September 3, 2008
King Randy returnsBelt fight for champ Couture
Randy Couture is back in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
And his first order of business will be to headline what UFC president Dana White calls "the biggest pay-per-view in the company's history" against former WWE star Brock Lesnar.
Following a year of legal back-and-forths after Couture's abrupt resignation, the UFC announced yesterday it had made peace with its reigning heavyweight champ who will defend his belt Nov. 15 at the MGM Grand.
"I'm as giddy as a little girl right now," said White, who anticipates in excess of a million pay-per-view buys for the event.
Couture left part-way through his contract last October, pointing to fighter pay and a lack of respect from the organization as his reasons for quitting.
He also cited the fight club's inability to sign then-free agent Fedor Emelianenko.
A contrite Couture said he was unsure if he had any regrets over his decision to leave the Octagon and do his fighting in the courtroom.
But he said there has been improvement on the issues he cited for leaving and still believes a fight with Emelianenko is in his future.
White said he has no plans to go after Emelianenko immediately because he is under contract with Affliction Fighting.
"You know how adamant we are about protecting our contracts so I wouldn't go after Fedor until his contract is up," he said.
White said he'd be shocked if Affliction isn't out of business by the end of the year.
"We'll talk to Fedor then. Because you can't be under contract if the people you're under contract to are no longer in business," he said.
Though trying not to be seen as looking past Lesnar, Couture did mention a future fight with Emelianenko as one reason he was back on board with the UFC.
The constant chatter of an Emelianenko/Couture fight didn't sit well with Lesnar.
"Why are we talking about this Emelianenko guy when he doesn't even work for our company," Lesnar burst out.
"This is about Randy Couture and Brock Lesnar and that fight is definitely going to take place on November 15.
"I couldn't give a $%#! about Emelianenko."
White said interim heavyweight champ Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira will take on contender Frank Mir in December in The Ultimate Fighter 8 finale.
White says the plan is to have the winner of Nogueira/Mir fight the winner of Lesnar/Couture to consolidate the heavyweight championship. Both Couture and White say they have mended fences.
"I feel like I've been walking around under a dark cloud for the past year and to see the clouds dissipate and the sunshine coming through is a nice change," said Couture.
The Nov. 15 fight will be available in Canada on pay-per-view.