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Randy Couture was the ultimate fighter

October 11, 2007

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Randy Couture’s resignation leaves a huge void in the UFC that might not be filled for quite some time.

Is there another fighter as universally admired, as eloquent, as accomplished, as dedicated and as humble as Couture? He was the perfect ambassador for a sport still fighting for mainstream respect.

Can you think of anyone better? No names immediately come to my mind. Sure, there’s a lot of guys who have some of those qualities, but few who can wrap them up so nicely in a single package.

While fans will be disappointed that they’ll never get to see Couture defend his title, you’ve got to respect and understand his decision.

At 44-years-old and at this stage of his career, there was only one fight that could give Couture enough motivation to enter the UFC octagon another time. That matchup dissolved this week when it was announced that Russian superstar Fedor Emelianenko signed an exclusive contract with M-1.

That left Couture pondering the possibilities — none of them very appealing.

Couture was the aging gunslinger who knew he would be facing a gauntlet of younger up-and-comers looking to earn a reputation at his expense. A rematch with Gabriel Gonzaga, besides being a dangerous proposition, doesn’t make sense.

Could Couture get himself fired up enough to square off against a Brandon Vera or Cheick Kongo? And if he couldn’t get motivated against an exciting, young stud like Vera, what would he do if faced with a rematch against Tim Sylvia? For sure, he wasn’t going to be around long enough for Brock Lesnar to earn a title shot or for Josh Barnett to return from exile. That left Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira who seemed to have lost some of his shine after a so-so UFC debut against Heath Herring.

With his financial future secure and his film career and gym operations taking much of his attention, Couture doesn’t need the UFC as much as the UFC needs him.

Resigning (retiring?) now makes sense because it shows his reasons were tied to the UFC’s inability to sign Fedor and not because he is ducking any of his potential challengers. It also may give him a chance to control his own destiny to fight outside of the UFC against the opponent of his choice.

There’s quite a bit of reading between the lines to do here. Couture’s resignation letter seems to hint at some unhappiness with the UFC. Then UFC President Dana White is quoted as saying that “when he is ready to come out of retirement again, he is still under contract with me, and I’m ready to promote him.” Meanwhile, his agent is quoted as saying that Couture’s contract was always on a “fight-by-fight basis.”

Sounds like there’s some drama here that may involve lawyers.

I have no idea what his contractual obligations are to the UFC — his contract calls for two more fights — but could we see still see a Couture vs. Emelianenko match at some point?

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