It’s no secret that Dana White and the UFC/Zuffa are having their problems with Randy Couture and his contract situation. Couture walked away fom his contract with two fights remaining because either he couldn’t get the fight against Fedor Emilianenko that he wanted or because some other fighters were being offered more money than he was, depending on who you believe.
After throwing the UFC heavyweight division into upheaval with his resignation, Couture again thumbed his nose at White by aligning with the International Fight League. He is planning on entering a group of his fighters in this team-based MMA league. In fact, he presently has the Xtreme Couture logo up on the IFL website at http://www.ifl.tv/Team.html.
Unfortunately, whether he wants to acknowledge it or not, Couture still has a vaild contract with Zuffa and an enforceable non-compete clause. Zuffa has now filed suit against Couture in Las Vegas for violating the one-year restricted period that went into effect with his resignation. Zuffa is charging Couture and other unnamed codefendants with engaging in “tortious conduct through print and television interviews in an effort to distort the company’s name and reputation, causing inestimable harm to Zuffa and the business operations of the UFC.”
Zuffa is also seeking an injunction to prevent Couture from participating in any fight event in direct or indirect competition with UFC. It also wants compensatory and punitive damages based on disparaging remarks Couture made about Zuffa and its management.
None of this is good for the sport. As fast as MMA has grown and as popular as the UFC is now, it is still a niche sport. The NFL can get into pissing contests with the old USFL, the XFL or any other fledgling competitor and get away with it. The UFC cannot. This is the sort of thing most people would expect from boxing. Unfortunately, this situation is just going to get worse. Couture will probably file a countersuit, and this will be carried out through lawyers and courts, rather than through civilized discourse. This is a lose-lose situation for everyone. All we will end up with is major stain on the career and reputation of a beloved superstar and cloud over the top MMA organization in the world.