Couture, 46, announced Saturday that he’d renewed his contract with the UFC for six more fights over 28 months. The deal was done hours before the perennial fan favorite battled Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira to a unanimous decision loss at UFC 102 in Portland, Ore. The bout was Couture’s 20th for the promotion.
“The opportunity to stay with the organization is the motivation,” said Couture during the UFC 102 postfight news conference. “Things being what they are, this is the place to be and I intend to finish my career here. It’s pretty simple.”
Couture, a four-time Olympic wrestling alternate, burst onto the scene at UFC 13 in May 1997, where he won two fights in one night to become the heavyweight tournament champion.
Over the next 12 years, Couture continued to surprise fans by toppling younger opponents with airtight strategies and pinpoint execution. Key victories have included Maurice Smith, Kevin Randleman, Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell, Vitor Belfort (twice) and Tim Sylvia, which earned the quiet wrestler the heavyweight title three times, the light heavyweight belt two times, and an interim light heavyweight title as well.
Couture was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2006.
In October 2007, Couture resigned from the UFC over a contract dispute and campaigned heavily for a fight with the world’s top-ranked heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko. Couture returned to the UFC 11 months later to defend his title against Brock Lesnar at UFC 91 last November. Lesnar stopped Couture in the second round to take the crown.
The contract renewal will ensure that anyone wishing to face Couture, including Emelianenko, will have to do so in the UFC. However, Emelianenko has turned down at least two UFC contract offers and recently signed a three-fight deal with rival promotion Strikeforce.
UFC President Dana White said Couture would still be considered for both divisions depending on his preference.
“I’d love to see him at light heavyweight, but he proved he can hang with heavyweights,” said White. “He’s had probably the best fight against Brock Lesnar, other than Heath Herring, since Lesnar’s been in here. I think he’s a monster at light heavyweight. It’s up to him, to be honest with you. Whatever he wants to do, I’m in.”
Couture said he would review his performance Saturday before committing to his next move.
“I’m interested in interesting fights. There are a lot of guys in both divisions that are interesting to fight,” said Couture. “I’m going to take it one fight at a time, as I did 12 years ago when I started this thing, and we’ll see where that goes.”
This item was updated at 1:43 a.m. ET on Aug. 31 to correct an error. Couture won two fights on the night of his MMA debut, not three.