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St.Paul Guy 04-20-2011 02:41 PM

Couture pushes for more rights for pugilists

The question of whether or not a fighter’s union is needed in mixed martial arts has been prevalent for some time now and was further highlighted earlier this year by the news that Zuffa, parent company to the UFC, purchased Strikeforce, its top competitor.

For Randy Couture, the answer isn’t a simple "yes" or "no."

Couture isn’t interested in spearheading a war for fighters’ rights, but he said there are issues that absolutely need to be addressed. His hope is that Zuffa and the fighters will come together with open minds before a war is the only option left.

“There’s going to be a battle,” Couture told “I’d rather sit down with the UFC, [president] Dana White and [CEO] Lorenzo Fertitta and figure out a way to implement some things with their blessing.”

On Monday, Couture, 47, announced on his intention to retire from the sport following a light heavyweight bout against Lyoto Machida later this month at UFC 129.

The former UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight champion has seen the sport take tremendous strides in terms of acceptance, regulation and popularity during his time of competition.

According to Couture, fighters are still being deprived of a few fundamental rights, which if rectified would only help the legitimacy of the sport.

“Health insurance for fighters when they’re not competing is a huge issue,” Couture said. “There are a few fighters who could call up the UFC and say, ‘Look, I need some help, I blew out my knee in practice,’ and the UFC is going to help them. They’ve been generous but they can’t do that with everyone. There are over 200 fighters.

“How about a retirement plan of some sort? Or at least educate these guys on how to take care of their money. How many MMA stars, five or six years from now, are going to be broke and destitute? We’ve seen that in boxing, and it’s a shame. An absolute shame.”

Couture has had his own grievances with the UFC during a 14-year professional fighting career, but said he doesn’t blame Zuffa for the fighters’ issues still present in the sport, nor does he necessarily look at the formation of a fighters union as an end-all, be-all solution.

He said he would hate to see the UFC ever endure a saga like the NFL currently is, with fighters threatening a work stoppage.

“There’s a whole bunch of issues when you start unionizing,” Couture said. “Look at football. The players are looking at a lockout because they might have to play two more games in a season and not increase their pay. I mean, why are you in the sport? Because you love to play the game, right?

“There’s a give and take there. [Unions] can sometimes get carried away.”

That is why Couture is hopeful the question of a fighters union becomes an irrelevant one and the issues are resolved in a way that suits both sides.

“It would be great to sit down and figure out a way to take care of the guys in this company so that everybody feels good about it and no one is in a position to have too much power or for a fighter to take advantage of a union and hold out," he said.

“There’s got to be a way to come together and meet on ground that everyone can live with.”

When Randy talks I listen. I would like to see Randy be some sort of UFC fighter representative when he is done fighting. He strikes me as a very intelligent person. My favorite part of the interview is when he says that there doesn't necessarily need to be a union formed to make sure fighters are treated ethically (paraphrasing there).

With the UFC growing larger and all the uncertainty about the long term effects of MMA on fighters health I think something will get done. Dana seems to actually care about his fighters.


khoveraki 04-20-2011 03:06 PM

“How about a retirement plan of some sort? Or at least educate these guys on how to take care of their money. How many MMA stars, five or six years from now, are going to be broke and destitute? We’ve seen that in boxing, and it’s a shame. An absolute shame.”

Ugh ABSOLUTELY. At the very least, every new UFC fighter should be issued and forced to a read their own copy of "Rich Dad, Poor Dad."

Gotta invest that money guys and keep the passive income building. Can't even imagine the type of passive bank Randy takes in... royalties on all those movies, on the books, the fight gear, the gym (whether that's passive or not is debatable), the action figure/s... list goes on and on and Randy could stop doing anything at any point and live comfortably.

cdtcpl 04-20-2011 03:51 PM

I think Randy, and a few other fighters, can probably get 90% of the issues that fighters have taken care of outside a union. He is very much right about the need for insurance, retirement, and other items.

One of the biggest problems facing the players union for football right now is retirement benefits. Most of these guys are piss broke a couple years out of the game and they tend to eat like they still play. Most suffer from joint and back issues by the time they are 40.

Everyone is worried about how much fighters are paid, I think Randy is going after the more meaningful issues facing fighters. If the UFC plays their cards right they can probably get mandatory drug testing on a regular and surprise basis as part of some sort of insurance deal to help lower instances of steroid and other drug use.

Dtwizzy2k5 04-20-2011 07:46 PM

Well said on Randy's part, I think the UFC should and will eventually establish some sort of health insurance plan that comes along with all fighters' contracts. As for retirement planning, that's more of an individual issue that fighters should figure out for themselves. Fighters should have something planned for when they stop fighting, like a second job, going back to school, opening a martial arts gym, etc etc the opportunities are endless. Furthermore, they could just open an IRA like a lot of people do anyways if theyre worried about retirement.

Fine Wine 04-21-2011 12:02 AM

Randy is a very level headed man. Well said by him.

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