CINCINNATI — UFC president Dana White defended his organization’s pay structure Thursday, saying if his fighters were unhappy they would follow Randy (The Natural) Couture out the door.
Having said that, White admitted he wasn’t sure why the 44-year-old heavyweight champion had quit the mixed martial arts powerhouse.
"I think this is a bigger picture than what guys make," White said. "Couture’s up to something, I don’t know what the endgame is here."
"The whole thing is mind-boggling to me," he added. "This is not Randy Couture. I’ve dealt with the guy for eight years and I would have never expected this. But he’s upset and we’ll either figure it out or we won’t."
Couture cited money issues and the inability to fight former Pride star Fedor Emelianenko, who signed with another outfit, as the reasons behind leaving the UFC.
White maintains Couture was well compensated with a UFC contract second only to Chuck Liddell.
"Randy Couture is a multimillionaire, don’t ever feel sorry for a multimillionaire, OK?" White told a news conference prior to UFC 77. "A lot of these guys are multimillionaires, they make millions and millions of dollars."
Asked about Keith Jardine, who made just US$14,000 for beating Liddell at UFC 76, White said his fighters weren’t complaining — noting former champion Rich Franklin may only make $28,000 plus a $28,000 bonus if he beats title-holder Anderson Silva in Saturday night’s main event.
"If these guys are unhappy with their deals, they’d all be walking out just like Randy Couture. Let me tell you what, there’s a lot of guys out there right now throwing money around. You’ve got Mark Cuban out there throwing money around, these other guys that are with Showtime throwing money around, the IFL’s thrown so much money around, they’re almost gone. There’s a lot of guys spending a lot of money and making a lot of offers.
"I’ve got these guys for three-, four-, five-, six-fight deals and then their contracts come up, why are they re-signing with me? Why do they keep re-signing with me when all these other guys are out there throwing crazy money around? Because we’re paying these guys very well and we take care of them."
A privately held company, the UFC does not divulge fighter pay. Organizations like the Nevada State Athletic Commission release purse information but that does not include fight bonuses or pay-per-view percentages that elite fighters may have negotiated in their contracts.
The commission cited a purse of $500,000 for Liddell’s last fight and $250,000 for Couture.
While White said he respected Couture as a fighter and person, he said he did not understand Couture’s dissatisfaction with his contract and noted that the UFC had torn up Couture’s old deal to do a new one when he came out of retirement earlier this year.
"He just signed a new contract that he was thrilled with, eight months ago … and now apparently he’s not happy with it."
White, no fan of talking money, said Couture will have to deal with the UFC if he wants to fight again.
"Oh he definitely belongs to me, he’s under contract to me. No doubt about it."
"I’ll tell you right now, there isn’t anyone in this industry that takes care of their fighters better than we do," he added. "Sometimes it takes leaving to realize that."
Note : White says Chuck Liddell is back in training and plans to continue fighting. According to some websites, his next opponent will be Wanderlei Silva, who is expected to announce his next opponent at UFC 77 on Saturday. See MMAonTap.com for a reason why this rumour got started.