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The Couture vs. Fedor Solution

I have read a lot of articles in recent days discussing the not-so-secret secret meeting between Randy Couture and Fedor Emelianenko in Los Angeles this past Monday. When Couture’s camp leaked the pictures, it was unclear just exactly what the two parties were meeting about. However, recent reports confirmed the two did discuss a potential mega-fight involving the two heavyweight champion fighters. It just so happens that Affliction held several small press gatherings in LA around the same time.

The renewed Couture vs. Fedor talk has prompted some to speculate that a settlement that would allow Couture out of his contract with the UFC could be near. Others have even speculated that the UFC could now be open to a co-promotion that would allow the Fedor vs. Couture fight to happen.

To be honest, it all sounds like wishful thinking to me. While I have read quite a few articles with writers trying to get our hopes up, nobody has reported in any sort of definitive fashion that the UFC’s stance has changed. Until we have proof that the UFC is either open to the idea of letting Couture walk or the possibility of a co-promotion, we have no reason to be any less pessimistic about a Couture vs. Fedor fight than we were three months ago.

It doesn’t matter that the UFC’s buck now stops with Lorenzo Fertitta on a daily basis. If you recall, Fertitta, who is notorious for shying away from UFC media events, made it a point to appear during the UFC’s press conference late last year in Las Vegas that was called to dispute some of Couture’s claims against the company. Just because Fertitta may not be anywhere near as outspoken as UFC President Dana White, it doesn’t mean his policies towards working with competitors are any different.

And a co-promotion? If the UFC was worried about the possibility of their heavyweight champion losing to Fedor before Affliction: Banned, then I don’t think Fedor’s brutal assault of former UFC champion Tim Sylvia on July 19 did anything to help ease their concerns. It also needs to be noted that the UFC has no interest in working with the World Alliance of Mixed Martial Arts. Couture is still the company’s recognized heavyweight champion and if he were to lose to Fedor, that would boost the credibility of WAMMA’s heavyweight title.

It’s obvious that Couture and Fedor’s camps want to not only renew talks with each other, but also the UFC. While I’m sure the UFC will listen, I don’t see talks being very fruitful. But despite my belief that Fedor vs. Couture will never happen, I still really want it to take place, as do most of the people reading this site. It’s not just a fight that people want to see, it’s a fight that needs to happen for the growth of the sport.

In thinking of various scenarios in which this fight could still happen, one idea came to mind that I think makes sense to all parties involved. Instead of the UFC being involved in a co-promotion, let them be the co-producer (or co-owner) of a Fedor vs. Couture fight.

The first thing that needs to happen is for the UFC to strip Couture of their heavyweight title. I think it’s silly that he’s still recognized as their heavyweight champion. I also think it isn’t helping Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira become a bigger star in the U.S. by constantly being referred to as the interim champion. The UFC needs to move on and distance themselves from Couture so that when he does fight Fedor, he won’t be perceived as the UFC’s heavyweight champion.

Once the UFC publicly distanced themselves from Couture, they would need someone to host the event. As much as Affliction and HDNet want to be involved, the UFC will never do anything that could help line their pockets. So why not allow M-1 Global to spearhead the effort and host the fight in Russia? The UFC wouldn’t attach their brand in any way to the event and M-1 Global would underwrite the entire show. The UFC would control the U.S. pay-per-view distribution of the event and be entitled to 50% of all revenue generated from the fight. The event would take place in January or March so that it wouldn’t compete with the UFC’s New Year’s Eve and Super Bowl weekend shows in December and February.

Here’s a breakdown of what each party would get:

The UFC –

– 50% of all profits generated from the Couture vs. Fedor fight
– M-1 agrees to underwrite the entire show, including the purses of all fighters
– Domestic rights to the PPV, DVD sales, and footage
– The ability to promote Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira as its undisputed heavyweight champion
– Exclusive promotional rights of Randy Couture should he defeat Fedor. This means the UFC could promote Couture vs. Nogueira and Couture vs. Lesnar fights in the future.
– An agreement by Couture not to disparage the company publicly
– A written guarantee that the Couture vs. Fedor fight will not be promoted as the UFC vs. WAMMA or UFC vs. M-1 Global

M-1 Global –

– 50% of all profits generated from the Couture vs. Fedor fight
– Permission to promote Randy Couture for one event outside of the U.S.
– International rights to the PPV, DVD sales, and footage
– B-Roll footage of Randy Couture for promotional purposes
– A guarantee from the UFC that they will not counter-program the PPV on Spike TV

When it’s structured in the way laid out above, it becomes nothing more than a cash play for the UFC with any downside virtually eliminated. The fight would take place and the UFC would make money off of it without building up one of their primary competitors and without the risk of its heavyweight champion losing to a fighter that is not contracted to its promotion.

