Randy Couture expects the stalemate between Francis Ngannou and the UFC to end up where he did when he went to the mat with the promotion: in court.
“He doesn’t want to be involved in all the legal crap but, at the end of it, right is right and he’s willingly to stand up for his rights and use his voice,” said the UFC heavyweight champion, Hall of Famer, Monday on The MMA Hour .. I don’t think he will give in .”
Almost 15 years ago, Couture drew a line in the sand when he resigned from the UFC with two fights remaining on his contract. After a protracted court battle to win his freedom and fight Fedor Emelianeno, a saga that personally cost him $500,000, he returned to the fold and re-signed to defend his title against Brock Lesnar at UFC 91.
Couture finds it “interesting” things got to this point in the first place; the UFC, he said, gave Ngannou “some leverage” by allowing him to fight out his contract. But he doesn’t expect the same deference over free agency.
Ngannou’s case is unique from Couture’s in the fact that he said he fulfilled his contract at UFC 270 with his win over Ciryl Gane. This is even more so because the contract had a five year time limit. It was believed that this clause was a UFC strategy to minimize potential damage from ongoing antitrust cases. Couture claims that Ngannou is still under UFC contract and has a champion’s clause.
“It is determining when the clock began,” he stated. “When he signed the contract did that clock start, or did it start when he fought that first fight, which was probably a number of months after that. This is for lawyers and legal teams to decide and solve.
” These guys have a lot of money, but not an endless amount. They will drag Francis to court to try to bleed him out of all the money that he earned through fighting. At some point you must make a choice about what to do. This is what happened with me. I was fighting to try and make that Fedor fight happen, spending a lot of my own money fighting the injunctions and things they were trying to do to keep me from executing what I saw in the language of the contract and being able to go somewhere else, because they couldn’t come to terms with M-1 Global, who was representing Fedor.
“Francis will find himself in the same situation. If he tries to walk away [and says] the contract ended here, they’re going to contest that, they’re going to drag him into court, force him to spend a lot of money on lawyers that he’s not going to want to do, and at some point, he’s going to have to make a decision … whether he wants to stop spending money on lawyers and legal issues and go back and doing what he loves to do, which is fight. It’s a shame to be in that situation.”
Couture has witnessed first hand the hard-ball tactics the UFC has used in the past, so he wasn’t surprised to hear that the promotion threatened to sue Ngannou’s agent on the day of UFC 270.
“This is classic Zuffa and Dana White,” Couture said. “At the end of the day, they don’t want Francis to have that power. They would have been much happier if Francis would have lost that fight. I think that’s what they expected to happen, and I think Dana White can say whatever he wants, but he didn’t show up in that cage to put that belt around his heavyweight champion, he didn’t show up to the post-fight press conference, and there’s a reason for that. It’s not because he didn’t want Francis to win the fight, it was because he wanted Francis to be dealt with. We’d see Francis being cut right now, but Francis is still the champ and still holding that strap. He’s got to be dealt .”
Like Couture, Ngannou has said his demands for moving forward with the UFC are not based solely on money. Instead, they’re about a level of respect and the ability to pursue long-held passions, which in the champ’s case is a boxing match with someone like Tyson Fury.
They have used similar language to express their pain. But while Couture has gotten on the mat with Ngannou a few times at his Xtreme Couture gym where the champ trains, he said he hasn’t spoken specifically about his history with the promotion. Mostly, he passed along lessons to his longtime Xtreme Couture coach Eric Nicksick, who eventually became Ngannou’s head coach.
Couture doesn’t regret throwing in the towel on his legal battle, though he laments that many of the “loopholes” he saw in the contract were later closed by the UFC, making them even more restrictive. In the end, however, he decided that fighting and being the best in the world was much more important than waiting on the sidelines.
” I wanted to fight,” said he. He said, “At end of the day I’m still a fighter. I wanted to take a stand for myself and my family for what was best and for my financial interest and future. I wanted to be considered the No. 1 athlete in the world, and that meant fighting Fedor Emelianenko. They had him ranked as No. 1 and me ranked as No. 2. As a fighter, that’s the guy I want to fight, and I’m sure Francis would feel the same way. At the end of the day, we’re fighters. It’s what we love and it is our passion. This .”
is what we want.