Spike TV today announced a press conference on Feb. 5 involving the establishment of a new partnership between the network and UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture.
It was reported Tuesday by Loretta Hunt at SI.com, who was the c-oauthor of Couture's autobiography, that Couture has signed a muti-year contract with the network to appear in multiple projects, with the first being an upcoming Bellator reality show.
Other sources in the fight community have confirmed Spike and Bellator had reached out to other retired legendary fighters to be coaches for the new show, which starts filming in early February. No name for the show, details, or when the show will air have been released by Spike. It is believed the show will include more than two coaches, and in that way differ from The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). It is also believed Spike and Viacom are offering significantly more money to coaches than they earned when The Ultimate Fighter was on Spike.
Court documents in the Eddie Alvarez contract dispute showed he was offered $100,000 to be a coach on the second season of the show.
When asked about the show a several weeks ago, Kevin Kay, the President of Spike TV, noted announcements would be coming and hinted they are hesitant to reveal key details or a time slot early.
Couture, 49, was one of the most popular and successful fighters in MMA history. While his 19-11 record doesn't appear impressive, he is the only five-time world champion in company history. More remarkable is that he was a month before his 34th birthday when he started his career, and won his final title at the age of 43.
During a career that ended with a loss to Lyoto Machida on April 30, 2011, in Toronto, Couture had two major splits with the organization. He defeated Maurice Smith for his first heavyweight title in his fourth pro fight on December 21, 1997, in Tokyo. But that version of UFC ran into financial difficulties. Couture never defended the title, and instead started fighting in Japan.
He returned three years later, just before the Fertitta Brothers and Dana White took over the floundering company, capturing the heavyweight title a second time from Kevin Randleman. During the early Zuffa run, Couture, Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz were the company's three big stars, battling over the light heavyweight title, which was the company's marquee belt. In 2005, Couture and Liddell coached the first season of TUF on Spike, the television show that completely turned the fortunes of the sport around in the U.S. They also headlined the first UFC show since the early days of the sport to top 250,000 buys, and a later rematch was the first to top 400,000.
After retiring in early 2006 while going through a messy divorce, Couture remained with the company as a broadcaster. But in 2007, he was brought out of retirement for a heavyweight title shot at Tim Sylvia. Today the idea that a retired 43-year-old fighter who had been knocked out in two of his three previous bouts as a light heavyweight, would get a title shot a weight class up would be heavily criticized. But it was a huge box office success, a legendary moment in company history before what is still the U.S. attendance record for the sport, 19,079 fans, in Columbus, Ohio. Couture scored a major upset winning his final championship.
He quit the promotion later that year, in an attempt to market a superfight with Fedor Emelianenko outside the UFC. He returned a year later after a costly legal battle that was going nowhere, losing the title to Brock Lesnar.
Couture had been on the FOX UFC broadcasts as an analyst, but was replaced on Saturday's show by Chael Sonnen.