White Responds to Couture Resignation

By Greg Savage Oct 12, 2007
A clueless Hollywood agent, Internet Web sites, Fedor Emelianenko's (Pictures) management team and Randy Couture's (Pictures) age top UFC president Dana White's list of reasons why "The Natural" is no longer affiliated with his promotion.

"I consider Randy Couture (Pictures) a friend and still do," White told UFC.com editor Thomas Gerbasi. "He hooked up with some Hollywood agent that I b---- slapped about a month ago, and these Hollywood agents are parasites, so unfortunately this guy is probably in Randy's ear right now. But, that's the world Randy wants to be in; Randy wants to be in the movie world now, that's what he's working for and that's his guy right now."

Speaking with Yahoo! Sports' Kevin Iole, White also blamed the fervent MMA Internet community for Couture's belief that he is being underpaid by the UFC.

"This business is like a beauty salon," White told Iole. "These guys are all the toughest guys in the world, but they're like (expletives) in a beauty salon. They pass along rumors and gossip, which has no basis in reality and they believe all the (rumors) they hear. The Internet is very powerful and one of the best promotional tools we have, but it's a crazy place.

"They hear these rumors and they believe them and then they get insulted like (expletives) after we try to talk reality with them. They'll say, ‘Well, this guy is getting this much,' but when I ask where they heard it, it's never a contract, it's always, ‘I read it on the Internet.' It's crazy."

Couture recalled to Sherdog.com a meeting with White and UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta during which he felt he was lied to regarding his financial status amongst other top UFC fighters.

"You want to call me a liar, people think a lot of bad stuff about me anyway, but to call Lorenzo Fertitta a liar, the reason the sport exists right now is because of him and his brother (Frank)," White responded. "They've done nothing but good things for this sport, and I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him and his brother. You ask anybody in Las Vegas about the reputation of the Fertitta family; they aren't liars, they are great people. So for him to say that about Lorenzo, it's not like Randy Couture (Pictures). It's not like him."

Couture told Sherdog.com he came to believe he wasn't being paid what other frontline UFC competitors were making for fighting in the Octagon.

"All us athletes are all pretty tightly intertwined," Couture said Thursday from South Africa, where he is filming ‘The Scorpion King - Rise of the Akkadian.' "You hear what other guys were paid signing bonuses and what other guys were paid on the record and off the record with bonuses. I've heard Chuck's numbers. Tito's numbers. Hughes' numbers. Quinton's numbers. Cro Cop, Wanderlei. I heard what they were offering Fedor, and it's insulting."

White generally ignored discussion of Couture's contract except to say "The Natural" negotiated it on his own behalf and was happy with the deal when he signed it.

Couture, who stated he was resigning from the UFC and not retiring from mixed martial arts, made it clear that a lack of respect from upper management at Zuffa (the UFC's parent company) as well as the lost prospect of fighting Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures) were the main reasons for his decision to relinquish the title and give up his position as a spokesman for the UFC.

Contract negotiations between the UFC and Emelianenko's group were well publicized since August. Earlier this week, the Fight Network reported that Emelianenko had decided against going to the UFC in favor of joining the M-1 Mixfight group.

That decision was a determining factor in Couture's decision to resign.

Knowing he would not now sign Fedor, and coping with the loss of perhaps his biggest star, White dug into the PRIDE heavyweight champion and his camp.

"The negotiations with those guys were so nutty that at this point, I don't give (an expletive) if he ever comes with us," White said of the Russian heavyweight's representatives, which include Emelianenko's longtime manager Vadim Finkelstein.

Those comments mark a 180-degree turn from past statements made by the outspoken boss of the UFC. Since the acquisition of PRIDE FC in March of this year White has maintained that Emelianenko would end up in the Octagon, claiming as recently as last month that the Russian would fight for the UFC heavyweight crown in his first fight for the promotion.

"Fedor has that mystique where people think he's No. 1, which I don't agree with," White told UFC.com. "I think that Fedor is completely overrated -- he's fought Mark Coleman (Pictures) and Matt Lindland (Pictures) in the last year, with Mark Hunt (Pictures) being his only legitimate opponent -- and I actually think that Randy Couture (Pictures) would have smashed Fedor."

Couture has repeatedly talked about his desire to fight Fedor for the reason White now appears to be bashing the Russian: he is perceived to be the best in the world.

While Couture told Sherdog.com nine months remain on his contract, thus barring him from negotiating for a fight with Emelianenko or anyone else outside the UFC before July 2008, White saw things quite differently.

Asked if that figure was accurate, White told UFC.com: "Absolutely not."

Though Couture went public with his case, White said he feels their relationship is not beyond repair.

"I love him, I respect him," White said of Couture. "I still consider him my friend and just like any friendship, we don't see eye to eye all the time, but if you're true friends, you work it out, and I consider Randy Couture (Pictures) a true friend, and I honestly believe that when he comes home from filming, and when his scumbag Hollywood agent isn't around, we'll talk and we'll square away our friendship."

The structure of the UFC heavyweight division after Thursday's sudden news has not been devastated, White said.

"I don't think it affects the division at all because after what we've seen over the last couple of years, anybody can win or lose on any given night," he said. "It's what makes this sport so exciting. And now it's like this big shocking news that Randy Couture (Pictures) retired. He's 44 years old, he's not 24. Is everybody really that shocked that Randy retired? Randy Couture (Pictures) has had an amazing career, he's an incredible athlete, he's pulled off more upsets, and has been the underdog so many times, what's really left out there for him? I think he would have put a stone cold beating on Fedor, and he would have walked away with the same thing that he's walking away with now. He's walking out on top, and walking out on top is a smart thing to do. And it's perfect for his acting career."

The problem for Zuffa and the UFC, however, stems from the fact that Couture did not retire from mixed martial arts … he simply resigned from the UFC.

"People were saying to me four months ago that Chuck Liddell (Pictures) was the face of the UFC," White said, defending the status of his company. "Randy Couture (Pictures) and Chuck Liddell (Pictures) are two of many faces of the UFC. The UFC has the greatest fighters in the world, and Randy Couture (Pictures) and Chuck Liddell (Pictures) might be two of the best known fighters in the UFC, but everybody pulls their weight in this company and everybody works hard for it. Randy Couture (Pictures), Chuck Liddell (Pictures), Matt Hughes (Pictures), Rich Franklin (Pictures), Joe Rogan, these are guys who were with us early on who I credit for helping us get to where we are today. Is Randy Couture (Pictures) the face of the UFC? No, he's one of many faces of the UFC, but he is one of the guys who helped us get here."
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