Randy Couture: We Were All Worried UFC Was Going To Die

UFC legend Randy Couture dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Thursday to discuss Conor McGregor, who, fittingly, released a statement during Couture’s segment saying that he is not retiring.

McGregor, as it turns out, has “become lost in the game of promotion and forgot about the art of fighting.” He expressed a desire to “stop handing out flyers” and wants to “get back to the damn shop.” McGregor would still like to fight Nate Diaz at UFC 200 and ended his statement in all caps with, “I AM NOT RETIRED.”

Couture understands where McGregor is coming from – at least to some degree.

“I think at the end of the day, what you’re really trying to do is build your own brand,” Couture said on Tiki and Tierney. “This is where you come into conflict with the contract and the promoter. The promoter has his brand – those three letters ‘UFC’ that they want to put out there – and they’re using you as a tool to do that. But at the same time, myself and Conor McGregor, us as fighters, we’re trying to promote our own brand as well. We have to do enough in a short window we have – not only making money, but to build a brand that’s going to carry us down the road when we can’t fight anymore. I think that’s the conflict. That’s what’s going on.”

On the one hand, McGregor should take every opportunity he can to promote himself and the sport. On the other hand, if promoting takes him away from the gym to a significant degree, it will harm his career in the long run.

Either way, Couture, 52, loves that McGregor’s social-media accounts have become worldwide news. He loves that the sport has become this big.

That wasn’t guaranteed when Couture made his UFC debut in 1997.

“No, I think we were all worried the sport was going to die,” Couture said. “We were largely misunderstood. My first UFC was UFC 13 and they held the weigh-ins at the lobby at the Holiday Inn at Augusta, Georgia. I had never seen the guy I was going to find that night until he stepped on the scale in the lobby.”

Roughly 5,000 people were on hand at the Augusta Civic Center that night.

“Now obviously there’s 7- or 8,000 people showing up just for the weigh-ins,” Couture said. “The rules and everything and how it’s evolved is remarkable. It’s gone way farther than I’ve ever imagined. I think at UFC 13, there were more fights in the stands than there were in the cage. It was a whole different show.”

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