UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture, who retired in 2011 and has been working as a studio analyst during UFC shows on Fox over the last year or so, will be leaving the organization to join the Viacom-owned Spike according to Loretta Hunt of SI.com. On Spike, Couture will be working on multiple projects, including a reality series involving UFC competitor Bellator, which debuted on Spike this month.
Couture's absence was noticeable this past Saturday during the UFC on Fox event, when he wasn't in the studio along with Curt Menefee and Brian Stann. He was replaced by Chael Sonnen, which may have worked out for the better for the UFC because it allowed them to promote this season of The Ultimate Fighter, with coaches Sonnen and light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Apparently, the Couture-Viacom deal was completed in December, much to the outrage of UFC president Dana White.
This isn't the first time there has been a bit of a spat between the UFC and Couture after the former heavyweight champion resigned from the company in October of 2007 for a litany of reasons, mainly his desire to be paid more. Since his retirement, Couture has mainly focused on his acting career, with the analyst role on Fox as his only real link to the UFC anymore.
Couture's addition to the Viacom family is a pretty solid coup for the corporation, and will likely bring eyeballs to the Bellator reality show based solely on his name value. The first two Bellator shows on Spike (Thursdays at 10 PM) have each drawn less than one million viewers, and while that's a success in comparison to the viewership numbers Bellator was drawing on MTV2, it's still a drop from the 1.5 million viewers The Ultimate Fighter averaged during its 14 seasons on Spike.
The loss of Couture won't have much of an impact on the UFC. He was only featured as an analyst on the Fox shows, and considering there have only been six shows that have taken place over the last year plus, it's not as if they're losing a major contributor. To me, the move is all about Couture giving Bellator's show a recognizable name to draw in the casual fan. While it must be disappointing for the UFC to lose the services of a Hall of Famer, there are plenty of other fighters, both past and present, that can fill his role and do just as good of a job.