39 COMMENTS
  • Sergio Hernandez says:

    That makes a lot of sense, Sam.

    But my experience with this business tells me that if it makes sense, it likely won’t happen. =)

  • Michael says:

    I agree, great in theory but what does the UFC get out of it?? The money is great and all that but after the fight they will lose Randy permanantly. The only way i see this happening is if Randy signs a new contract…

  • darkmetal says:

    Good plan, Sam. But I don’t see the UFC going for it. Why? Because it would welcome other fighters to leave the UFC before the end of their contract and then expect some sort of “convenience”. This would open a Pandora’s box in the minds of White and the Bros. Fertitta.

    I think that the UFC thinks money is important, but control is also an issue. Should a legal precident be set like this, it could undermine future issues should they go to trial: “It is obvious that the UFC has done this before, take the case with Randy Couture”.

    So you see the problem.

    I don’t see anything happpening until all the legal mess is cleaned up. And you can bet that Zuffa will try to drag this out as long as possible. All the while Couture ages and atrophies from his former self. And of course Randy knows it.

  • michael rawdogg says:

    that sounds great, but without hyping it as a “UFC” fight most casual fans wont be interested and it will not help the sport grow as much as you imply

  • Derek B says:

    might be a little risky to have the fight in Russia due to all this war stuff going on. They better keep it on US Soil.

  • ctownhood says:

    I just hope this fight happens soon…so Randy can’t use the “ring rust” excuse when Fedor snaps his arm off

  • Mike says:

    Randy will win

  • Dave says:

    Didn’t you write that the reason he’s not being stripped is because there is the “Champions” clause in the contract that further tightens it up for zuffa.

    I don’t know, maybe I’m the only one that’s excited, but not ape-sh*t about seeing this fight. If it happens, cool. If not, I don’t really care. Truthfully, I don’t think the cash upside of this is worth it to Zuffa over the potential downside. e.g. setting the precendent of working with other organizations, having their champ disgraced, and giving other organizations any spotlight.

    Truth is, with each passing day the public cares less and less about randy vs. fedor. And the UFC has been making plenty of money on PPV, gates, merchandise to let some “mega-fight” mess with that.

  • stevefiji says:

    Sam, this has real merit… but, Dana and Fertitta’s obligation are first and always to the stockholders, so they must weigh the probability of:

    their chances of not coming out on top in the court case (which they must feel good about) and in which case they get nothing,…zero, nada, zilch and they look like complete ass munches for stalling now for what seems like years.

    versus the goodwill factor lost by being seen as the main villain in the public’s eye if the fight….as you say, never happens

    versus the market share lost by any recognition of fighters or organizations outside their branding and their ensuing value to an ever growing MMA competitive marketplace ,

    versus the dollars they would take in from your suggestion knowing full well that Fedor will win, and barring the proverbial blind squirrel finding the nut, we all know the preordained outcome of this fight… and become the savior to T-Shirt Guy has will then himself a genuine casino (i.e. license to print money) in the name of the mercenary named Fedor.

    So, pick your poison, Dana. I say, fight on hard… MMA, it’s survival of the fittest… Randy will fold as his straight to DVD acting career has peaked before it ever really began. Fedor will come on board in late 2009 or early 2010 as Affliction has just 1 more viable fight for him unless they want Tito the Clown to step up against the Emperor and people actually pay to see his face realigned more than his woman. Stay strong Dana and keep the world safe from WAMMA and really ugly T-Shirts and any other organizations that will directly or indirectly dilute the idea of one belt that truly means World Champion.

  • Tertio says:

    Lets hope UFC brass has thought about this idea already and are working on it. I think its brilliant.

  • Blaze Holiday says:

    Good read. When can only wish there can be an agreement met to see this fight sooner then later.

  • Sam Caplan says:

    Stevefiji:

    What stockholders? The UFC is not publicly traded and is privately owned. Lorenzo Ferttita owns 45%, Frank Fertitta owns 45%, and Dana White owns 10%. There are no other owners in the UFC.

  • Jeremy says:

    I don’t see Vadim putting down the money needed to run such a card. Every card that M-1 has co-run has seen the other company (Affliction, Bodog) bankroll the event.

    Such an event would easily cost 6-8 million to put on.

