by Tom Hamlin – MMAWeekly.com
Amidst a groundswell of rumor and speculation concerning former UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture’s future, the Ultimate Fighting Championship on Tuesday announced that “The Natural” is indeed returning to the Octagon.
Couture will face rising star Brock Lesnar in the main event of UFC 91 in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Nov. 15. The fight will be a five-round, title bout, Couture’s first since resigning from the organization in October of 2007.
There was strong speculation the Nov. 15 event would take place in Portland, Ore., but UFC president Dana White said that despite ongoing negotiations to do an event in Portland, and future plans to do so, this fight would take place in Las Vegas.
In announcing the fight, White steered away from saying that Lesnar, with a 1-1 record in the UFC and 2-1 overall in his MMA career, was the No. 1 contender for the heavyweight title. He offered no defense of the bout being for the title, saying, “We can basically put on fights that fans want to see… Mark my words, Couture vs. Lesnar will be the biggest fight in UFC history.”
The announcement appears to have ended a legal battle between Couture and the owners of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Zuffa, LLC, over the terms of his fight contract. Up until the announcement was made, the two parties were in arbitration proceedings to determine if and when Couture would be able to fight outside of the UFC.
Due to Couture’s absence, the UFC had crowned Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira its interim heavyweight champion. He is scheduled to defend his interim title against Frank Mir in December. White said that fight would still take place with the winner facing the winner of Couture and Lesnar sometime in 2009 to unify the heavyweight title.
Couture has reportedly begun training full time for the bout at his Las Vegas Xtreme Couture gym.
Stay tuned to MMAWeekly.com as we will have further in-depth coverage as the story develops…