TORONTO — UFC heavyweight champion Randy (The Natural) Couture says he’s confident he will fight again, but admits his current legal limbo could mark the end of his cage career.
Couture, 44, cited problems with UFC management and the mixed martial arts organization’s inability to set up a fight with Russian star Fedor Emelianenko when he announced his resignation from the UFC last October. Couture and the UFC are currently involved in court action in Nevada over the status of his contract.
The Couture camp believes the deal expires in July. The UFC, which wants him to fight interim heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, argues that it is owed two more Couture bouts.
"I’m confident I’ll fight again. I’m also OK with the idea that it may not happen," Couture said Saturday at the opening of his seventh Xtreme Couture gym. "I may get a bad (court) ruling and I can’t really see myself at this point going back and fighting two more times for the UFC if that’s what the state says I have to do. So there’s the potential I could be done fighting and I’m OK with that too."
Billionaire NBA owner Mark Cuban has thrown his hat into the ring, asking the courts to rule on the Couture UFC contract because he wants to set up a Couture-Emelianenko fight. Affliction, the clothing company that has ties to Couture and is planning its first MMA show in July, is also an interested party.
"I expect things will go well, that in a right to work the state will rule that I have the right to go and work in my chosen profession after the term of the contract and some time this fall hopefully, with the help of Mark Cuban and maybe potentially Affliction … that they’ll find a way to make the Fedor fight happen."
Couture says he is enjoying business ventures such as his gyms and clothing line. He also gets a kick out of acting. Most recently he played an MMA announcer in "Redbelt" and is coming to theatres near you in "The Scorpion King: Rise of the Akkadian" and "Big Stan." He also has a pilot for an action show on Spike TV set for the fall.
"I’m in a unique position in my life and my career that I’ve kind of been there and done that as far as the fighting goes," Couture told The Canadian Press. "I still love to fight, I’m physically capable of doing it, so having the passion I have for it, I want to do it. But if doesn’t work out that way that’s OK too."
UFC president Dana White has urged Couture to step up, honour his contract and fight Nogueira. In the meantime, White is stopping him from fighting anywhere else.
"I’m not angry, life’s too short to get angry about it," Couture said. "Yeah, Dana’s Dana, he says and does some emotional things that are hurtful sometimes but I try to stay out of all that … It’s not a personal thing for me. I’m doing what I think is right and in a lot of ways that makes me feel good and in a unique position that hopefully will facilitate some changes for the fighters that follow me."
.Couture says he is not worried about the UFC’s deep pockets when it comes to litigation, pointing out that Cuban has some resources of its own. But he acknowledges the clock is ticking.
"I turn 45 in June and I think that’s the reason the Fedor fight makes a lot of sense for me at this stage of my career. I want to fight the best guy right now. I don’t want to dally around and mess around with a lot of other guys. To be considered the best, you’ve got to beat the best. And by most people’s estimation right now, that’s Fedor Emelianenko, so bring him on."
With Emelianenko due to fight former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia on Affliction’s debut card July 19 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Couture acknowledged a loss by the Russian would take some of the shine off their encounter, although Couture says the fans would still want to see it happen.
And Couture gave a thumbs up to the Affliction MMA business model. The undercard to the July show will be shown live on Fox Sports Net with the main card airing on pay-per-view following an intermission featuring three live songs by Ozzy Osbourne, another Affliction client.
.The "Affliction Banned" card also features Renato (Babalu) Sobral, Matt (The Law) Lindland, Josh (The Baby-Faced Assassin), Ben Rothwell, Pedro Rizzo, Mike Whitehead and Canadian Mark (The Machine) Hominick.