The ink is still drying on Randy Couture’s new three-fight deal with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the culmination of a year’s uncertainty on his fighting future.
Announced on Tuesday during a media teleconference, Couture will face Brock Lesnar in the main event of UFC 91 in Las Vegas on Nov. 15. His journey back to the UFC wasn’t a linear path, nor was it easy on the soft-spoken champion, but now, his days away from competition are happily numbered.
“The best place for me to fight is in the Octagon,” Couture said. “Not in the courtroom, not anywhere else.”
The disagreements that sparked his exodus from the UFC appear to have been quashed – for now. Almost a year ago, he was ready to walk away from the Las Vegas based promotion. He had two reasons for his exit – a lack of respect from the organization, and its inability to make a Fedor Emelianenko fight happen. But he was still tied to his UFC contract, and until today, locked up in arbitration proceedings to determine whether he’d ever be free. Unable to offer any fight-related services to other promotions, Couture began to re-assess his previous stance.
“The biggest part of my decision was first of all communicating with Lorenzo and Dana about clearing up a lot of the things that I was feeling,” Couture said. “The second part was getting frustrated with our legal system and being tired of throwing money at lawyers and the legal system with no end in sight. I want to fight. That’s what I do, that’s what I do best.”
Both Couture and White say they are determined to put the past behind them and move on. According to UFC president Dana White, the court battle over Couture’s fight contract is over. His old contract, a four-fight deal signed on Dec. 11, 2006, has been torn up.
Asked whether he would take the same actions again, Couture was uncertain. In a career filled with many ups and downs both in and out of the Octagon, it was clear he hadn’t put the episode in perspective yet.
“I could have lived without a lot of it,” he said. “You always kind of look back and hope that things would have gone differently. I don’t know if there are regrets, but I could have made better decisions, done things differently.”
Mark Cuban, the billionaire impresario who attempted to free Couture by suing the UFC in a Texas court, is apparently supportive of his decision to return to the promotion.
“Mark wasn’t disappointed in the decision,” Couture said. “I think ultimately Mark wants what’s best for me. He’s a very interesting guy, and I think all along, he (was) just trying to find ways to facilitate what he thought I wanted. And for a while that was finding a way to make the Fedor fight happen somewhere else, and now I think that the best course and the best path is to find a way to make the Fedor fight happen in the UFC and with the UFC.”
Couture says he feels confident that the UFC is still “working diligently” to make the Emelianenko fight happen. But for now, the fight with Lesnar is first on his mind.
And it’s a big first fight back – literally. Lesnar carries just shy of 300 pounds in the offseason, and at fight time, will be around the same weight as Couture’s last comeback opponent, Tim Sylvia. Despite having just three professional bouts to his credit, Lesnar has set the heavyweight division afire with his recent performance against Heath Herring at UFC 87.
“Earlier in my career, I think it was a concern,” Couture said about Lesnar’s size. “I don’t think I was technically prepared to deal with the size difference. I think over the last six years or so I’ve developed as a fighter, and although there are things you have to consider when facing a guy the size of Brock or Tim or Gabe or any of these guys in the heavyweight division, I think it’s overcome-able. I think you just have to be a little wiser about the places you put yourself in the fight.”
That means one thing – he’s got to stay off his back when the two meet on Nov. 15 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Currently, Couture has two big heavyweights at his gym, Phil Friedman and Jay White, to simulate Lesnar’s size. It’s been rumored that he’s calling in other big heavyweights to help him prepare, but representatives at Xtreme Couture could not confirm who those were.
He says he will take the little footage he’s got and make it work.
“I have a pretty good idea of where Brock’s coming from, because it’s the same place I came from,” he said. “Collegiate wrestler that made the transition to fighting. I can take a look at the two fights that I have seen and see his tendencies. He’s a big athletic, very, very good fighter, so it should be very interesting.
“I’m not ready yet, but I will be in about ten weeks.”