Friday, October 12, 2007

The Best Story in Sports is Over...or is it?

So, I get home from work today and suddenly I read that Randy Couture has stepped away from UFC and his heavyweight title. For a second I was shocked, but then I got hopeful (you'll see why). This story appears to have 2 elements, at least that's what Randy is saying;

1) Randy wants Fedor;
At 44 Randy has been pushing for UFC to sign Fedor Emelianenko, the fighter many consider to be the best heavyweight in the world. Simply put Randy wanted to end his career fighting to determine for certain who is the best fighter in the world.

Earlier this week Fedor was signed by M1, another MMA promotion, making a potential Couture v. Fedor match up just about impossible. With Randy now stepping away from UFC he might be able to sign with another promotion (M1?) depending on the wording of his contract. Even though he had 2 more fights on his UFC contract this article says that he could wait 9 months for his contract to lapse and then be free. That seems a little suspect to me, but I hope it's true.

In everything I've read quoting straight from Randy he has used the word "resign" not "retire." Until I hear something different I think there's a reason behind that.

Lastly, in his last fight he broke his arm while defeating Gonzaga. If he's got to wait a while to fight because of his contract it's not like he's losing time, he wouldn't have been fighting anytime soon to begin with.

2) Randy's Respect & UFC's new perception challenge, what they pay the fighters;
Regarding UFC's showing Randy respect, I'll just say this; I've always been mystified by the fact that Dana has always pushed Chuck Liddell as almost the singular face of the UFC when he is really a bland guy. Sure, Chuck is a great fighter, but when he talks he puts me to sleep. Dana made a pretty big mistake in my opinion by focusing primarily on one fighter (Liddell) when he has a ton of more interesting guys on the roster (Rampage). I mean come on...Just once I'd like to watch a UFC commercial with Rampage and not have him only referred to as "The man who knocked out Chuck Liddell" how about showing that he's MMA's most charismatic athlete. Even many non-UFC fans at least know Liddell, I just think Dana should have cast his net a little wider to they might know Liddell and Randy, Liddell and Rich Franklin, etc.

On to the pay...
Here's a good article on this issue. The sport had to fight long and hard to be considered legitimate and not barbaric. They've had great success on that front. Now something new might have popped up.

I've heard a lot of veteran mixed martial artists rip UFC for the amount they pay their fighters. For example, in a Frank Shamrock interview he said that UFC really stands for "You Fight Cheap." Now Couture has brought up that issue. We all know that Randy wasn't starving, in fact he was getting paid well, but if you Google "UFC Payouts" and look down the card it's interesting. The top guys get a ton, as they should. However the lower you go the pay seems pretty pathetic for world class professional athletes. These guys only get to fight a few times a year and have to find a way to pay for training and life in general. Here's an example, the payouts from UFC 70 (Information from the Nevada State Athletic Commission)

-Gabriel Gonzaga ($60,000) def. Mirko CroCop ($350,000)
-Andrei Arlovski ($160,000) def. Fabricio Werdum ($80,000)
-Michael Bisping ($24,000) def. Elvis Sinosic ($8,000)
-”Lyoto” Ryoto Machida ($40,000) def. David Heath ($6,000)
-Cheick Kongo ($40,000) def. Assuerio Silva ($8,000)
-Terry Etin ($12,000) def. Matt Grice ($3,000)
-Junior Assuncao ($6,000) def. David Lee ($2,000)
-Alessio Sakara ($20,000) def. Victor Valimaki ($3,000)
-Jess Liaudin ($6,000) def. Dennis Siver ($3,000)
-Paul Taylor ($8,000) def. Edilberto Crocota ($4,000)

I'm not saying for sure that the guys in the low and mid card certainly deserve a lot more money, but if you look at the numbers it looks like they might. Dana might want to be ready to explain the fair market value of a mid card fighter...then again I'm probably the only one who cares about the legitimate fair market value of a mid card mixed martial artist.

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