  • stevefiji says:

    It’s not important if it is privately held, sound business practices state that you do what is best for the shareholders… limited or otherwise. You move ahead in one way and don’t arbitrarily make decisions that have enormous repercussions no mater what you decide. The barometer should always be, maximize investor gain for the long term (unless you plan on selling short term – which we know they are not) and so their decision would/should have that premise at the core.

  • mike wolfe says:

    I’m not sure why UFC would care if Couture/Fedor happens. Sure, it’d be a big fight, but it’s “one and done.” UFC is making plenty of money with other quality cards. Why should UFC strain or make compromises? I think UFC gets more mileage out of aggressively enforcing its contractual rights. The message to other fighters and other orgs lurking around out there is clear.

  • Jeremy says:

    Fightticker.com has an excellent look at the numbers for such a bout.

    Randy recently said that he and Fedor would each make 6-10 million. The site used those numbers and thought that such a card would not be able to make any money. It is worth checking out.

  • Phil says:

    I don’t see the point in the UFC going for this.

    I’m not sure what the point of publicizing the fact that they don’t have the world’s best fighter on their cards.

  • I think UFC should just let Randy fight Fedor… they can afford to miss out on a big fight.

    Randy wins… He is the WAMMA & UFC champ and the UFC can try to resign him.

    Fedor wins… Randy’s UFC career is already over and Fedor will remain the king of the ring.

    UFC is in a no lose situation. They are basically just being bitches about the entire situation.
    Randy should have just fought Big Nog and kicked his ass then we wouldnt even have had all this MESS

  • Zack with a ck says:

    As Steve says above (though he may disagree with my ultimate conclusion), this has nothing to do with the short term revenue the UFC could gain from the fight. If you gave them 99.99% of the revenue from the door and the PPV they still wouldn’t do anything that isnt 100% a UFC product on THEIR terms. The UFC wants to be NASCAR, plain and simple, and you don’t build your brand by conceding to much lesser partners for short term financial gain.

  • EdWhitson says:

    Look, I like Randy, but if you have a contract and then refuse to honor it, then I have a problem with that. Until he agrees to man up and honor the contract that he signed based on his own free will (nobody put a gun to his head and made him sign it), then I hope the UFC never lets him fight again.

  • Derek B says:

    Here’s a solution to Dana Whites problems. He’s affraid of losing the HW belt to someone out side his org.

    Well all he has to do is make the fight happen in the Octagon and make it for the WAMMA belt only. So his HW belt isn’t in jeopardy.

  • powers says:

    I’m more a fan of the fight being held in japan. Neutral to both parties, and japan has a history of selling out massive stadiums for gimmicky fights like this.
    For some reason, I’m caring less and less about a fedor vs randy fight. The MMA press is beating it to death (although, I like your removed approach to the WHAT IF scenario).

  • Imbecile says:

    Sam, I appreciate you coming up with ideas for making this fight happen, even if it is just wishful thinking. But I still don’t see this as a realistic plan, even if it is a good effort towards one.

    First off, most everyone seems to start the discussion on this subject with the premise that the reason this fight still won’t happen is that the UFC won’t budge from their demands. Nobody seems to start off by saying, “Im not optimistic this will happen, because it isn’t clear whether Vadim Finklestein has changed his policies towards working with…”

    I think this difference highlights the problems with making your plan happen. Why should the world leader in MMA decide to bend to the demands of a much smaller fish in the same pond? If your plan were even possible to be implemented, Zuffa would have a hard time promoting a fight in Russia to an American PPV audience. Time differences would make it very hard to plan for, and without the UFC branding for the promotion, it would be a stretch to think it would be a large PPV success. So even if it were a mild PPV success, the upside for the Zuffa would realistically be little more than a few million dollars, at best, once the profits were split 50/50. I’m not sure this upside is worth it for them to make such a drastic change in their policies for a single event that doesn’t really help them long-term. If the UFC is a billion dollar company, a million or two in profit just isn’t worth it for such massive concessions.

    Outside of the lack of financial incentive on Zuffa’s part, there are also several other problems. First, I doubt M-1 has the ability to underwrite anything. M-1 (meaning Finklestein) has always sought partners to bankroll his efforts, from Bodog, to the investors behind M-1 Global and Monte Cox, to Affliction. Finklestein has never shown the ability on his own to promote a show of this size.

    Another complication is the enforcement of contract laws in Russia. The problem being… there is no enforcement. They can write this contract however they want – that Zuffa retains the rights to such and such, and Finklestein has the rights to this or that, or it is prohibited to market as UFC vs. WAMMA – the reality is there isn’t much to ensure that is handled according to the contract outside of the United States.

