Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Goodbye, Randy Couture.

With the surprising announcement of the retirement of Captain America all of us MMA fans are reeling. Is he really leaving to star in movies, is there some hidden injury, does he want more money or is he ticked that he won't be fighting Fedor in the UFC? All of these things are being said, and more, but it's just about impossible to know what the truth is without being inside Randy's head. Let's examine them.

The Legacy
There is no one else in the world of MMA for Randy to prove himself against they say. I say, close but not quite correct. Cro Cop has come up MIA and Fedor would prefer to stay in Russia, this much we know. Couture showed Tim Sylvia what it means to be the champ and what year it is and where the belt is have nothing to do with that. Guys like Andrei Arlovski and Brandon Vera are up and comers but not on the level of one of the all time greats. What about Antionio Rodrigo Noguiera though? This is a guy also destined to go down in history as one of the all time greats. Sure he has been proven to be number two to Fedor but still a match with Couture has immense value. A point could be made that he or Barnett would be a half-step below the upper echelon, where Randy and Fedor reside, but I don't think Couture is the sort of ego-maniac to squabble over something as trivial as that half-step. Barnett is right at that top level as well and owns a win over the Natural which would make a matchup even more flavorful. I'm not sure this reason holds water.

The Money
Word has it that Randy is number two in the UFC right now in terms of paycheck heft. Sure he might be looking at Chuck Liddell's back but is Randy that hard-up for cash? Does his ego need that monetary gratification? Maybe I've got the man on a pedestal, maybe we all do, but I really don't think so. It could be argued that Randy is more the face of the UFC. With him holding a belt, being a BIG draw and being one of, if not the best, announcer for the organization that seems to be a rock solid conclusion. Is the UFC being stingy with the green? I find it hard to believe that they wouldn't pay this man a ton of cash, he's hot. He's Jordan returned and he just beat the reigning champs in four games in the Finals. Maybe if he's Jordan returned and asking for a three-year deal this becomes an issue but not for much of anything else. The UFC is raking cash in with pay-per views, it's spawning all sorts of shows such as Wired, Unleashed, TUF and in some ways the Human Weapon on History Channel. It's a full on cultural phenomenon. With the organization booming like this do you not pony up some cash for your hottest asset? I'm not seeing that. I'm not saying they have unlimited cash flow, not at all. You have a business, you have overhead it's simple. Recent reports have put a spotlight on the UFC's money showing that while they may not have tons of liquid assets they aren't hurting. This being the case I could see them needing to not spend money like they've got more on the stove but to not pay one of your biggest moneymakers? Everyone knows you have to spend money to make money.

The Respect
If your forty-four years old and just won the hearts of America, again, with a David and Goliath battle for the ages does not making as much as one other person in your profession really bother you so much that you just walk away? Okay, potentially two people with it being discussed that Fedor could have possibly came to the USA for a huge bank roll. Does it stick in your craw just a little? Yes, it could. Does it stick in Randy's? Again, maybe he's up on that pedestal but I don't see Couture worried about getting paid less than the Iceman who beat him two out of three times. Maybe getting paid less than Fedor, especially with all of those Pride fighters coming into the UFC and getting bombed on. But then what if Randy fights Nogueira, a eminently worthy
opponent, and beats him. Doesn't that pretty much annihilate any chance of Fedor getting paid more than Captain America? Why pay more for a guy that comes from an org that just, shockingly, seems to be a step behind in terms of quality of talent? Even the most dominant fighter from that body?

The Fame
Lastly, I think, is the notion that Randy Couture has left to pursue an acting career. This one perplexes me I have to admit. On the one hand, I don't see him as a guy (Randy can you hop off that pedestal man, you're blocking my light? Thanks) who would feel the need to pursue the Hollywood dream. On the other hand he's not getting any younger. On the other, other hand do you leave your meal-ticket, possibly burning some bridges, to pursue something that you haven't even done enough to find out how good you are at it? It wouldn't be the first time some Hollywood types whispered the right words into a man's ear, urging him to grab a brass ring that turns out to be only cheap plastic. Then again what does a real brass ring go for? Five bucks?

A lot of potential avenues for the UFC seem to have been coming to naught lately. The HBO deal seems to be in advanced rigor mortis. Fedor Emelianenko, the single biggest attraction in MMA, sorry Randy, has signed elsewhere. Josh Barnett continues to be in limbo. A fighter that should be a lock to return, one of the top heavyweights in the world and former UFC champion. Heck, maybe Randy is worried about having to fight Barnett, the man that beat him years ago who has only gotten better. Maybe he's afraid if he lost to Barnett again that would be it, end of the ride?

I think more likely Randy's playing at some stratagem. We know it's entirely plausible that the man could un-retire again (careful not to play that card to many times though Champ) so maybe he's trying to add the element of time to negotiations with one or more of the big names, Barnett for example. He's not getting any younger and if these guys want a piece of action from the legend then they better quit squabbling over BS and put ink to paper. Or maybe that stratagem is aimed at the UFC itself. Maybe this is a way for Randy to say, "Hey, I have other options. Make something happen and quit frittering away opportunity because you're worried about dollars and cents." I personally think the HBO thing is probably a bigger deal than a lot of the other stuff. I think Randy would like to see the UFC on HBO, I think he would love to fight on HBO and who more likely to take part in the telecast than the legend himself?

Tito Ortiz has made it very public that he has won the right to pursue contract negotiations with the Fertitta's themselves, going right around Dana White. If they would extend that courtesy to A former champ who's lost a step, wouldn't they do that for a present one who seems to be in his prime, the legend we call Randy Couture?

Kelly Thomas