Natural Selection

A Fitting Farewell

By Todd Martin Apr 29, 2011
Randy Couture has always been one to chart his own course. | Photo: Dave Mandel/

Couture acknowledges Machida as a dangerous obstacle, but he discounts the presence of another potential foe at UFC 129. A North American MMA record crowd of 55,000 people is likely to rattle some fighters on the show. Few competitors at the event will have fought in front of a crowd even one third as large. However, Couture says he has experienced far too much over his career for the magnitude of the event to have any effect on him.

“I think any of the fighters that have experience are going to walk in like it’s any other fight,” Couture argues. “Sixteen thousand people or 55,000 people is not going to make a difference. If you have less experience, the way it’s hyped, it’s a lot to take in. There’s a big adrenaline dump before you get into the cage, but I think most people on this card are pretty salty veterans so it’s not a huge issue.”

While Couture’s age might seem to present a problem for his cardiovascular conditioning, those close to the five-time UFC champion rave about the shape he is in. With a 15-minute time limit, Machida’s near two-decade youth advantage may not play a significant role when it comes to the pace of the fight.

“This guy’s a freak,” Melanson says. “As high as you get his heart rate, it returns to a nice position so fast. He can spar as hard as he wants and a minute down he’s recovered. The guys he trains with are amazed at the shape he is in going into this fight.”

Lyoto Machida file photo

Machida is a dangerous 16-2.
After UFC 129 comes and goes, Couture will still have no shortage of goals and pursuits in his life. He insists he will always be involved with his Xtreme Couture gym, helping to prepare the next generation of MMA fighters. He wrote a successful autobiography that opened doors in the literary world. Perhaps of greatest interest to Couture is the movie business.

He has pursued a number of acting opportunities, both on the screen and on television in recent years, and he got his most significant break last year with a role in “The Expendables.” The film placed him in the company of some of the biggest action stars of the last 25 years and grossed more than $250 million worldwide.

With the success of “The Expendables 2,” Couture says more job offers are coming his way in Hollywood. Plus, filming on “The Expendables 2” begins in August. Couture wants to be viewed not just as an athlete but as someone with the acting chops to play believable and unique characters.

There is also the opportunity for Couture to follow the burgeoning MMA career of his son, Strikeforce veteran Ryan Couture. He won his first two professional bouts via submission on Showtime and employs a different style than his father’s Greco-Roman wrestling-centered approach. Their close relationship is even at times hard to tell -- until the younger Couture opens his mouth and speaks with an eerily similar cadence to his more famous father. Randy follows his son’s career with pride.

“He’s a smart kid taking advantage of all the tools we have at Xtreme Couture,” Randy says. “He’s very smart about game plans and training cycles. He’s getting ready to fight again. I enjoy watching him fight. He has a smart approach, a passion for the sport and a great fighting style.”

Before any of those future events arrive, Couture has one last fight. By announcing his retirement in advance of the match with Machida, he will not be pressured to make a retirement decision on someone else’s terms. The result of the bout will not make or break his legacy. A win or loss will not affect title aspirations. It is simply one more chance to do something he loves and conquer another challenge in front of him, just like he has been doing for the nearly nine years since people started suggesting he might want to consider something else.

The challenge of one last fight is not one that Couture takes lightly. With the knowledge that all other interests and pursuits can be fully concentrated on following this historic last appearance in the Octagon, it allows for tunnel vision concentration on the final goal in Couture’s career: to defeat Lyoto Machida.

“I think this is the most passionate I’ve ever seen Randy,” Melanson observes. “Since the beginning, he has always trained hard, but something is in the air with this camp. When he’s throwing punches, wrestling or grappling, everything just seems extra hard.”

Couture has always been one to chart his own course.

“I don’t want to wait until I sustain an injury or a real bad loss where everyone is talking about it and I’m forced to make a decision on someone else’s terms,” he notes. “I had a great camp, I feel great and I’ve got a lot of opportunities going on. It’s time to step out and focus on the rest of my life. I want to stay in fighting in some other shape or form than getting in the cage. Getting out on my terms is the biggest thing.”

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