The loss, one of the year’s most brutal knockouts, was one that prompted Ryan Couture to take some time to reassess his fighting career.
It was a hard straight right from Patricky Freire that initially sent Couture staggering backward in their Bellator 148 encounter this past January. At that point, Couture admits he wasn’t totally clear-headed as he continued to advance toward the Brazilian “Pitbull” brother. What followed shortly thereafter was a devastating left hook to the jaw that caused an instantly unconscious Couture to fold forward on the canvas, the unfortunate subject of a highlight reel finish.
It was something of a process, the UFC and Strikeforce veteran admits, getting to the point where he wanted to compete again. Some nine months later, Couture will return to the cage against Goiti Yamauchi in a featured lightweight bout at Bellator 162 in Memphis on Friday night.
“I wanted to first and foremost be very cautious and make sure that I didn’t rush back and get hit in the head and make matters worse from a brain injury standpoint. I think that was a pretty serious concussion,” Couture told Sherdog.com. “I kind of eased my way back into some general fitness training and some grappling and some light training. From that point it took a little while to get my urge to compete back. It helped me ease into that by jumping in and helping my teammates get ready for their fights. That sort of helped me transition into wanting to get after it and train hard for myself.
“It was a long process, but it felt good when I started coming out the other side and started getting the antsy feeling when I would watch the fights, wanting to jump off the couch and get in there and compete myself.”
While 34-year-old Couture might have lacked motivation for a time, he says that retirement was never a serious option.
“I didn’t really think too seriously about that,” he said. “I just took a step back and focused on other things for a while and figured eventually it would make sense to me one way or the other. It’s not like I stressed out or agonized over that decision too much. I just wasn’t feeling it for a while, so I took a step back and did my own thing. When that bug finally came back I knew it was time to get back in the gym hard and start getting ready.”
Couture took what he could from the Freire defeat, but he hasn’t dwelled on it. The best he could do was learn from the mistakes he made in that bout and move on.
“I’ve watched it maybe once or twice, but it’s not a real fun one to revisit. There definitely were some takeaways from it. That final exchange where he got me, I came in really sloppy, threw a crappy kick and then came in with an ugly, wide, embarrassing right hook. He caught me just inside of it with his left hook and put me out. From a technical standpoint, I know better than to do that,” he said.
Prior to Bellator 148, Couture was on a four-fight winning streak that included triumphs over Dakota Cochrane and Tommy Bagnasco within the California-based promotion. He hopes that he can regain some of that prior momentum against Yamauchi and establish himself as a contender at 155 pounds.
“I think I was knocking on the door heading into that fight in January,” Couture said. “The division’s changed a lot since then, so I’ve definitely got some work to do to climb my way back up. A win over Yamauchi puts me on the right track.”
Now that he’s cleared his head and is ready to get back to work, don’t expect much to change from Couture’s overall approach. His recipe for success isn’t what got him caught against Freire — straying from that game plan did. If all goes as planned against Yamauchi, he’ll be for more likely to grind out a win than end up on a highlight reel.
“My goals tend to be pretty much the same in every fight I go into. I want to close the distance and get my hands on him, force a grappling match,” Couture said. “He’s dangerous in any position on the ground so I’m gonna have to be sharp on my technique and be on my game to shut down his submission offense. That’s something different I haven’t had to train for for a while, a guy that’s crafty and dangerous playing off his back like he is.”