Dana White says he has "resolved all" problems with Randy Couture
With a near-year-long, well-documented legal dispute apparently resolved, UFC President Dana White today officially announced the return of heavyweight champion Randy Couture (16-8 MMA, 13-5 UFC) to the organization. Couture will defend his UFC heavyweight title against WWE import Brock Lesnar (2-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) at UFC 91 on Nov. 15.
The winner of that bout will then take on the winner of the December title affair between UFC interim heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Frank Mir in order to unify the UFC’s heavyweight belts.
“We had some problems with Randy,” White admitted during today’s media call. “We’ve resolved them all. He has always been the heavyweight champion of the UFC. It took us some time to get everything straight, but I think we’re all good now and ready to move forward.”
Couture resigned from the organization in October, with two fights remaining on his contract, over what he perceived to be a lack of respect from UFC officials, issues over his pay, and the UFC’s inability to sign then-top free agent Fedor Emelianenko. Couture planned to wait for the 18-month deal to expire so he could compete in an outside promotion, but UFC officials contended that the contract wouldn’t be fulfilled until the two fights were completed. That matter — as well as a dispute over his employment/promotional contract and Couture’s decision to sign a fight contract with HDNet Fights earlier this year — had been tangled up in the court system.
Today, White said that Couture’s old contract was scrapped in favor of a brand new three-fight deal with the UFC.
“No matter whether Randy wins or loses (the bout with Lesnar), he will still be in the UFC,” White said.
White said his recently tumultuous relationship with Couture has not suffered any long-term damage despite the differences between the two over the past 12 months.
“I think everybody knows my personality and how I get,” White said. “When I don’t like somebody, I make it very clear that I don’t like them. … Through this whole thing, I never hated Randy or said anything really bad about Randy.
“The worst thing I think I said about Randy through this whole thing? I think I called him confused. That’s it. That’s pretty mild for me. I like Randy. I always have. This whole thing never made sense to me.”
Couture remains steadfast in his desire to face Emelianenko, the current WAMMA heavyweight champion. White said he will do everything in his power to bring Emelianenko into the UFC — despite White’s numerous claims that Emelianenko was “completely irrelevant.”
“[Couture] has made it very clear how bad he wants to fight Fedor,” White said. “We’re going to do everything in our power to make a Fedor fight happen.”
Arranging a fight between Couture and Emelianenko may still prove difficult.
“We’re not going to mess with anybody’s contract,” White said. “[Emelianenko] is under contract right now to another promotion. If he becomes available or something can be worked out with that other promotion — obviously everybody knows how crazy we are about protecting our contracts; we would never do that to somebody else.
“If the Fedor fight can be made, if he becomes available or whatever, then absolutely we would love to make the Fedor fight.”
Before any bout with Emelianenko can be considered, Couture must first get past the massive Lesnar. Couture insists he will not allow any future plans to cloud his focus on the task at hand.
“Obviously [Lesnar] is a great big guy,” Couture said. “On the ground or standing he poses some interesting problems. I’ve got to go to work and find the answer to those questions.”