February 05, 2013 9:30am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Spike Inks Randy Couture to Overall Deal, Sets Two MMA-Themed Series (Exclusive)
Spike TV is getting back into the ring with Randy "The Natural" Couture.
The male-skewing cable network has inked the Mixed Martial Arts and Ultimate Fighting Championship Hall of Famer to a two-year development deal and greenlighted two unscripted entries to series, The Hollywood Reporter has learned exclusively.
Under the pact, Couture -- a multiple UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight champion and The Expendables actor -- will serve as one of four coaches on a Voice-like series for the network called Fight Master: Bellator MMA and a Kitchen Nightmares-style series dubbed MMA Rescue.
"He has an adventurous spirit and is a well-intentioned human being that when we thought of what else we were going to do on Spike, his name was the only thing that came to my mind as someone we had to be in business with," Spike executive vp original programming Sharon Levy tells THR. "At Spike, all our talent are experts in their field, and Randy is at the top of his game."
Fight Master will see Couture join fellow coaches Greg Jackson, Frank Shamrock and Joe Warren as they oversee 32 up-and-coming fighters looking to brawl their way through a win-or-go-home format into the Bellator tournament and a six-figure cash prize.
The Amazing Race creators Bertram van Munster and Elise Doganieri, via their Profiles Television Productions banner, are on board to executive produce the series. Spike has ordered 10 hourlong episodes of Fight Master, which likely will bow in the summer.
MMA Rescue, meanwhile, will see Couture use his years of experience in the business of MMA to help turn failing gyms into successful businesses. The three-episode series is in the same vein as Spike's Bar Rescue and Tattoo Rescue and will be produced by Couture, his manager Samuel Spira and Chris Coelen's Kinetic Content (Betty White's Off Their Rockers, Hardcore Pawn). Production on MMA Rescue likely will begin after Fight Master wraps.
Couture's deal also includes a first look at new projects in a number of content categories, with Spike open to nonsports efforts and Levy not ruling out a scripted venture. "We're looking at everything we can do with him," she said. "Some will be sports related, and some won't -- because Randy is a movie star."
The news continues Spike's relationship with Couture, who did an episode of the network's reality competition series Pros vs. Joes, pitting amateur athletes against pros, and served as a co-host early on the network's The Ultimate Fighter.
"I'm excited to be back at Spike," Couture tells THR. "I had an amazing experience on Ultimate Fighter when it started, and Spike is a tremendous platform for MMA. It feels like I'm coming home."
Couture, meanwhile, will continue to explore his acting career. He appears next in The Expendables 3, due out later this year. His acting credits also include The Set Up and CBS' The Unit. He's also a best-selling author who owns a chain of gyms, an MMA clothing line and a nutritional supplement company and served as a commentator on Fox's UFC fights.
For Spike, the deal puts the cabler back in the ring after its Ultimate Fighter franchise moved to FX after 14 seasons on the network.
Couture is repped by Gersh and manager Spira.