randy-couture-27.jpgRandy Couture counted seven Xtreme Couture franchises in the U.S. and Canada at the height of MMA’s boom late this past decade. Then the market cooled, and gyms began to close. 

“The economy, especially in the gym industry, has been very difficult,” he told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “The economy took care of a bunch of them. There’s two left now with Las Vegas and Toronto.”

You could see irony in the UFC Hall of Famer’s new role in “Gym Rescue,” a new reality show from Spike TV that mirrors the popular “Bar Rescue” program, or a bit of savvy casting from the cable network, which inked Couture to a TV deal early this year. 

In the show, Couture travels to cities around the country to help MMA gyms in the fickle business of getting everyday people into the cage, and keeping them there.

“I’m excited about the chance (to help struggling gym owners),” Couture said. “I’ve been doing it for 15 years. Most of my experiences have been through trial and error and missteps. Maybe I can help some folks avoid some of the things that I’ve done wrong.”

But the UFC Hall of Famer also believes the economy isn’t the only opponent standing across from gym owners.

“I think the sport is certainly seeing some growing pains,” he said. “You look at the numbers, both in the pay-per-views and the ratings with FOX and such, and they’re maybe down a little bit. 

“There’s a little saturation in the marketplace. It’s grown so fast, and we have so many fighters now and so many different events, it’s a little harder to track. I think where [the sport] used to be something very special and unique every couple of months, it’s literally on on a weekly basis, and it’s been an adjustment.”  

Couture, who this week makes his debut on another Spike TV project, “Fight Master,” will again take a center-stage role in promoting the sport as its biggest promoters, UFC and Bellator, fight for market share. 

There should be no shortage of subjects in need of help. Between the cost of keeping the lights on and paying staff, margins in the fitness industry often are razor-thin. UFC President Dana White has called gyms a money pit, though the fight promotion’s parent company, Zuffa, got into the business in 2009 and is now in the midst of opening UFC-branded gyms around the country. 

“It’s a tough business, it’s one of those things where if people start getting tight on money, they go away,” Couture said. 

Despite a recent drop in its pro ranks, Couture said his flagship gym in Las Vegas remains successful. Although he’ll have his work cut out for him on the show, he hopes his new role will help a few business get back on solid ground.

“You have to be in these things for the right reasons, whether you’re fighting or you’re running a training environment for fighter or just weekend warriors who just want to be involved in the sport and use it as their form of fitness,” he said. “Figuring out which one you are, first, and really focusing on taking care of those people you have the chance to effect is very important.”

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