It’s official, the 11 month long legal battle between the UFC and Randy Couture has been resolved. On a media teleconference today, Dana White and the UFC announced that Randy Couture will return to the Octagon with a new three fight deal. As rumored, his first fight back will be against Brock Lesnar at UFC 91 and it will be for the UFC Heavyweight Championship. The event will take place at the MGM Grand, in Las Vegas, not the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira will remain the UFC Interim Heavyweight Champion and will still defend his title against Frank Mir in December, presumably at UFC 92. The winner will move on to face the winner of the Couture vs. Lesnar fight to unify the titles.
The potential fight between Couture and Fedor Emelianenko was a major focal point of the teleconference. Despite a report that came earlier today that suggested the UFC was relaxing its exclusivity policies to make the mega fight happen, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Instead, it looks like the UFC is counting on Affliction to go under by January leaving Fedor without any options. Sam Caplan explains:
White was asked about a possible fight for Couture against Fedor Emelianenko but White indicated that while the promotion was interested in making it happen, Emelianenko already has an existing contract that they will not attempt to interfere with.
When asked about the feasibility of making the fight happen, White repeatedly said that the promotion would not try to interfere with Fedor’s existing contract with Affliction and that they had no interest in a co-promotion of any kind. Furthermore, he said he was not interested in working with Fedor on a one-fight basis.
On the surface, Couture’s decision to return to the UFC if the promotion is unwilling to relax its policy on exclusivity does not make sense. However, White was adamant that he does not believe that Affliction will continue to promote MMA events. He said that “Affliction is dying on the vine” and “could be history soon.” White added that he’d be “horrified” if the promotion made it to January and that Affliction is losing “s—loads of money” and stated that in the state of the current economy it is unlikely the promotion could secure additional funding.
As for Couture, he said his decision to return was based on frustrations with the legal system, spending money on lawyers with no end in sight, his age, and that signing with the UFC is the “path of least resistance” to fighting Fedor. Randy did change his tune in regards to Fedor though. Instead of chasing the fight like he has for the past year, Randy simply said this:
“I want to fight Fedor. Fighting is what’s important to me – I don’t know what is important to him. If he wants to be the #1 heavyweight in the world, he needs to come fight me.”
Brock Lesnar wasn’t too happy with all the Fedor talk though. When a reporter asked him if he’d be interested in fighting Fedor, he responded by saying, “Who gives a shit about Fedor? This fight is between me and Randy…I don’t care about fucking Fedor.”
Well, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I sure give a shit about Randy fighting Fedor, a hell of a lot more than Randy fighting “fucking” Brock Lesnar.
So there you have it, Randy is back with the UFC. Despite everything that has gone down, he’s still the UFC Heavyweight Champion, and after only three professional MMA fights, Brock Lesnar will get a title shot. According to White, it will be “the biggest fight in UFC history,” guaranteeing “over a million” pay-per-view buys. Fedor is still a big question mark, and if White’s comments on the situation are true, the chances of Fedor competing in the Octagon appear to be just as slim as they always were.
[UPDATE 9/02/08 7:45PM ET] – MMARated.com has the conference call audio.