Randy CoutureToday was a huge day for the UFC. They got their estranged heavyweight champion back and dodged a major bullet. Zuffa no longer has to worry about a certain “T-shirt company” hosting arguably the biggest fight ever in mixed martial arts. This didn’t come without a cost though. For the past eleven months, Randy Couture has stated he wouldn’t come back to the UFC unless they were able to sign the consensus number one heavyweight in the world, Fedor Emelianenko.

But that didn’t happen. The UFC didn’t sign Fedor, and despite rumors that suggested they have been making progress in negotiations with Fedor’s management, Dana White vehemently denied that any talks were taking place. Instead, White stated they would wait until Fedor became a free agent before they would deal with him.

So without Fedor, what exactly did it take to get Randy to come back? The terms of his new three fight deal have not been disclosed, but in a report from Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports, there is piece of information that should at least answer part of that question.

Couture, though, is suddenly relevant again, and he could make $3 million if the fight does one million pay-per-view buys, as White suggests is possible. White said after the call he projects the fight to sell between 1.2 million and 1.5 million.

Wow, $3 million is a lot of money, although the cost of everything is going up these days. You know, food, gas, respect…just to name a few.

If Couture is able to successfully defend his title against the 265+ lbs wrestling machine on November 15, his next battle will be to unify the heavyweight title with the interim title sometime in 2009, presumably late spring, early summer. As Iole’s article states, that would push the ever so elusive Randy vs Fedor bout well into 2009, and if you listen to White, that’s all under the assumption that Affliction has folded, Fedor has run out of options, and he and his management are willing to meet the UFC’s exclusivity demands.

While it’s a possibility that Affliction could fold by the summer of next year, that’s certainly not a part of Tom Atencio’s plan.

Complicating a potential Emelianenko match is that the Russian is signed to two contracts. His primary promoter is M-1, led by his manager, Vadim Finkelstein. But he has two more fights on a contract with Affliction Entertainment for any bout in the United States.

Affliction Entertainment vice president Tom Atencio said Tuesday he is finalizing an extension that would bind Emelianenko to Affliction through 2012.

Atencio said he had no issue with a co-promotion with the UFC for a Couture-Emelianenko main event, but said he doubted the UFC would be interested in such a proposition.

White suggested on the conference call that Affliction is on the verge of collapse and intimated that there might be a way that a Couture-Emelianenko fight could be made in the UFC. Atencio hotly denied that and said he expects to turn a profit, or at the worst break even, after two more fight cards.

Earlier today, we reported on a story that suggested the UFC and Fedor’s management were in “advanced negotiations” to sign the Russian possibly for a one off fight against “The Natural.” That report was taken down however, almost as fast as it was put up. No reason was given, so it’s hard to say if it had credible information or not.

In short, besides one report that vanished into thin air and a bunch of rumors, there really is no reason to believe that we’ll ever see Fedor Emelianenko step inside the Octagon opposite Randy Couture.

But hey, you really shouldn’t be upset about that. Didn’t you hear? Fedor is “irrelevant.” Dana White said so.

“Fedor is completely (expletive) irrelevant. Completely.”

Yeah, completely! I don’t know about you, but I feel much better about it now.

[UPDATE 9/03/08 3:07AM ET]A revised version of Gross’s original post is back up at SI.com. All the information from the previous article is still there. It still contradicts everything White said today, although White could have been lying. Time will tell, but like I’ve said before, don’t hold your breath waiting for it.

[UPDATE 9/03/08 11:18AM ET] – Randy’s wife, Kim Couture, claims Fedor is free to fight Randy wherever, whenever regardless of his Affliction contract.

“When Fedor signed the contract (with Affliction) it was cut out in the contract that they get him for a certain number of fights not including the Randy Couture fight. He’s free to fight Randy wherever, whenever.”

Take it for what it’s worth.