UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture is officially out of the UFC business and will be claiming his stake with the Viacom family to produce and star in MMA-related content for television, as was announced on Tuesday.

Bellator’s recent move from MTV2 to Spike TV has seen a few changes to North America’s No. 2 MMA promotion, and previously held plans for the promotion’s growth are beginning to take shape with the announcement. Bellator’s fight cards are now shown on Thursday nights with healthier audience numbers, and the previously talked about cross-promotional television shows under the Viacom umbrella are now congealing with Bellator on Spike to create a larger framework for the relationship.

It appears that Randy Couture will be a big part of this new television approach for Bellator. Seeing as his legacy is a sizable one in MMA history, his presence should prove to benefit the image of Bellator and Spike.

It was announced on Tuesday that Couture is contracted to star in multiple MMA-related television shows for Spike in a “creative partnership,” and two projects have been declared. Fans might have heard about Bellator’s plans for a TUF-like reality/competition show to introduce up-and-coming fighters looking to compete on television for a chance to earn their way into the promotion’s tournaments. The name of that franchise is Fight Master: Bellator MMA.

Couture will be appearing on the show as a coach alongside former Bellator featherweight champion Joe Warren, famed trainer Greg Jackson and former Strikeforce and UFC champion Frank Shamrock.

“The Natural” will also be a part of another show titled MMA Rescue, which will be similar to television programs such as Bar Rescue and Kitchen Nightmares, where a professional is sent into a business setting to help it become more successful.

It appears that Couture’s face will be seen for multiple years by Spike television audiences from what was specified. Using his celebrity really seems like a no-brainer given how identifiable he is in the eyes of MMA fans. That will be a good anchor to keep viewers interested in watching an old lion mix with Bellator’s lesser-known roster of fighters.

Spike was once home to the UFC before their deal expired and Fox picked the UFC up for network broadcasting along its family of channels. Still, many fans identify Spike TV with MMA even after a lengthy absence from producing any new MMA content. When Spike was the UFC’s home, fans saw Couture host the inaugural season of TUF, as well as seeing him compete on several cards broadcast on the channel. Bellator is smartly filling the void left with that lingering audience that the UFC and Spike helped to create. If its recent ratings boost is any indication, then such plans to capture and develop that audience are already working. Couture will be an added incentive for fans to keep coming back to watch the familiar alongside the new.

We’re destined to hear Couture’s legacy retold countless times to give fresh fans a quick recap of his accomplishments. It will be interesting to see how Spike and Bellator utilize his past while distancing themselves from the organization where Couture built his entire career. Nonetheless, it won’t be a hard sell to get people on board with the former two-division world champion and Expendables film star. People should be easily receptive to Couture’s long-established celebrity and his past accomplishments that will be promoted ad nauseam by his new television partners.

What some might wonder now is how Couture’s legacy will be remembered from here out.

Anyone that has listened to UFC President Dana White recently has heard tales of a not-so-great “Captain America” when it comes to business. White was bitterly happy to let Couture go from the UFC, and there will be a lot of history left between the two that will now become a sore subject. Couture has recently responded by sarcastically thanking White for giving the situation such attention by speaking publicly about it. That is something that will only cause more eyes on both sides to watch for any more drama and how the former colleagues will develop without each other—more so in the case of tracking progress with Couture’s new job.

It’s not as though we haven’t seen warning signs before this recent break-up.

Couture decided to leave the UFC with two fights left on his contract in 2007 while filming for the movie The Scorpion King 2: Rise of the Warrior because the UFC was unable to secure him a fight with Fedor Emelianenko. This was the second time that Couture had retired from MMA up to that point. It is also reminiscent of the current situation and the pattern seen throughout the years where we see Couture making career decisions outside of the UFC when he has a spat with the company. Not that he is guilty for making a living, but the way in which he departs from his business partners is what seems problematic.

When the Emelianenko fight failed to materialize outside of the UFC, Couture went back to the promotion and etched another run in MMA that further cemented his name in the history books. Nobody expected Couture to resume MMA at age 44, but he did, defying the odds like few others ever could. He concluded the remainder of his UFC tenure—until his last fight and retirement in 2011—with a run of 3-3, with four of those fights being main event appearances.

In late 2010, Couture appeared in the Electronic Arts video game EA Sports MMA as a playable character and his image was used on the cover of the game box, something that may have been confusing to most fans of the sport seeing as the game featured many Strikeforce fighters and the UFC had just released its first MMA-based video game, UFC 2009 Undisputed, published by THQ the year prior.

Couture was legally clear to participate in the game since the UFC did not hold the rights to his likeness, but the disconnect of the business decision seemed like a unloyal move on Couture’s part since Strikeforce was a direct competitor to the UFC at that point.

Perhaps some of the negative light that White has eluded to concerning Couture outside of the cage has a tint of truth to it. But at this point, his days of retiring and going back and forth with being employed by the UFC are over.

Couture now has the full backing of the Viacom family and the fresh wounds with his divorced employers might never be repaired. Regardless, in the fight game, Couture has been an anomaly of accomplishment and one of its true pioneers in the modern era, even if he sometimes forgets to be grateful to the people that helped him to get where he is today when a situation arises where they don’t happen to agree with his desires. His current stint on Spike TV should prove to keep his relevance and strong name recognition a continuing factor in MMA for several more years to come. The that legacy might not be so pristine when we look at it up close, however.

Ask the UFC how it feels about it—and perhaps even ask Bellator in a few years—and the promotion might reply acrimoniously with the old adage: There’s no business like show business.

Photo: Randy Couture (Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog)

About The Author

David Massey
Staff Writer

David Massey studied Humanities and Art History at the University of Central Oklahoma. He first found interest in MMA from the first TUF show and has been hooked ever since. He began posting on mmajunkie then submitting Sunday Junkie entries and that began his interest in writing about MMA. Through twitter David found other MMA enthusiasts and began contributing articles to marqueemma.com. He looks forward to growing as a writer and being a part of the sport he loves.