Could UFC 102 Mark the End of Randy Couture's UFC Career?

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Could UFC 102 Mark the End of Randy Couture's UFC Career?
(Photo by Chris Farina/Getty Images)

Understand right off the bat that this is 100% speculation and the results of spending too much time thinking about a fight that would have been awesome to see in 2003 or 2004.

2009? Not so much.

Discussing the fight early today on the latest Watch Kalib Run Cage Cast, two very different scenarios came to mind where the end result is UFC 102 serving as Randy Couture's last dance with the organization.

While the thought of "The Natural" no longer being a part of the UFC may seem like a unrealistic idea to some, taking a closer look at the situation reveals that such a conclusion may not be as unlikely as you might think.

No location is closer to home for Randy Couture than Portland, Oregon. While he has shifted his training and home to Las Vegas over the last few years, Couture, like both Ed Herman and Chris Leben, is a product of the Pacific Northwest.

Before establishing Xtreme Couture, "The Natural" was a founding member of the area's premier camp, Team Quest, along with Matt Lindland and Dan Henderson. While Couture is always a crowd favorite wherever he fights, there is sure to be an even larger than normal Couture contingent in the building on Saturday night.

Additionally, while fighting is still very much a part of Randy Couture's daily routine, the former multi-time UFC champion has an ever-expanding resume and list of pursuits that don't involve getting punched in the face.

Two weeks ago he was in the corner of Gina Carano for her historic confrontation with Cris Cyborg.

The Xtreme Couture brand continues to grow, both as a clothing line and as a gym. While the daily operations of such endeavours may not fall directly into Couture's own hands, he undoubtedly has a great deal of involvement with anything tired to his name and image.

Furthermore, the former Olympic alternate has continued his foray into the acting business, with the upcoming Sylvester Stallone film The Expendables next to hit theatres, while two other projects are currently listed in different stages of production according to his IMDB page.

When you add everything together and combine it with a fight in his own backyard, a win Saturday night could serve as a perfect "ride off into the sunset" moment for the man who has retired before.

Of course, that's only the warm fuzzy angle.

The nasty, grimy, "could it really happen" angle is one that arises should Couture come out on the wrong side of the results on Saturday night against Nogueira.

As everyone knows, Couture was recently introduced as one of the stars of the highly-anticipated EA Sports MMA title, something that at least raises questions considering the hard line approach Dana White has express about fighters being involved with that title and their opportunities with the UFC.

Simply put, White has stated anyone involved in the game will not have any opportunities with the UFC. The question is whether that extends to Couture?

Now, Couture actually entered into his agreement with EA Sports some time ago and has a clause in his contract that allows him to retain his ancillary rights, so this isn't necessarily as unexpected or intriguing as it would be if say, Anderson Silva signed up with EA Sports, but it's still worth exploring.

Hypothetically speaking, if Couture was to lose to Nogueira on Saturday night, the UFC would have the option to release Couture, as per a condition built into most fighter's contracts with the UFC.

Couple that with his participation in the EA Sports venture would produce a loud and clear message to the rest of the fighting population that Dana White's earlier statements were more than just his usual tough talk.

Would the UFC drop such a well-known and marketable entity as Couture, given how much he has expressed an interested in fighting Strikeforce's prized acquisition Fedor Emelianenko?

Probably not, but if ever Dana White & Co. wanted to back up their tough talk with some serious action, handing a Hall of Famer his walking papers for siding with the opposition would certainly fit the bill.

If someone had said two months ago that Affliction would pull the plug on Trilogy just days before the show and Fedor would sign with Strikeforce, you would have wondered how much glue that person had just finished sniffing.

Even now that it has happened, people still shake their heads in disbelief.

As far-fetched as these speculations sound, don't forget that this is the fight game and anything can happen.

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