So far, Mark Cuban’s HDNet Fights has been a bit player in the burgeoning Mixed Martial Arts game, but that may be changing. This week HDNet filed suit in Dallas district court seeking to get MMA star Randy Couture out of his promotional contract with Zuffa LLC, which owns the Ultimate Fighting Championship -- or as it is more commonly known, the UFC. In the MMA world, this is a very big deal for a couple of reasons, which follow after the jump.
For most casual fans of Mixed Martial Arts, the UFC is the only game in town. That’s because the UFC has bought up all its main competitors (such as Japan’s PRIDE, which was viewed as a superior league) and has signed all of the sport’s top stars to contracts that prevent them from fighting for anyone else. Couture, the reigning UFC heavyweight champ, had such a contract until he “retired” from the UFC in October. That’s where the legal wranglings come in.
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According to Adam Swift, editor of MMApayout.com, Couture had two contracts with the UFC: an employment, or fight, contract; and a promotional contract. The way the UFC sees it, Couture isn’t out of his contract until he gives the UFC two more fights. Couture’s camp says that’s not the case. They say they fulfilled the 18 months he agreed to give the UFC, and now he’s free to fight for whoever he wants. Which brings us to the fight Cuban is trying to put on, which would sort of be a modern-day, no-holds-barred version of Rocky IV.
The main reason Couture wanted out of his UFC contract, conventional thinking goes, is because he wanted to fight the undisputed beast of the sport: Fedor Emelianenko, an absolute bad-ass who has never lost (the one loss on his record was because of a cut that wouldn’t stop bleeding, not because he was losing). Fight fans have wanted to see Fedor v. Couture for some time. Problem, is Fedor doesn’t fight for the UFC. By wiggling out of his UFC contract, Couture was free to fight whoever he wanted, or so he thought. Now it’s up to a court to decide. But if Cubes gets his way, this will be the big splash he’s been hoping to make in the MMA world.
“It would sort of be a Rocky IV storyline,” Swift tells Unfair Park today. “You have Couture, this Captain America Olympic wrestler, fighting against this Russian who has never lost. It’s the fight everyone wants to see.”
Knowing Cuban, he’ll probably get it. --Jesse Hyde