Ryan Couture says moving to Bellator “felt like coming home.” | Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
Make no mistake, Ryan Couture harbors no ill will toward the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
The 32-year-old lightweight was released from the Las Vegas-based promotion following back-to-back losses to Ross Pearson and Al Iaquinta in 2013. Although Couture was given stiff opposition in his first two promotional appearances, he says the UFC was justified in handing him the proverbial pink slip.
“I wasn’t surprised by it at all. I felt like I didn’t really show up and perform,” Couture told Sherdog.com. “I felt like if I had gone out and just fought gangbusters and still come up short against those two...and looked like more of a crowd pleaser than I did, it might have been a different story. But based on how those fights went, I was more or less expecting to get that phone call. I didn’t feel like it was a raw deal.”
That said, the reunion with Bellator President Scott Coker, whom Couture fought for during a seven-bout Strikeforce tenure from 2010 to 2013, feels pretty good right now. Couture made his Bellator debut with a first-round submission victory over Tommy Bagnasco last September. He will face Dakota Cochrane in a featured 155-pound tilt at Bellator 135 on March 27.
“It feels good to be working with familiar faces from early in my career again, with Scott and his team,” Couture said. “It was almost felt like coming home after being away for a few years. I’m very happy with the way things are going with Bellator and the way they run the promotion.”
The Xtreme Couture product doesn’t have many reference points with which to compare his relationship with Coker to that of his dealings with Dana White, because his encounters with the UFC boss were relatively limited. But he was nothing but diplomatic when giving his assessment of the way the UFC does business.
“They have very different approaches,” Couture said. “I didn’t have a whole lot -- other than I guess now what you’d call the infamous phone conversation between Dana and myself -- of direct interaction with him.”
The call to which Couture refers occurred early in 2013, shortly after Strikeforce closed its doors for good and the UFC assumed control of the defunct promotion’s roster. Couture was informed by White that he was welcome to fight in the Octagon, but his dad, UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture, was not allowed in his corner.
The issue: The elder Couture’s decision to coach on “Fight Master,” Bellator’s short-lived foray into reality television. Not wanting to rock the boat, Ryan Couture agreed to those terms. It was a sacrifice that had to be made if he wanted to compete in the world’s largest MMA organization.
He admits now, however, that it is a relief to be able to have his dad cageside and not have to worry about the consequences.
“Subtracting all that extraneous drama from the mix makes life much easier,” he said. “It’s less for me to think about, and I can just focus on training and fight nights. It’s really all I wanted to be worried about in the first place. It’s been great not to have to even think twice about that anymore.”
Still, Couture is well aware that his name alone will always put a target on his back against opponents looking to pad their resumes. He expects that Cochrane will be no different.
“I just assume that pretty much everyone I’ve ever fought has seen that as an opportunity to get a high profile win for themselves because the last name seems to bring some extra attention with it,” he said. “At this point I feel like I’m used to it. I’d be doing it wrong if I wasn’t training for the toughest possible version of any given opponent anyways. It just gives me that little extra motivation to make sure that I’m on top of my game because I know that my opponents are all going to be doing the same.”
Couture is hoping to put together enough victories to enter Bellator’s lightweight title picture. As for competing into his 40s like his dad, well, he’s just going to approach his fighting career on a year-by-year basis for now.
“I don’t really put a number on it at all. As long as it continues to be a process that I’m passionate about and something that I love to do... then I’ll keep doing it,” he said. “It’s not something I put an expiration date on. As long as I continue to feel good about what I’m doing, I’m going to keep doing it.”