UFC Heavyweight champion Randy “The Natural” Couture retired today and cut all ties with the UFC organization. He still had two fights left on his current contract, but there really wasn’t anyone left for him to fight that would be worthwhile for him. He really wanted to fight Fedor Emilianenko, but UFC and Dana White simply couldn’t get the job done. Fedor had signed with another organization, so with nothing left to tie him to the UFC, Couture decided to use the old “focus on other activities” reason for retirement.
Is this really the end for Couture? The door seems kind of wide for a comeback. If it is really the end, this is a really lame ending for an otherwise amazing career. He is the only UFC fighter to hold championships in two divisions and is also the only UFC Hall of Famer to win a title after he was in the hall. While he was a great fighter his entire career, he’ll be most remembered for his Rocky-esque resurgence at the tail end of his career. After two losses to Liddell, the guy absolutely dominated Tim Sylvia in his return to the heavyweight division.
As much as anyone, he is responsible for the UFC regaining popularity in American. He deserves to go out in the ring after another fight. Even after a loss, fans deserve to see the guy fight one more time and Couture deserved to wave goodbye.
This couldn’t come at a worse time for the UFC. Their most marketable and beloved champion just retired and they couldn’t sign Emilianenko to a deal. Also, their other star, Chuck Liddell, is in the midst of a two fight losing streak after a bad loss to Keith Jardine. The guy’s nickname is “the dean of mean” for God’s sake, come on Chuck. Is it possible that the UFC and President Dana White may have gotten a little overconfident? One of the sticking points with the Fedor deal was the UFC didn’t want Fedor fighting in other organizations while under contract. They wanted Fedor to need them, to come to them because they think of themselves as the alpha-dog in MMA. They apparently didn’t realize that some one could actually say no to them.
Couture vs. Fedor would have been amazing, but at least we get to picture Randy Couture going out as a winner and as a champion. And as long as he doesn’t come back and embarrass himself (he turns 45 in June) at least we got to see a great champion fight while his organization was big enough to showcase him. Will things stay that way? Only time will tell.