    This fight also gives the UFC little avenue for making future money off of either man. Win or lose, Couture will likely retire. Fedor will never work with the UFC again, unless these same circumstances are met. So really, this scenario only presents a way for the UFC to make a little money. I’m not sure they want to set a precedent like this just to pocket a couple million dollars. This is requiring the UFC to bend on 90% of their demands, and Finklestein to bend on 10% of his. For this fight to realistically happen, it is Finklestein who needs to give up the majority of concessions, since the UFC has little reason to budge.

  • dsid says:

    lol, there’s absolutely no way at all that the UFC would ever agree to a plan like that. They simply will not let a champion walk away from a contract and fight elsewhere.

    In fact, whether people want to hear it or not, it’s in the UFC’s best interest if this fight never happens at all. Think about it. No matter who wins, it’s a lose-lose situation for the UFC, as whoever won would be considered the undisputed #1 heavyweight and the UFC wouldn’t have either under contract.

    The only way it’d make any sense at all is if Fedor signed with the UFC and since it’s clear that’s not going to happen, the UFC will just do everything it can to prevent it from ever happening.

    Time to wake up, guys…

  • cyph says:

    ^ I agree. Wise words for an imbecile.

    There are stocks with private companies (how else can you split ownership?). The only difference is that the stocks are privately owned and are not sold over the counter.

    The UFC will never take the deal. Why? They don’t need to. Why help co-promote any competitor when you’re the dominant promotion? The UFC doesn’t need the money. They don’t want to promote an alternative fighter who may be better than a fighter on their roster. They don’t want to help promote M-1 who may become a competitor in the future. Co-promotion is the opposite of counter programming. If the UFC go for the short term gain (i highly doubt that the PPV will do blockbuster business like many people believe; Fedor can’t sell PPV…period, period, period!), they will only help a fledgling promotion like M-1 to gain exposure and financial capital. Furthermore, this deal would give exposure to a fighter like Fedor who they don’t control. This deal is one-side for M-1.

    It’s a bad business proposition and the Fertittas will never bite.

  • chris says:

    I’m also tired of this issue. There are many ways to solve this but the UFC won’t move on what they want to control. I’m a fan of the UFC but more of mma in general. I think this fight would answer who the number one hw in the world is but at this point there are alot of people who don’t care anymore. The UFC could just let Randy go but won’t due to the fact that it opens more problems with other fighters. Randy could just fight for the UFC and get his last fights done but won’t due to the fact, if he loses then he loses credibility. If he wins then he has to contend with the champion clause in the contract. Randy isn’t getting any younger and the UFC knows this. The longer it goes the more it becomes in their favor. Randy needs to be fighting right now to keep up with Fedor. Fedor is fighting and making money. Randy is stuck. I don’t see this coming to an end until the UFC decides to end. It sucks. But that’s what happends when you bite the hand that feeds you. Good luck to Randy and Fedor. Enjoy the dinner meetings because that’s all they’ll be involved with eachother for a long time.

  • matt says:

    I just read that randy couture thinks that he and fedor should make between 6 and 10 million dollars if this fight goes down, meaning that unless whichever company promotes this fight sells over one million ppv’s they will be losing huge amounts of money and according to randy this fight would do in the 700,000 sales range.

    Randy you let your fame get to you, you are not worth 10 mil your not even worth 6 mil, now if randy said one to two mil then i could see that happening but 10 million are you kidding me

  • Zane Lewis says:

    Well said Imbecile :-)

    I also want to add that it is 13 hours difference between Moscow and the west coasta and 10 hours difference between Moscow and the east coast

  • BJJDenver says:

    Not a bad idea Sam, BUT, if I was the UFC, I would add a stipulation that Couture comes back after the fight to a new 3 fight contract AND that Fedor signs a 5 fight contract.

    With that added, we would get the fight, and the best HW and most popular UFC fighter, both in the UFC.

    Of course Fedor has a 3 fight deal with Affliction in the US, so he would have to get FINKelstein to get him out of that as well.

    Wouldn’t it be hilarious if that was agreed to and UFC vs Couture, became Affliction vs Fedor???

    Of course I think Atencio may not be to upset to get rid of his agreement with Fedor.

  • What’s funny is that if Fedor had signed with the UFC, his contract would have already been up by now and M-1 would have much greater leverage for a co-promotion after the UFC PR machine would have made Fedor a star in the US. Just goes to show you that these Russians are not only “crazy”, but they are stubborn.

