LAS VEGAS -- Dana White says he respects UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture's accomplishments in the Octagon. And because of that, Couture's image will remain in the animated opening sequence of the UFC's pay-per-view events, despite Couture's recent move to Spike TV and Bellator.
But that's where the niceties ended on Saturday night. Speaking to reporters at Mandalay Bay following UFC 156, the UFC president took the gloves off as he gave his side of the story on the five-time former champion's abrupt departure from the company.
"I don't respect him at all," White said. "Not even a little bit. Randy Couture, the only time Randy Couture is a man is when he sets foot in the cage. As soon as his big toe steps out of that cage, he's the furthest thing from it. That's it, that's the way I feel about it."
The heart of matter, as far as White is concerned, is the way Couture handled his departure with the company. According to White, he was alerted via letter by Couture's lawyer sometime over the holidays that Couture would not appear for his commentating duties for UFC on FOX 6 on Jan. 26.
"I called Randy, called him over and over again and wouldn't answer his phone," White said. "Three hours later, he texts me. And I said ‘did you or did you not do a deal with these guys?'"
According to White, when he and Couture finally got on the phone, "He says ‘I did not sign a deal with Spike and Bellator, but I'm talking to two other networks right now.' I said ‘If you tell me that you did not bail on my last fight to go do a deal with them, I don't give a s-- what networks you sign with. I don't care if its friggin' HBO and The Food Network, I could care less who it is. ... "He said ‘I did not sign a deal. Stop worrying, relax and have a great Christmas. We'll talk later.' To this f-- day, standing right here, right now, we still have not talked."
White and Couture have a long and colorful history in their on-again, off-again relationship. Their most famous dustup came in 2007, after Couture came out of retirement and won his final heavyweight title from Tim Sylvia. Couture attempted to break his contract and set up a fight with Fedor Emelianenko, which ended up in a protracted court battle. Couture returned to the company over a year later and lost the title to Brock Lesnar.
As far as White is concerned, though, he's not going to go back into the Randy Couture business again.
"Ask anybody who's ever been in business with Randy Couture if they like being in business with Randy Couture, White said. "There's so much stuff out there that you guys don't even know. Whatever. Guy's going on, he's making a living. There's the whole story. I respect him. There's no more of a man when the cage closes and no less of one when he steps outside of it."
One person who could have been potentially caught in the middle of the situation is Couture's son, Ryan, who has fought in Strikeforce and is slated to come over to the UFC. According to White, he spoke with the younger Couture and was told the latter plans on remaining with Zuffa.
"I called Ryan Couture, I said, you signed a deal for us to fight in the UFC," White said. "I want you here if you want to be here. But I need you to understand this: Me and your dad are not good, me and your dad are never going to be good, ever, ever again, as long as I walk this f-- planet. ... I want to be honest, I want to be upfront, if you want me to release you from your contract so that you can go do a deal with Bellator and have your dad, maybe work with him and go up and do whatever, I would do that.
"He said to me, every kid who's ever strapped on a pair of gloves is dreaming of fighting in the UFC," White continued. "And if they say they're not, they're either lying or stupid. He said, this is my dream, I want to be with you guys, he's my dad and he's always going to be my dad, but this is where I want to be."
Randy Couture was not available for comment on Saturday night, but is scheduled for a press conference with Spike and Bellator on Tuesday.