UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture and UFC president Dana White are locked in a battle of wills. Couture says he’s done with the UFC. “Resigned” from the organization, as he put it. White says he “owns” Couture. One man says the rift is because of money and respect. The other says it’s egotism and pernicious Hollywood influences.
It’s become the question of the moment for MMA fans. Who do you believe? Couture, who’s as affable and humble a champion as the UFC has ever known, or White, who plays the Lex Luther-meets-Vince McMahon role so well it almost seems scripted?
In case you’re having trouble deciding the two launched dueling press conferences on Thursday, with each telling a different story.
Of course, even press conferences have to be contentious in the world of MMA. That’s why White announced that his media conference call would take place a half-hour before the press conference that Couture had announced earlier in the week, hoping to force media outlets to choose which they would cover. [Click here for the video, from Sherdog]
Ostensibly White’s junket was called to announce new television deal, although the deal he announced was basically just an extension of the one the UFC already enjoys with Spike TV. Thus it became clear. Dana White was screwing with Randy Couture. There’s really no other word for it.
Is it any wonder then that Couture claims he wasn’t getting the respect that an iconic champion deserves? White recently compared Couture and other fighters to “(expletives) in a beauty salon”, and then in his competing press conference claimed that Fedor Emelianenko, the consensus top heavyweight in the MMA world, “f-cking sucks”.
That’s it. I think I know now who I believe in this war of words. (Hint: it’s the guy who isn’t puffing up his chest and swearing like a cross between Red Foxx and a seventh grader.)
But the important question here isn’t whether Couture’s complaints are legitimate. His gripes about the UFC bonus system (bonuses which, according to inside sources, regularly eclipse money guaranteed in the fighter’s contract) are relatively minor when you look at the way White treats his fighters.
What I’m left wondering is, is he doing it on purpose?
If he is, maybe it’s genius. White is the boss, and everybody wants to hate the boss. That’s something – as the WWE figured out long ago – that every jerk in America can relate to. Railing against authority figures comes naturally to us. If White is purposefully making himself out to be the corporate heel of the UFC, I’d be forced to respect it.
But if that’s what he’s doing, why isn’t he really doing it? Why isn’t he doing it all the time?
Sure, there was the time he told Rashad Evans – in front of a room full of reporters – “you’ll fight the fight I make for you”. That was pretty bad. Then there’s the time he called Tito Ortiz’s girlfriend, Jenna Jameson, a moron.
But I still don’t think it’s an intentional marketing ploy on White’s part. If it were, he wouldn’t be walking around in the Affliction t-shirts, rubbing elbows with the fighters whenever he gets the chance. I think White is a little caught up with how much power he has, and he forgets that the fighters are the talent and you have to be nice to the talent.
After all, nobody is paying to see White swear at TV cameras. They’re paying to see Randy Couture demolish every heavyweight in the division. At least, they were.