Legendary MMA Artist and fan favorite, Randy ‘The Natural’ Couture, has uttered the ‘U-word’ word on television.
In a set of brief remarks on AXS TV, Couture weighed in on the subject of fighter compensation and for the most part, stated that if the promotions (UFC & Bellator) fail to see the “wisdom” of loosening things up, then perhaps it’s time for “labor and unions to get involved in (the) sport.”
Couture commented that the subject was one that hit “close to home” for him and that as he sees it, the problem is endemic to the sport and not just the UFC.
From the Natural’s point of view, a “small percentage of athletes” are doing well under the current system, while many others are struggling and reliant on sponsorship money to “make up the difference.”
Couture feels that the solution to the problem is for the brands to either develop talent and hold on to it, a scenario that Couture sees as a win / win for all parties concerned, or to remove “some of the restrictions” on contracts and let fighters move back-and-forth between promotions, and “ find the best deal.”
In synopsis, Couture is clearly stating that if things don’t change that it’s time for the fighters to begin to consider unionization.
Couture’s remarks are the strongest to date in a stretch of negative comments, which have left the UFC taking it on the chin over fighter pay. And unlike fighters such as Nate Quarry and Chris Leben who have also and recently spoken up on the issue of fighter pay, Randy Couture is a considerably stronger voice.
As a former UFC heavyweight and light-weight champion, and one of the cornerstones of both the sport’s and the brand’s inception, Couture's statement is an articulation of significance. The Natural is well respected and liked by most, if not all fighters, and his opinion on such matters is apt to carry weight with more than a few. As such, they might be quietly listened to in some corners (no pun intended) and from that, a discussion may well ignite on the subject of a fighter union.
Cynics drawn to the discussion might put Couture’s remarks down to the Natural taking an easy pot shot at the UFC. As Couture and Dana White, the promotion’s president, have something akin to a blood feud going, at least it White’s eyes, it might be a reasonable muse.
However and regardless of Couture’s true motivations for speaking up, it changes not his message. Couture believes that it’s in the best interests of the promotions to “grow the sport for the benefit of the athletes” and, by deduction, not to the singular benefit of the brands. As Couture sees it, if the franchises can’t see the light on their own then perhaps it’ll need to be shown to them.