Randy Couture -- UFC Hall of Famer, current heavyweight champion and color commentator, as well as mixed martial arts legend -- has resigned from the organization after news emerged yesterday that superstar free agent Fedor Emelianenko had signed on with M-1 instead of the UFC, according to FightNetwork.com.
Couture and Emelianenko were penciled in to clash on SuperBowl weekend in February 2008 if contract terms were able to be reached with the PRIDE FC heavyweight champion.
It didn't happen.
Here's a snip from "The Natural:"
"I appreciate this opportunity the sport of MMA and the UFC has given me. However, I'm tired of swimming upstream at this stage with the management of the UFC. It only makes sense at this point in my career to fight Fedor Emelianenko, and since he's now signed with another organization, I feel like it's time to resign and focus on my other endeavors."
Indeed, with mind-blowing wins over two of the top fighters in the division (Tim Sylvia and Gabriel Gonzaga) since his comeback in March of this year, Couture perhaps feels that there is not much left to prove.
The 44-year-old had two fights remaining on his contract.
In addition, Dave Meltzer at WrestlingObserver.com is reporting that Couture (and other fighters) is unhappy about the big paydays that were promised to the Russian during the failed negotiation process.
Here's more on that:
"It is known Couture was one of the top UFC fighters who was unhappy when reading about the huge money guaranteed in the company's offers to Emelianenko, because he felt he and a few others were the fighters who helped build the current popularity and they weren't getting guaranteed income for fights anywhere near that level, particularly since they were bigger drawing cards."
This is without question a monster blow to the organization, which was riding the crest of his remarkable return and stunning unanimous decision win over Sylvia at UFC 68. He was as marketable as marketable gets, helping promote the sport of mixed martial arts along the way as its most respected and well-spoken ambassador.
There is no telling how Zuffa will handle this situation and the now-vacant heavyweight strap. However, it's possible that the winner of the fight between Sylvia and Brandon Vera will go up against the winner of the bout between Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Cheick Kongo.
In the meantime, Couture plans to focus on his budding film career and other business ventures such as his popular training facilities.
Who knows ... maybe we'll see him back in action someday soon against Emelianenko.
It just won't happen under the UFC banner.