As a 46-year-old pioneer of the sport of mixed martial arts, every fight for Randy “the Natural” Couture (16-9) is a major event. Couture is already a UFC Hall of Famer and made his debut in 1997 at UFC 13. Since then he’s gone on to battle a plethora of elite fighters earning victories over Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Vitor Belfort, Tim Sylvia, Kevin Randleman, Pedro Rizzo and others. Now Couture is preparing for a battle at UFC 102 against another legend of the sport, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (31-5-1). Nogueira, frequently known as “Minotauro”, also has an impressive resume. He has battled and beaten many of the top fighters in the world while a member of the PRIDE fighting organization in Japan. The Brazilian submission specialist has defeated Josh Barnett, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, Dan Henderson, Ricco Rodriguez and several other top fighters.
One interesting element of this fight is that it will be the UFC’s first trip to Portland, Oregon. Couture spent much of his life in the Pacific Northwest. In an interview posted on www.ONPDX.com, Couture was asked if the experience of fighting in his home state of Oregon would in any way change the fight for him. “No, I don’t think so,” Couture answered. “I’m excited about being here. I grew up in Seattle and lived here in Oregon for a long time. You know, it’s still just another fight. Nogueira, it doesn’t matter where it happens, poses some interesting problems so I’ll focus on that. Having the crowd roaring will just make it all the better.”
Both fighters are coming off of losses so the pressure to win in this fight will be especially intense. In a battle against current undisputed UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, Couture was at a significant size disadvantage with Lesnar outweighing him by forty-five pounds. It was a battle of two elite wrestlers but proved to be a bad matchup for the Natural as he was stopped in the second round by TKO. Minotauro’s luck wasn’t any better in his December fight against Frank Mir. Nogueira was stopped for the first time in his career in the second round via TKO.
At 46 years old, Couture probably doesn’t have many fights left. Over the past two years, he has expressed his interest in fighting Fedor Emelianenko, the man that many consider to be the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Emelianenko has refused to sign a deal with the UFC because he feels that the UFC contract is unfair. When asked if fighting Fedor is a fight that Randy still wants, he replied, “Obviously. I think it’s been a fight that I’ve strived for–for a long time. I’ve been pretty vocal about wanting to compete against him. We’ll see. I’m not going to hold my breath.”
Another fighter that’s making headway in the top pound-for-pound fighter debate is Lyoto “the Dragon” Machida. Machida is undefeated and currently holds the UFC’s light heavyweight crown. Randy had high praise for Machida saying, “He’s got a very unique style. Very unorthodox. He stays pretty true to his karate background and makes it work for him. He has great footwork, great balance. He’s very patient. I think he’s terrific.” When asked about squaring off against Machida, Couture seemed up for the challenge. “If that was something they wanted to see, I’d be interested in competing against him. I think he’s a tremendous competitor and somebody I’d like to fight.”
One can never be sure what’s next for Couture in his storied career. He has already retired once only to later return with an improbable win to recapture the UFC heavyweight title. The only certainty with Couture is that he is still looking for major challenges and he can never be counted out.
You can watch the full interview below: