Spike TV will hold a special media conference call today (Feb. 5, 2012) to officially announce the details of a partnership with UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture.
The conference call will begin promptly at 2:00 p.m. ET. Scheduled to attend will be former multi-divisional UFC champion Randy Couture and likely some Spike TV executives.
Couture is one of MMA's all-time legends, winning the UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight titles a whopping five times spanning a near 14-year professional career. At 47 years old, "The Natural" officially retired from competition following a second round knockout at the hands of Lyoto Machida and began to focus on a budding movie career as well as sports broadcasting and analysis with Fox.
Everything seemed hunky dory between Couture and UFC but everything quickly unraveled last week when word came out that "Captain America" had voided the final bout of coverage on his contract with Fox and had instead signed a partnership with Viacom which included being a coach on the debut of rival promotion Bellator Fighting Championships' inaugural reality TV series on Spike TV.
Needless to say, UFC President Dana White has been none too pleased with how everything has turned out, calling Couture "the furthest thing from a man" and stating he's glad to never have to deal with him again.
Couture has remained silent while White blew steam, at least until now. Stay tuned.
Brian Hemminger here. The conference call is scheduled to begin at 2:00 p.m. ET.
David Schwartz: A press release will go out in 15 minutes. Today is the announcement of Fight Master with Bellator MMA.
Kevin Kay: I'm extraordinarily excited to announce our coaches and the shows. Bjorn and Bellator have put on three great shows so far on Spike. Today we're joined by Bjorn and four gentlemen who will be coaches on our reality series, Randy Couture, Greg Jackson, Frank Shamrock and Joe Warren.
Kevin Kay: The first call I made was to Frank Shamrock. I have so much respect for what he's done in the sport. He left the UFC after four defenses.
Kevin Kay: The self described Baddest Man on the Planet, Joe Warren was an All American wrestler and stormed his way through the featherweight tournament to claim the title.
Kevin Kay: Finally, one of the greatest trainers in the history of the sport, Greg Jackson is joining us. He's coached 10 world champions at Jackson MMA. I can't tell you how excited I am to have all these men participating with me on the show.
Sharon Levy: The most important thing for us was to keep the spirit of Bellator integral to the format. The format begins with 32 fighters who are given a shot at 100,000 which can change their lives and a slot in a Bellator tournament. They face the biggest decision of their lives, which is who they want to train with. Along the way, our fighters will decide who they face for their elimination fights. They control their own destiny. Will they listen to their coaches, will they fight someone from their team?
Bjorn Rebney: It's exciting for me. I look to my left and Randy Couture is one of hte most admired in all of combat sports. Frank has done everything you can do in the game. Greg Jackson, a guy who's all about combat sports, at the top of the game and then the Baddest Man on the Planet and one of the best personalities in MMA in Joe Warren. It's a spectacular group for us. What it all boils down to is an opportunity. They did an amazing job getting fantastic fighters on our reality show. We're gonna look to find the next Pat Curran, Michael Chandler, Ben Askren and Alexander Shlemenko on this show.
Sharon Levy: We'll begin production imminently and the show will be debuting this summer. We'll be doing a seeding after each fight and the person in the first position gets picked and we go down the line. You may pick someone seeded right under you because you want to put on a good show or they might choose someone further down. It'll show whether fighters want an easier way out or a harder way out.
Sharon Levy: It'll all be one weight class, 32 fighters at welterweight.
Randy Couture: It's an honor to be back with Spike. Spike frankly had the balls to put this on television when nobody else would. That changed the landscape for MMA for the better. It gave people a behind the curtain look at what it takes to be a fighter, that we're not crazy criminals that just beat people up. Now we have an opportunity to do the same thing, to create more opportunity for more fighters in the sport of mixed martial arts.
Randy Couture: Ryan is his own man for sure. He's created his own style and it's a burden for him to drag around the sme last name but he's handled it all in stride. He's had some hard conversations about how it could affect his future in mixed martial arts but he's comfortable. I know how some of the other guys play but I think Ryan is gonna be fine. He's a sharp kid and he's very diligent. Dana's made that transition easy and the media storm has been wonderful. You have to respect Dana's passion, it's very admirable.
Randy Couture: I don't have the answer to the question right now (about cornering Ryan). That's an athletic commission issue and we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Randy Couture: Coaching is where I started before I even started MMA. I'm certainly a much better technical athlete now than I was 7-8 years ago. That will relate to all the fighters I coach and the athletes I work with on this show.
