA and had simply resigned. Jokingly admitting that “No one’s gonna believe that crap at this point anyway.” (Poking fun at his previous retirement in February of 2006). He then made it clear that when he returned to the UFC in March of this year to fight Tim Sylvia, there was no signing bonus offered. BodogFight had offered him $3 million dollars to fight Fedor Emelianenko, but Couture turned it down out of loyalty to the UFC. (He was also offered impressive contracts from PrideFC after his first Chuck Liddell fight, but turned those offers down as well, out of loyalty to the UFC). When Bodog offered him $3 million dollars to fight Fedor, he told the Zuffa management how much they were offering him. Zuffa then told him how they needed someone to fight Tim Sylvia for the heavyweight title in their March show in Ohio, so he should come back and fight in the UFC instead. They offered him a base salary of $250,000 with no win bonus or signing bonus. He didn’t like the contract, but he accepted the contract at the time, because he really wanted to fight. Then he started to hear more and more about other fighters (CroCop, Shogun, Wanderlei, and Fedor) from other organizations (PrideFC), that had done nothing in the UFC, but were being offered signing bonuses and win bonuses along with a larger base salaries. He felt like that was a blatant slap in the face to him personally.
He also addressed a comment Dana White had made where he called Matt Walker his “parasite of a Hollywood agent”. Couture thought it was funny, because he has a separate agent that is responsible for getting him movie deals. Walker simply helps Couture get endorsements, talks to G.I.’s for Couture’s charity work, and facilitates things Couture’s trying to do, since Couture has 5 businesses and a lot of responsibilities. Walker doesn’t even get paid for Couture’s fights. During the “Q and A”, Couture also stated that there were no hard feelings between him and Zuffa’s management and that he had spoken to Dana White and Lorenzo on the phone yesterday afternoon. He went on to say, “The Fertittta’s and Dana White did a good job saving the sport. I have no hard feelings toward Frank and Lorenzo. I also feel that Dana White is a good guy. The thing is he has a lot of power. Do I feel that he yields it correctly all the time? Not necessarily.”
At this point, Couture stood up with two pieces of paper in his hand. They were copies of the contracts from his last two fights against Tim Sylvia and Gabriel Gonzaga. He proceeded to hand to them to the media, clarifying how much the UFC had paid him. More significantly, he made a pretty impressive point by handing them first to Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports, who had recently written an inflammatory article about Couture making millions per fight. Couture handed him the papers with a slightly disgusted look on his face and said, “Hey Kevin, I’m not sure where you got your information, but you had some grossly inflated numbers. Here are the real contracts and numbers. If you add them both together, they reach around $500,000.” The contracts were passed around to several other members of the media, as Couture continued. Couture followed by saying that it is a standard practice for the UFC to hand bonuses to fighters in the locker room after fights. He had received a bonus after his last fight with Chuck Liddell and again after the Sylvia fight, but never received a bonus check after the Gonzaga fight in August. He felt like it was the final slap in the face, especially considering the millions of dollars they were currently throwing around at the time to try and lure Fedor to come fight in the UFC. He clarified that the bonus checks that the UFC hands out in the locker room after fights is a standard way of “tipping” the fighters for a job well done and it’s also a device used by Dana White to disguise his star fighters’ pay structure from rival organizations. The base salary is on the books, so it’s public knowledge, but bonus checks are not. Couture used the example, “If a rival organization wants Matt Hughes and see that he’s making a certain amount of money based on public knowledge, they will offer him more than that number. However, they’re never really able to offer him more than what he’s making without knowing how much he is really making after all of the bonus checks.” It’s a business practice the UFC uses to protect its fighters from jumping ship.
At the close of the “Q and A”, he discussed that he has been flooded with many job offers, since announcing his resignation. He admitted that the most obvious offer was coming from the newly formed M-1 Global. Fedor (who just signed with M-1 Global) stated it would be an honor to fight Couture and new M-1 Global CEO Monte Cox said there’s a standing offer in place for him. Couture made it clear that Fedor is the only fight that makes sense to him at this point in his competition career. Couture concluded by joking how it’s flattering and kind of funny, how people think you need a job when you resign. Adding, that he definitely wants to spend more time training, cornering the fights of his students and teammates, and helping his fighters develop throughout their careers.