The strained relationship between the Ultimate Fighting Championship and its heavyweight champion Randy Couture has taken another bad turn — directly into a Las Vegas courtroom.
Lawyers for Zuffa, LLC, the UFC’s parent company, on Monday filed suit in Clark County District Court, alleging chiefly that Couture’s comments about the UFC and its senior management caused the business irreparable damage and that he is in breach of the contract he signed with the company in December 2006.
“We are alleging numerous intentional torts, which have caused Zuffa and the UFC significant harm,” attorney Donald J. Campbell said. “Based upon that harm we are seeking to address these matters before a court of law.”
The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $10,000 and states that the amount of both compensatory and punitive damages would be proven at trial. It also seeks an injunction restraining Couture from participating in any way in any promotion competing against the UFC.
The lawsuit is the latest episode of discord between Couture and UFC President Dana White, who said he has considered Couture a friend for eight years.
“What’s really tough for me, to be honest, is we have been friends for a very long time,” White said. “The hard part is that he is not living up to his obligations. Captain America is not keeping his word.”
Couture is listed as the UFC heavyweight champion, even though the fighter and organization have been engaged in a public dispute that included his resignation from the company. An interim title match has been scheduled.
The tense relationship between Couture and the UFC, namely White and co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta, became public on Oct. 11 when Couture held a news conference at his Las Vegas gym. Couture detailed his frustrations with the company and announced he was resigning from the UFC.
Couture claimed Fertitta and White had lied to him; that the company paid “off-the-books” bonuses to fighters; that he never was paid a signing bonus that had been negotiated in his December 2006 contract; and that the company treated many of its athletes poorly.
Fertitta and White held their own news conference the following week, during which they addressed Couture’s allegations and produced copies of checks cashed by Couture, including the signing bonus. The checks showed the heavyweight to be making much more money than he had claimed.
In the months since, the battle of words has continued and the sides have been unable to work things out.
“I expect Randy to honor the obligations in his contract that he signed (a year ago). I tried to resolve it by talking to this guy that I’ve had a relationship with for eight years and was unsuccessful,” White said. “Now this thing’s in the hands of the justice system.”
Monday’s lawsuit claims Couture’s negative statements about the company constituted “injurious falsehood and trade disparagement,” that has led to significant financial losses for the UFC.
The lawsuit also alleges conspiracy, stating that several unnamed parties to be identified at a later date worked with Couture to intentionally inflict harm on the UFC.
According to the lawsuit, Couture is also in breach of a stipulation that prohibits him from engaging in “direct or indirect competition” with the UFC for a period of 12 months following the termination of his contract.
Thus, Couture’s sponsorship and promotion of a team in the International Fight League would be in direct violation of the stipulation. Currently, the IFL’s Web site lists Couture’s Xtreme Couture team taking on Mario Sperry’s World Class Fight Center at the IFL’s Feb. 29 card at the Orleans Arena.
A message left on Couture’s cell phone on Monday was not returned.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or (702) 224-5509.