MMA legend Randy Couture finds himself in a strange position these days. An ongoing legal battle with the UFC threatens his future as a fighter, and his affiliation with clothier-turned-MMA promoter Affliction has prompted the UFC to keep him and the “banned brand” off any of their broadcasts. Recently Couture talked with Cage Potato about his life as a fighter, the future of MMA, and this summer’s Fedor-Sylvia bout.
CagePotato.com: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me, Randy. How’s everything at Xtreme Couture? It seems like you guys have so many fighters in so many different organizations now. Does it ever get hard to keep track of who is fighting and where?
No, it’s not too hard. We’ve actually just got a big grease board and we just write who’s fighting and where and when and we do a pretty good job of keeping track of it that way. We’ve got new gyms opening up in Long Island and in Toronto. Everything is going really great.
What are your thoughts on Tim Sylvia signing to fight Fedor this summer? You’ve beat Tim, and the Fedor fight is the one you wanted more than any other. How does it make you feel to see Tim get that chance before you do?
I think it’s going to be a great fight. Tim’s a seasoned veteran and he presents some unique challenges with his height and his size. People knock Fedor because he hasn’t fought any top guys recently, but Fedor’s an excellent fighter. It should be very interesting to see how he handles this challenge. I know I’ll be interested to see it. It’s going to be a good one and I hope to be right there at ringside when it happens.
But Tim got let out of his UFC contract and that’s why he can take this fight. Does it bother you that it happened that way for him and not for you?
He didn’t get let go so he could do this fight, he got let go because the UFC didn’t want to pay someone that much money to fight on the undercard. They knew he wasn’t going to fight for a title any time soon and he only had one more fight on his contract, so they made the decision to let him go for financial reasons.
I can see how it made sense for them to let him go and it doesn’t make sense to want to let me go. I’ve got the belt, so that’s different. The way I look at it, that’s his good fortune to be able to go take the fight with Fedor. I’m not upset about it. I’ve still got a few more good fights left it me.
Tito Ortiz recently made some public statements about the lack of respect he feels from the UFC and from Dana White. He referred to the way they no longer show you on pay-per-views when you’re there cornering your fighters, never even mention your name or your gym. How much is this stuff about respect and how much is about money?
I think the amount that you’re paid shows in some way what the organization thinks of you, so I see [Tito’s] point there. That is one way you show respect. But as for the ban at UFC events, that’s only helped us. We’ve become “the banned brand”, and everybody talks about it even if they don’t show us on TV.
I think it’s a schoolyard tactic by Dana White. It’s especially unfortunate for the guys we sponsor. They depend on sponsorship money and it’s too bad that they have to walk on eggshells because of this thing that isn’t about them at all. We sponsor over thirty fighters, we’ve put over a million dollars into this and it’s just unfortunate that he decided to do it this way.
With Afflicition starting their own promotion and organizations like Adrenaline dabbling in non-exclusive contracts, do you think this new trend of non-exclusivity and fighters competing in multiple organizations is the wave of the future for MMA, or do you think the exclusive system that the UFC uses will ultimately win out in some form?
I think it has to change. The exclusivity has to go away or else we’re going to have the same problems with becoming a fractured sport the way boxing has. The top guys have to be allowed to fight each other. That needs to happen in this sport. Even if it means that you have to put your champion out there and sometimes you lose, it’s still great for marketing the sport and it’s necessary for the integrity of the sport. For the sake of our fan base, that needs to happen. WAMMA is one group that has the potential to help make that happen, and I hope it will.
Will you be one of the people to help lead that charge?
I hope so. I find myself in a unique position now. I’m coming to the end of my career and I don’t have to worry about pissing off the UFC or making the wrong people mad, so I have some freedom to do this. I think standing up and doing what I’m doing will help make some of these changes happen.
The UFC has done a masterful job of bringing this sport back and making it what it is today, but there are some holes in the way they’re doing things. The UFC could be the one to take control and make things happen, make sure the fighters are getting taken care of the right way, and they could use their power and influence to make that happen.
Or they could keep the same closed-minded approach and someone else will step up and do it. Either way, the fighters will come. They’ll flock to it if it’s the right system.
Why do you think you’ve been so successful as you’ve gotten older? That’s pretty rare in pro fighting. Do you think it has to do with your preparation, your natural ability, what?
You know, I have no idea why it’s been that way for me. I don’t know that I’m doing anything so special or if there’s anything different about me. I just work hard and do what I can do.
I think I’ve managed to put things in perspective by keeping in mind that this is a sport. If the worst thing that happens to me is I lose a fight, then that’s not so bad at all. I think that helps me.
It seems like you’re at a point in your career where things are really up in the air. You don’t know if you’ll fight again, or against who or where. If your career were over today, what do you think your legacy would be? Would people remember you for all your victories, or would they remember you as the guy who walked away from the UFC?
That’s for other people to decide. I can’t really say what it will be. I just try and do what I can do, work hard, live my life with integrity and do the best I can. The rest of it is up to others. I don’t know what my legacy will be.