The UFC got hit with not one, but three class-action antitrust lawsuits in December, all filed by the same group of attorneys, but on behalf of three different sets of plaintiffs. Former UFC two-division champion and Hall of Famer Randy Couture knew that legal action was coming, and considering his rocky relationship with UFC ownership, it wouldn’t have been surprising had his name been attached to such a suit.
But thus far, he has chosen not to take part.
“Well, obviously I was approached. I’ve known about the swell of the class action suit coming for eight or nine months and was approached about being involved, and haven’t decided one way or the other whether I’m going to throw my name in that hat,” Couture said in a recent interview with Submission Radio.
“I suspect at this point I’m probably not going to.”
The initial lawsuit was filed on behalf of plaintiffs Cung Le, Nate Quarry, and Jon Fitch. So far, Le is the only fighter to file suit that is still under contract with the UFC.
Couture retired in 2011 following a knockout loss to Lyoto Machida. He hasn’t fought since, although he has had some involvement with Bellator MMA, where he coached on the promotion’s reality series, Fight Master: Bellator MMA and has done some commentary.
Despite his storied history fighting in the Octagon, Couture has had several rough moments with UFC ownership, famously resigning from his UFC contract with two fights left unfulfilled in late 2007. He eventually ironed out his contract and returned the following year to lose the heavyweight title to Brock Lesnar and never recaptured a UFC belt.
“Obviously I've had my run-ins and my fights with Zuffa since they brought the company, over rights and a lot of the things that are on the table with the class action suit,” Couture said. “And I applaud Cung Le and Nate Quarry and Jon Fitch for being willing to stand up, take the heat, and put themselves on the line for the rights of the fighters, who in a lot of cases are getting the short end of the stick with regards to the contracts and the way business has been done with the industry leader and promotion in the sport right now, and that’s the UFC and Zuffa.”
And even though he seems reluctant to join the fight against the UFC, Couture believes 2015 is going to be an interesting year to see what the future holds for mixed martial arts as a sport, and not just the UFC.
“It’s going to be a long, drawn out process. I think 2015 for a whole bunch of reasons is going to be a pretty interesting year in mixed martial arts to see what comes of all this and how the sport adjusts and settles out,” he commented.
“I think we're going through some growing pain, largely because of Zuffa and the UFC and the way that business has been done. It’s obviously a global sport now all over the world, and in some ways the market is a little oversaturated. It seems to have lost some of it's shine and that special luster that it had back in the day when there were only six or eight pay-per-views a year.
“I think that the door has been cracked open a little bit by all these things, to allow some of the other promotions like Bellator or World Series of Fighting to grow their brand and fill that void and to promote, and allow a bunch of other fighters to make a living and ply their wares, and get their sponsors, and do a lot of things in the sport of mixed martial arts. So I think it’s going to be a really interesting year.”