Randy Couture may be a UFC legend, but the promotion no longer wants him around.

Recently, the UFC banned the former five-time, two-division champion from being backstage at its events. If you have taken the time to read “The Natural’s” book, you can recall that he had a rough experience with the UFC throughout his career, with the two sides continuously butting heads on various issues. Still, the promotion and the fighter were able to get together as they moved on from fight to fight until his retirement after his loss at UFC 129 to Lyoto Machida.

While things then were still fairly rocky, it appeared as though cooler heads would prevail and the two parties would be able to get along with each other. Alas, that was not the case. The UFC Hall of Famer signed a contract with Viacom to work exclusively with Bellator MMA on its now-airing television series Fight Master, which is a reality show similar to The Ultimate Fighter. With Couture headed back to the network that the UFC had just left behind and to work with a promotion that could easily be considered its biggest competition, the UFC decided that enough was enough and pulled the plug on allowing him backstage at events.

Based on the evidence, that is a reasonable thing for the UFC to do. Sure, this is a guy that helped carry the promotion to where it is today, but based on the continuous history of the two sides bumping heads, culminating with a jump over to the competition, the decision makes sense. Or at least it would if Couture was just backstage to hang out with friends and trade barbs with UFC President Dana White.

However, he’s not. He’s there to assist and corner his son, UFC lightweight Ryan Couture. But the UFC won’t even let him do that, and that’s where this situation doesn’t make sense.

What first needs to be taken into consideration is the fact that in the fight business, cornermen are officially called “seconds” and must officially be approved by the presiding commission in order to be in their fighter’s corner. Some commissions allow more seconds than others, and the commission has the right to approve or deny anyone as a second. This decision, just like that of assigning referees to an event, is in the hands of the commission and not the promotion.

Preventing Couture from being able to corner his son or any other fighter who he has trained doesn’t just hurt Couture, it hurts that fighter and puts them at an immediate and unfair disadvantage.

Sure, the promotion has the ability to pick and choose who it wants working for it, whether it is backstage, around the cage, or at its offices. What the promotion should not have the power to do is decide who fighters can and cannot have in their corner, helping them and providing tactical advice throughout the bout. Not allowing Couture to walk out behind his son and give Hall-of-Fame advice is flat out not allowing him to do his job as a trainer. That decision should be up to the commission, not a promoter who is tasting sour grapes.

The question from here is, where is the line? Legendary MMA trainer Greg Jackson is a coach on Fight Master as well. As it currently stands, he is the coach of current UFC champions Jon Jones and Georges St-Pierre, along with former interim champion Carlos Condit and many other top fighters. Does his participation with the show have any effect on whether or not he will be allowed to stand behind his current champions or other fighters? Why does Couture receive a ban while Jackson apparently does not?

What about World Series of Fighting president Ray Sefo, who was in the corner of Vitor Belfort when then-middleweight champion Anderson Silva landed a front-kick knockout against Belfort? Sure, at the time, WSOF did not yet exist, but if one of Sefo’s current training partners wants the WSOF president in his corner, would it be allowed? Or what about the fate of Silva’s manager, Ed Soares, who currently also serves as the president of Resurrection Fighting Alliance? Will Soares or Jackson not be allowed backstage due to the fact that they are working elsewhere?

Personally, I don’t think that Jackson, Sefo or Soares will have to worry about any participation behind the scenes at a UFC event, at least for now. If they are backstage promoting themselves or trying to sign a guy to a rival promotion rather than actually focusing their attention on what cornermen and managers typically do, then obvious problems would arise. But as long as they stick to their appropriate tasks, they won’t be faced with a similar ban.

Between Couture, Jackson, Sefo and Soares, the obvious outlier is “The Natural.” The UFC likely feels as though it was knifed in the back by the Hall of Famer. Although the two sides had a symbiotic relationship with each other, they weren’t exactly ever happy with each other. Regardless of the promotion’s long history with the fighter, however, it should not have the authority to keep Couture from cornering his son in UFC fights.

Photo: Randy Couture (Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog)

About The Author

Brian McKenna
Staff Writer

Brian McKenna was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. A sports nut from as long as he can remember, he came to be a fan of Mixed Martial Arts from a roommate watching The Ultimate Fighter while attending Westfield State College. Brian came to writing by starting his own blog, Four Down Territory, which focuses on Boston based sports, life, and of course MMA.