Report: Zuffa Sues Couture

By Josh Gross Jan 15, 2008
Having failed to work out their differences, Zuffa, LLC, and Randy Couture (Pictures) appear to be headed to a Las Vegas courtroom.

A suit filed in Clark County District Court Monday on behalf of Zuffa, which owns and operates the Ultimate Fighting Championship, alleges Couture made comments regarding the UFC that caused the business irreparable damage, and it says the current UFC heavyweight champion is in breach of the contract he signed upon his return from retirement in December 2006, Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Tuesday.

Couture announced his resignation from the UFC -- as an active fighter and champion, as well as an ambassador for the company and on-air personality -- in October, citing the desire to fight Russian Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures), who is not contracted to the UFC, and a history of "swimming against the current with the management of the UFC" as reasons for his decision.

Seeking damages -- both compensatory and punitive -- in excess of $10,000, the suit against Couture also seeks an injunction against "The Natural" that would prevent him from working with any organization deemed to be competing against the UFC. The suit alleges conspiracy against several unnamed parties that aimed to work against the UFC.

A group of fighters from Xtreme Couture are scheduled to fight a squad led by Mario Sperry (Pictures) in an International Fight League matchup Feb. 29 in Las Vegas.

According to the Review-Journal report, the IFL commitment would be in direct conflict with a stipulation in Couture's deal that prohibits him from being in "direct or indirect competition" with the UFC for the 12 months following the termination of his contract.

However, an IFL official told Sherdog.com that the league doesn't have a formal relationship with Couture.

"Randy is not a signed IFL coach like Pat Miletich (Pictures) or Matt Lindland (Pictures) or Renzo Gracie (Pictures)," IFL Senior VP of Communications Joe Favorito told Sherdog.com. "We are not using Randy's full name or likeness in any advertising in any way (outside of the Extreme Couture camp brand), our focus is on the athletes and their camp, since that is what fans want to see."

Sean O'Heir, public relations director for Xtreme Couture, told Sherdog.com that Shawn Tompkins (Pictures) would lead the squad into battle, not Couture.

Couture (16-8-0), the only two-division champion in UFC history, has seen his Xtreme Couture training facility in Las Vegas explode into one of the busiest mixed martial arts factories in the world, training fighters across promotional lines.

In March of 2007 Couture returned from a one-year "retirement" to out-point Tim Sylvia (Pictures) for the UFC heavyweight belt. Couture defended the title in August, stopping Gabriel Gonzaga (Pictures) in the third round.

Following his resignation, Couture and UFC management publicly traded barbs about respect and money.

"I expect Randy to honor the obligations in his contract that he signed (a year ago)," UFC president Dana White told the Review-Journal. "I tried to resolve it by talking to this guy that I've had a relationship with for eight years and was unsuccessful. Now this thing's in the hands of the justice system."
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