He kicked off the first season of The Ultimate Fight on Spike, and now Randy Couture kicks off the premiere of Bellator MMA’s reality TV show as well. Verified by Sports Illustrated, the now 49-year-old former UFC champ will be looking to help coach new talents on the show, as well as handle other duties in promoting for the UFC competitor.
Sources told SI.com that the deal with Spike and Viacom was executed in late December, much to the disapproval of Couture’s former employer, UFC president Dana White. Since his retirement in April 2011 at age 47, Couture has turned his attention to Hollywood with supporting roles in The Expendables and its summer 2012 sequel, and had most recently served as an on-camera analyst for the UFC’s live events on Fox. However, Couture was absent from the UFC on Fox 6 broadcast on Jan. 26, replaced by one-time teammate Chael Sonnen.
Bellator MMA (formerly Fighting Championships), a tournament-format live event series that airs Thursdays (10 p.m. ET) on Spike, debuted on the men’s specialty channel on Jan. 17, garnering 938,000 average viewership during its two-hour-plus broadcast. Viacom purchased a majority share of Bellator in October 2011 to replace the programming void left after UFC owners Zuffa LLC moved its sports property to the Fox Sports Media Group in a seven-year deal reportedly worth around $630 million.
Couture (19-11) is no stranger to Spike’s loyal male-driven audience. In January 2005, he and Chuck Liddell starred as coaches on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, the reality series largely credited with launching the UFC and MMA’s explosive rise in popularity over the last seven years. Couture also appeared on subsequent seasons of the series, which now airs on FX. In 2007, Spike also dedicated a night of primetime viewing to Couture’s storied UFC career, which saw him become the first athlete to hold titles in multiple UFC divisions.
The as-yet unnamed Bellator series is being helmed by seven-time Emmy Award-winning producer Bertram Van Munster (The Amazing Race, Cops).