Randy Couture will now be a fixture at Bellator and Spike TV with his new multi-year deal that will see him coach the new reality show Fight Masters as well as take part in another program called MMA Rescue.
The decision to move to Bellator and Spike TV came at the expense of Couture's long standing relationship with Zuffa and the UFC. The former two-weight class champion admits that it wasn't an easy call to move to Spike TV knowing that it would all but sever any ties he had left with his former employers.
During a media conference call on Tuesday, Couture told Bleacher Report about the gravity of his decision.
It's been an ongoing process; it wasn't as quick as you'd think. It's been a few months of preliminary discussions, and signing an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) to even hear the pitch, and then for me making a very important decision as to my future with Zuffa and the rest of things. Because I know it was going to create a huge impact there. It's been a serious decision and it's been a while in the making.
Following the initial announcement that Couture would be joining Bellator and Spike TV, UFC President Dana White unleashed a verbal tirade aimed directly at the former champion. As he explained when he spoke to reporters after UFC 156, he believed Couture engaged in duplicitous business dealings to sign the new contract.
Randy Couture—it was around Christmas time, his lawyer sends in a letter and cancels and bails on the last show that he's doing for us (working as an analyst for Fox). He doesn’t want to do the last show after they beg me for a f—king job. So I'm like, what the hell's going on here?
I start digging around and I find out he's talking about doing a deal with Bellator and Spike. I call his lawyer and I went "me" on his lawyer, is the best way I can explain it, and then I called Randy. Called him over and over and over again, he wouldn't even answer his phone.
Three hours later he texts me and I said, "Did you or did you not do a deal with those guys?"
No, no, no, I called him and called him and called him and then he texts me and says, "What's up, boss? I hear you're flipping out. I did not sign a deal with Spike or Bellator but I'm talking to two other networks right now."
I said if you tell me you did not bail on my last f—king fight, and go do a deal with them; I don't give a s—t what network you sign with. I don't care if it's freaking HBO, the Food Network, I could care less who it is. Are you saying that you did not sign a deal?
"I did not sign a deal with them, stop worrying, relax, and have a great Christmas, and we'll talk later." To this f—king day, sitting right here, right now, we still have not talked. I knew the whole time that he was doing the deal, even when I was talking to him and he was lying to me, not even to my face, not even on the phone, but through text.
White now maintains that his relationship with Couture is finished, and he will no longer be welcomed in any way to UFC events or productions.
On Tuesday, Couture's response to White's accusations were very calm and even-mannered, and he ultimately even thanked his former employer for the very public comments over the last few days that kept his name in the press.
In a lot of ways you have to thank Dana White—he's made this transition for me back to Spike very, very good. He's made it easy. The media storm and sensation has been wonderful, we really appreciate that. I have to thank him for that, you have to respect his passion for what he does, and that's admirable.
Outside of that, Couture stuck to the business at hand—promoting his role as coach on the new Bellator reality show that begins filming in the next couple of weeks. Once the show finishes, Couture will get back to his acting career with a new movie filming in March as well as the popular action film series The Expendables, which beings production on the third installment in August.
As far as Couture's future dealings with the UFC in regards to potentially showing up to corner his fighters, including his son Ryan Couture, he's going to leave that up to the athletic commissions who oversee licensing for such matters.
"I don’t have the answer to that question right now. I think it's an athletic commission issue, and I guess we'll cross that bridge when and if we get to it," said Couture.
Couture stayed on the high road avoiding any kind of back-and-forth chatter to further stir the brewing storm between him and Dana White. For now, Couture's focus will get back to coaching on the new Bellator reality show and putting his days with the UFC and Zuffa behind him.
Damon Martin is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.