by Ken Pishna & Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com
LAS VEGAS – Heavyweight champion Randy Couture abruptly resigned from the Ultimate Fighting Championship on Oct. 11. He followed up with a press conference from his Xtreme Couture gym in Las Vegas on Oct. 25 detailing the reasons for his resignation.
“This was never a money issue,” he said. “It’s been a prevailing feeling of respect that wasn’t being given.”
However, much of the information doled out at that press conference centered on various facts and figures related to Couture’s compensation.
On Tuesday, UFC president Dana White, co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta and Chief Financial Officer John Mulkey held a press conference from Zuffa, LLC (the UFC’s parent company) headquarters in Las Vegas to “address some statements that Randy Couture made about the UFC and his pay that are false,” according to White.
“I sat back and watched his press conference last week on TV, on Thursday, and I have to be honest with you,” added Fertitta, “I felt that the statements that he made had so grossly misrepresented the facts that I felt that we needed to protect ourselves because I felt that the statements were made in a way meant to hurt us. The fact is you can only sit back and be silent for so long. The facts are the facts. We have the facts.”
The UFC refuted much of what Couture said, producing checks cashed by him, both in reference to a disputed “signing bonus” and total monies for pay-per-view bonuses indicating that the heavyweight champion did receive an amount differing from his presentation.
“When he signed and executed the promotional agreement he was awarded a signing bonus of $500,000 of which half was to be paid upon signing and half upon the completion of his first fight which was UFC 68,” stated Mulkey.
The UFC did produce a letter written by White to Couture dated Jan. 12 detailing the signing bonus as well as a cashed checked signed by Couture dated Jan. 30 for $250,000.
Although the letter only indicated a $250,000 signing bonus, an additional check for $250,000 dated March 3, 2007 and referenced as “UFC 68 Bonus” was issued to Couture, which would seem to back up the $500,000 amount referenced both by the UFC and Couture.
The biggest difference here seems to be that the UFC considered the $500,000 a signing bonus, with the letter from White backing up at least half of that amount, and Couture calling it an “off the books” bonus and the $250,000 check in January an “advance” on that bonus.
For the first time in it’s history, and probably the last, the UFC opened its financial records to the media showing the signing bonus, as well as his bout pay and pay-per-view revenue.
The numbers cited by Couture last Thursday during his press conference were clearly in contrast to the documents presented at Zuffa headquarters on Tuesday. Couture estimated that he received a half million dollars from pay-per-view sales following the bout with Tim Sylvia at UFC 68, while the numbers, including check receipts, produced by the UFC totaled $936,000 based on 540,000 buys.
UFC documents also project buys for the Gonzaga fight, at UFC 74, at 485,000, which would mean $787,000 to Couture according to his pay-per-view bonus scale.
Not including his $500,000 signing bonus, the UFC indicated that Couture’s pay for the Sylvia fight totaled $1.186 million and $1.072 million for the Gonzaga fight, some of which is indicative of the pay-per-view estimates and a $35,000 “Fight of the Night” bonus for the latter bout.
In addition to fight-related pay, Mulkey also stated that Couture had an employment agreement with the company that paid him $200,000 per year, as well as approximately $56,000 for commentating fees.
Couture last week stated that he and his lawyer interpret that his current contract will expire in nine months.
The UFC disputed that claim, White saying, “We’ll find out. Randy Couture got a half a million dollar signing bonus eight months ago to sign this contract with us and we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure he honors it.”
Asked if there would be any legal action taken against Couture, Fertitta responded, “That’s up to Randy.
“From our perspective, Randy Couture is still under contract with the UFC, and we will do whatever we have to do to continue to protect our rights.”
White added, “I hope not. I don’t want to play this out in court.
“If Tito Ortiz and I can work things out, I’m sure Randy Couture and I can.”
He also revealed that the UFC plans to offer Couture, possibly later this week, a fight with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira for early 2008.
“As far as I’m concerned here today, Randy Couture is our heavyweight champion, and we’re going to figure this thing out.”