Report: UFC & Couture Negotiating; Possibly Lesnar in November

August 30, 2008

Bloodyelbow.com is reporting that the UFC is currently in negotiations with Randy Couture for a potential return to the Octagon in November to fight heavyweight blue chipper and former WWE star Brock Lesnar. It’s worth noting that aside from Florian vs. Stevenson, no other fight, let alone a main event, has been booked for UFC 91 in Portland, Oregon.

Dave Meltzer has elaborated on the BloodyElbow piece over at the Wrestling Observer; explaining that the UFC is hoping to sign Couture to a new, three-fight deal that would do away with his old contract and end the current litigation between the two parties.

Several factors would seem to suggest that Couture’s renewed interest in negotiating with the UFC is based upon a weakening legal position, but also simply a desire to move forward. With an arbitrator’s decision on the horizon, perhaps Couture wants to re-negotiate now instead of facing a legally binding decision, the result of which he will not have any control over. There are literally hundreds of sports-related arbitration cases that establish precedence for this sort of action.

Couture has softened his stance since claiming that he would not fight for the UFC again; implying some sort of change of heart. It’s also no secret that he’s not getting any younger. With his competitive juices still flowing it seems abundantly clear as to why he’s moved back to the table.

Moreover, if Fedor truly does have an American non-compete clause with Affliction, there remains no further incentive for Randy to wait around. Even if the non-compete clause is a crock, the history between the UFC and Fedor’s M-1 implies that a deal might be extremely tough to come by. So, if Randy is bound to the UFC, one way or another, he might as well take the fight with Lesnar and headline a card that could potentially sell 600,000-650,000 PPVs; a figure that would likely rival a Couture vs. Emelianenko draw.

The potential long-term reward for Couture in a fight with Lesnar provides additional incentive for him to re-negotiate. And from the UFC’s perspective, there’s also a lot to gain – regardless of who wins the bout.

Immediately, this fight gives the UFC a strong headlining event for its November fight card and it helps to continue the momentum of a strong fourth quarter for the organization. Financially, Zuffa needs a strong fourth quarter in order to climb itself out of the rut it dug with creditors after a 2007 campaign filled with poor results and expectations’ failures.

Despite Couture’s legendary status among MMA hardcores, he hasn’t exactly translated that popularity into a casual fanbase or huge PPV buys. A win over Lesnar would help to increase his clout with the casual, PPV purchasing fan and potentially push him into the elite category of industry PPV draws for the future. Furthermore, a loss to Couture isn’t really going to hurt Lesnar’s image as a legitimate heavyweight prospect. The UFC would likely be able to save his credibility, chalking up the loss to experience, and start him back at the middle of the ladder.

On the other hand, a win over Couture would vault Lesnar’s credibility sky high amongst all MMA fans. It would go a long way towards giving the UFC and MMA that coveted heavyweight wrecking ball that the casual American fight fan has not had since Mike Tyson in the early 90s. Yet, a Lesnar victory wouldn’t necessarily spell the end of Couture’s fighting career or his work for the UFC. Certainly, retirement would be an option, but so too would a rematch. Then, there’s also the consideration that Randy could drop down to the light heavyweight division to challenge anyone of the talented fighters in the UFC’s most stacked division – possibly even Chuck as Meltzer suggests.

Let’s not forget the intrigue of the match-up itself. The storylines and potential lead-ins are the stuff that marketers dream of: young vs. old, athleticism vs. experience, an All-American wrestling battle, entertainment meets reality, etc.

If Randy vs. Fedor can’t happen, it’ll be a shame. With that said, there’s no reason to hold onto a dream that might never become a reality, while at the same time letting the career of one of MMA’s all-time greats slip into obscurity.

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