  • Ken says:

    if i was a ferrita or white I’d be laughing at the thought of that fight happening anywhere else but the UFC. it would only dilute thier brand. they can make plenty of money with other fights and future plans.

    randy should just go fight and finish his contract.

    if fedor really wants to fight randy, he can do so in the UFC. what is preventing him? probably the fact that there’s a good chance he will lose in a cage. if Randy gets Fedor against the cage, look out. Fedor has no experience there.

    apparently Randy was angered about the amount of money offered to Fedor. it must have been a substantial amount. all Randy needs to do is ask for the same as Fedor gets. ufc would probably cough it up somehow.

  • chris hill says:

    At this point who really cares. Fedor beat tim so all his nuthuggers can say he is legit and and now he doesnt have to hear he hasnt fought any quality competition for another 2 years. He will do his new years freakshow fight in japan and make huge money and in another year fight someone else who is legit. He isnt interested in fighting the best as long as people say he is the best and he can fight a freak for huge money what does he care. Also Randy is a greedy douche his true colors have come out. The dude signed a fight extension of 4 fights so he could collect a signing bonus and then bails. He lacks integrity and is just looking for a huge payday he doesnt realize that without the UFC pushing him the casual fans will lose interest. Its clear this has nothing to do with fighting the best but finding a way for randy to get his one last score before he retires. If he honored his contract he would have fought fedor by now but he didnt he must have consulted tito ortiz in how to be a businessman because what he did was short sighted and actually has cost him a lot of money.

  • OCD says:

    When it is all said and done, and this fight happens, we will all wonder why we spent so much time on it. Randy is overmatched in this case. He hasn’t beaten anyone worthwhile in the last four years. His 16-8 record is pitiful, and while he looks like he is at his ‘peak’, he is no match for Fedor. The only person that can beat Fedor, is Fedor. And, I am no Fedor nutthugger.

    This hyping of this fight is comical, really. Randy wants it for his final payday, he has everything to win and nothing to lose.

  • Darin says:

    This all seems to hinge on the UFC retaining a controlling interest in Couture. Even if they win in court, isn’t there a time limit on how long they can keep somebody (like one year extra from being champion) and so would just mean a new set date when Randy is free to continue his career elsewhere? I doubt they can keep somebody for a lifetime by keeping them the champion. As I understand it these contracts are not like a company signing to deliver some amount of oil at some price. These are number of fights or time. Either one finishes and the contract is considered over (with things like a 30 day first right of refusal written in to follow that).

  • Imbecile says:

    I also want to add that the UFC has no interest in making a simple “cash play” for a one-and-done show.

    If their goal was to just pocket a few million dollars, they wouldn’t have taken out loans for $350 million dollars to help expand their business. Zuffa took out all of these loans to help expand to England, Mexico, the Philippines, etc.

    A few million off of a show… not even worth a second thought to them.

  • jamo says:

    if randy stayed he only had 2 remaining fights didnt he??? ufcs hw division isnt exactly filled with talent that he couldnt have beaten,then after all this time he would have been free from his contract?? yes id like to see him fight fedor but he signed it and at the time wasnt moaning about it!! and i dont think randy could beat him,i know he seems to be a master when he is the underdog but fedor is a lab experiment!!lol

  • Glock says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like the sweet spot in time for Randy/Fedor
    has passed. Randy’s had a lot of “time off” at a point in his life/career when EVERY LITTLE THING MATTERS with regard to his fitness, effectiveness and durability in a HUGE fight.
    There’s curiosty factor for me but honestly, I’m more interested in what happens to Lesner, Carwin,& Kongo as they try to make their way through the HW roster.

    UFC blew it, and any organization that REALLY LOVED mma as Dana claims Zuffa does, I think would have made the fight happen when it should have happened. They let a historical match-up that we’ll probably argue about for years, go by the wayside, and if it happens now (which I doubt) it’s for the love of money, (which is what it was before) not love of mma, a sense of obligation to the fans , or even a desire to do the right thing.

    Too little too late, Sam.

  • Darin says:

    jamo: “if randy stayed he only had 2 remaining fights didnt he???”

    I’m not sure. If he lost then 2 might have done it for his contract, but if he had fought 2 and won they might have been able to keep him for a fixed period after the 2nd one based on the last fight being for the championship. I’m not sure if their normal champion clause is based on when/if the championship is won or if it also counts successful defenses. Maybe somebody else has specifics on that.

    –Darin

  • glock says:

    oops, add Cain Velasquez to L,C & K above

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