UFC 91: Randy Couture vs Brock Lesnar?

Hell hasn't frozen over just yet, but the temperature is definitely dropping.

What started as an ugly rumor is now snowballing into the biggest news story of 2008: Randy Couture's return to the UFC.

Say what?

Dave Meltzer is reporting that exiled UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture is not only negotiating a new contract, but that his return could come as early as November at UFC 91 against the albino gorilla known as Brock Lesnar.

That means an end to his nine-month legal battle with Zuffa, but does it mean an end to his desired dream match against Fedor Emelianenko?

Not so, according to Ariel Helwani. MMA Rated says the UFC is also considering a proposal from M-1 Global to co-promote a Randy Couture vs. Fedor Emelianenko bout following the Lesnar fight in November and a possible third fight against current interim champion Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira sometime after that.

That of course begs the question: What happens to Minotauro's belt if Couture returns? And what happens to Couture's?

Since Randy is reportedly negotiating a new three-fight contract and not a repair of his old one, the landscape of the UFC heavyweight division could change significantly upon his return.

In fact, an announcement could come as early as next week.

But let us proceed with caution, because contracts are an ugly business. A verbal offer is worth as much as the paper it's printed on. And "negotiations" are worth even less.

Am I to believe that Randy Couture would stand on ceremony for the past year, hemming and hawing about fighter poverty and a dream match with Emelianenko, only to be reinstated with the promise of a fat paycheck and a pasty ex-wrestler?

That means Randy is like a junk bond, easily bought and sold at the mercy of the market. I'm not ready to go from "Captain America" to "Corporate America" just yet.

And how could the UFC bag the Russian Regulator from M-1 for just one fight? Why would UFC President Dana White grant Fedor a one-shot deal to face "The Natural"? It doesn't make sense, unless Randy relinquishes his title.

Forget about the 6-10 million Couture wants to fight "The Cyborg". Dana isn't going to forfeit the credibility of his heavyweight division by letting Fedor come in for one fight, because if he wins it's not just egg on the face of the UFC, it's the whole chicken.

Not to mention the UFC heavyweight division is a much different place than it was when Randy went AWOL. The UFC has a very worthy champion in Nogueira and fans who haven’t warmed up to Nog yet will certainly get their chance when he appears on The Ultimate Fighter 8 opposite Frank Mir later this year.

And is anyone not excited to see more of up-and-coming superstars like Brock Lesnar, Cain Velasquez and Shane Carwin?

What prompted all of this? Who really needs who? Does Randy need the UFC or vice-versa?

I guess the answers to these questions will be very telling as they're revealed over the next few days.

Of course none of us our privy to the negotiations that are rumored to be taking place, and I'm not looking to make anyone the villain.

But after a year of mud-slinging it just seems unlikely that Couture's return can happen without someone looking like a money-grubbing liar.

I hope for legacy's sake it isn't Randy.

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