In today’s MMA world, there is lots of talk about a UFC monopoly, a class action lawsuit against the market leader, a fighter’s union and much more. Back when Japan’s Pride FC organization — the MMA market leader in the pre-TUF era — was still in business, a fighter just had to switch his employer if he was unhappy with his pay scale or personal standing within the promotion. Multiple big-name UFC fighters did this including Vitor Belfort, Mark Coleman and Dan Henderson.
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One name, that never made the move to Japan, is former UFC heavyweight and light-heavyweight champion Randy Couture. On the latest episode of MMA Junkie Radio, the Hall of Famer explained why.
“There was a moment when I was being offered a contract by PRIDE in PRIDE’s heyday,” Couture said. “It was a sizable monetary contract for that time. I had to consider it, for sure. The UFC came back, they had first right of refusal and all that stuff. It ended up making more sense for me to end up staying in the American marketplace.”
Couture continued to explain that the situation of his long-time friend Dan Henderson was one of the main reasons for him not to join the UFC’s biggest competitor.
“I’d been long-time friends with Henderson who’d been fighting in PRIDE for quite a while, but relatively unknown really in the American market because most of his fights had taken place in Japan and there wasn’t a lot of crossover back then. So, even though they may have been offering me a little bit more up-front money, it made more sense in the long run for me to stay in the American market and stay with the UFC. That could have gone a different way. If I’d made the decision to go to PRIDE and try out PRIDE back then it would have been interesting.”
That would have been interesting, indeed. Years later after Pride’s demise, there have been serious talk of a superfight between their former heavyweight kingpin Fedor Emelianenko and Couture, who was the UFC heavyweight champion at the time. Couture even decided to split with the UFC to take the fight at Affliction MMA, but eventually returned after a lengthy legal dispute with Zuffa in 2008. Both Couture and Emelianenko are retired now. Their fight is one of the biggest match-ups in MMA history that never happened.
(Transcription via MMA Junkie)
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