Randy Couture believes that the top mixed martial artists need to be allowed to face each other if the fan base that MMA has built up is to be maintained.
He made the comments in a recent interview on Inside MMA, the weekly mixed martial arts news programme produced by HDNet Fights.
Couture recently resigned from the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and said he would no longer be fighting for the organisation, despite the fact that he is the current UFC heavyweight champion.
According to the 44-year-old, a number of things prompted his decision to leave, including a perceived lack of respect from UFC executives and a desire to fight world number one Fedor Emelianenko, whom the UFC have failed to sign.
Reports at the time suggested that Emelianenko's management were refusing to allow their fighter to sign with the UFC unless a co-promotion deal was included in the package, which the UFC refused to agree to.
Couture told Inside MMA that essential that the top fighters be allowed to face each other "regardless of promotion or production”ÂÂ and warned that the industry faces losing "the trust of the fans that we worked so hard to gain over the years" if this does not happen.
The Couture/UFC situation is still in muddy legal waters at present; Couture has two separate contracts with the organisation, one as a fighter and one as a direct employee.
He and his team believe that the only valid restraint on him is an 18-month no-compete clause which expires in October, after which he maintains he is free to fight for anyone.
However, the UFC's position is that the contract with Couture has merely been placed on hold as it is not possible for him to 'resign' and simply take free of his fight contract.
Zuffa, parent company of the UFC, has filed a lawsuit against Couture that among other things seeks to prevent him appearing on other mixed martial arts shows, even as a corner man.
As if the situation wasn't confused enough, HDNet Fights then weighed in recently with a lawsuit of their own, asking the courts to determine exactly what obligations Couture has under his UFC contracts and seeking a ruling on when exactly he will be free of them.
Stay with Fighters Only for all the latest updates on the Couture/UFC dispute.
Image (C) Zuffa LLC