Randy Couture, Fedor Emelianenko square off for EA Sports MMA game
Fedor Emelianenko shot in with a takedown and finished Randy Couture with brutal punches inside his guard three minutes into the first round.
At least that’s how it went down when the two fighting legends squared off as their pixilated versions in the debuting EA Sports MMA video game at a launch event on the Universal City Walk Tuesday.
The game was released Tuesday in North America, hits stores in Europe on Friday, and drops Nov. 11 in Japan. EA Sports MMA is a second gaming option for the sport’s fans, who snatched up over three million copies of THQ and the UFC’s “Undisputed” game in 2009.
On Tuesday, THQ and the UFC announced that they’d extended their exclusive licensing deal into 2018.
EA’s stab at the multi-disciplined combat sport lacks UFC branding and star power save Couture, a six-time UFC champion in two weight divisions, who left the promotion in 2007 to pursue the real thing with Emelianenko after it became clear the Russian wouldn’t be contracted by the promotion.
However, the bout between legends has yet to come to fruition, and Couture-Emelianenko will likely be remembered as the big fish that got away among promoters and fans alike.
When Couture returned to the UFC a year later with a multi-year contract, he said his signing with EA in his absence was a sticking point for the promotion.
“It’s been delicate for sure,” said Couture of promoting the rival EA title. “I try and be as considerate as I can be of the position that I’m in and the position the UFC’s in. They have their own game. We managed to work around it. We try and be sensitive and not be too in-their-face about our position and where we’re at with this game.”
Couture, who said he came to terms a while ago that he’ll likely never face the 34-year-old Emelianenko, gives the game high marks for authenticity. The UFC hall of famer pointed to the game’s unique “career mode,” which allows players to build their own fighter’s skills from scratch.
“I think the thing that I get excited about is how it captures the ability to go out and train for a specific opponent or in a specific area of your game to make it stronger, which is certainly something we do as athletes in the real world,” said Couture, 47.
Strikeforce, which trails the UFC as the second most recognizable promotion in the U.S., is featured heavily in EA’s game and stands to gain much-needed exposure in a market mostly dominated by the UFC.
“The brands and the promotions will be recognizable (in the game) to those people that weren’t exposed to MMA before, so when they seek out the sport, those are probably the brands they’re going to seek out,” said Couture.
Randy Chase, marketing manager for EA Sports, agreed the game could be a powerful tool to lure in new fans.
“It’s definitely a game where it’s a lot more ‘pick up and play,’” he said. “People can pick this game up, learn about mixed martial arts where it’s not really complicated.”
Chase said the title, which is available on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 consoles, won two “best sports game” awards of its 10 nominations at the Electronic Entertainment Expo last June in Los Angeles.
And while Chase said EA doesn’t release its sales figures, he did confirm that the game's distribution numbers are on par with the UFC title. Chase said the company has already started to work on an updated installment, and the game leader plans to alternate release years with its “Fight Night” boxing game.
EA’s “Madden NFL” game, which debuted in 1988, remains one of the company’s active titles, so longevity is something the company is very familiar with.
“As we’ve said from the beginning, we’re dedicated to growing the sport of mixed martial arts,” said Chase. “It’s a natural progression for us.”
-- Loretta Hunt
Photo: Randy Couture, left, and Fedor Emelianenko square off. Credit: Loretta Hunt.