Bjorn Rebney: The cornerstone of this show is about the people behind it. When you look at the team of people that produced this show. You've got the Michael Jordan of reality programming. It will play off of competition. He develops characters, who they are, where they're from and why they're in this competition. We've got the best of the best in coaches and in Birchram, we have the best of the best in reality TV production. What they're trying to accomplish, get in this tournament and potentially become a Bellator champion.
Joe Warren: The real warriors out there are greco roman athletes. It just kind of happened that way. I was a young athlete coming up under Randy for a long time. I watched how he trained and I think it's exciting to have us both on the show.
Randy Couture: It's nice to be working with a new promotion. I worked with a lot of athletes that have fought for Bellator, including one who went on to become a champion in Michael Chandler. I love how you can
Randy Couture: My only involvement so far will be training athletes who will be competing on the show.
Frank Shamrock: When Strikeforce came to an end, it was an emotional thing for me. I launched it with a close friend of mine and it meant a lot to me. I retired, was raising babies and doing my thing. When Kevin Kay called me and told me what he wanted to do, I heard the passion in his voice and to me, it's all about helping out the sport. I wanted to get behind that. He promised me the best in the world and we got the best in the world so I'm excited about what we're going to do and also to have a job.
Greg Jackson: I've worked with Bellator before. I had to keep it hush hush. They might have figured it out by now but the important thing is you can help as many people as you can help. It gives us all an opportunity to help up and coming fighters and give them a place to work on and showcase their skills.
Sharon Levy: That's not the type of show we're making (with alcohol). It's more robust about understanding what the sport, strategy, what fighters are missing in their game. It's not going to be a bunch of drunk guys running around and acting like idiots. You don't high a marquee company to make that type of show. Not every reality show is that type of show. We have Inkmaster here which is all about skill and art. They don't run around like maniacs and act stupid.
Sharon Levy: They do get to choose. It's gonna be a crucial choice for them and they will have just gone through a fight when they make the choice. These legends will have just watched them. As much as we're talking about the fighters, these guys will be in competition against each other. That's going to be critical. The choices will begin with a seeding session, we'll rank each fighter after they fight and they'll get to choose who they work with down the line. The talent and skill of people we work with is unbelievable.
Randy Couture: Hearing a lot of the other things said in the media the last week has been difficult.
Bjorn Rebney: We've got a great commission in Louisiana that will be overseeing all the fights. The commission is top tier and they'll have great oversight and will be working hand in hand with us. We'll reveal whether its exhibitions or official records at a later date.
Kevin Kay: The finale will show up on a Bellator card, the final fight.
Sharon Levy: We will be doing casting just like we would do on any great show. We look for really great failing gyms that Randy and his team can actually help. Like any casting, you need the right story, the right problems, and hope so Randy can come in and save it. It'll have traditional casting process to applications to a lot of work. We're in the very early stages of that. It'll be a 60 minute show.
Randy Couture: It's been an ongoing process. It wasn't as quick as you think. It was a few months, a preliminary process and signing a preliminary pitch. I knew it would create a huge impact there and it was a serious decision and it's been a while in the making.
Randy Couture: I start a new movie in March as soon as we're done filming Fightmaster and then the next show is in August.
Greg Jackson: Like Randy, when we get where we are in this business, you're a master juggler. I'll make sure everything's organized and the great thing is having great assistant coaches. Having that support system allows me to move around a bit.
Sharon Levy: Absolutely these guys are bringing their A+ team. We're very cognizant that they train with top people and that will be really interesting getting a look at their camps, how they work and their relationships with assistants and it's going to be tricky and that's why you hire really good producers.
Bjorn Rebney: We had lots of options and it was the location, the commission, an opportunity to create something special. It was a weigh and balance to figure out the one place we could create the show the way we want to create it. The fights will be two round fights.
Joe Warren: I definitely feel like I'm carrying the Bellator flag. One advantage of being coached by me is that I went through a tournament and won the belt. It's awesome to have that experience and I think that will be a great coaching benefit.
Greg Jackson: I have responsibilities to my fighters and I'll be there for this show and also to be there for my guys as well.
Bjorn Rebney: This won't be winning the show and then going into years of development. You'll be thrown right into our tournament of one of our deepest divisions, swimming with the sharks.
Kevin Kay: No date for the show will be announced just yet.
Kevin Kay: We did a great special on King Mo, King Mo Unrivaled and we're gonna do those with several different fighters.
Sharon Levy: We think this is a unique format and I haven't seen a show where all the decisions are up to the contestants. We think it's fresh.