Former UFC light heavyweight and heavyweight champion Randy “the Natural” Couture (16-10), at the astonishing age of 46 years old, is making another run at a title. This time it will be for the light heavyweight crown in one of the UFC’s deepest and most exciting divisions.
In November of 2008, Couture returned to the UFC after a yearlong retirement that resulted from a dispute with UFC president Dana White. Couture lost to current heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar in his first fight back and was defeated again by Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in August. He now looks to get back in the hunt in the 205 pound division by taking on muay thai specialist Brandon Vera (11-3) at UFC 105 in Manchester, England on Saturday November 14th.
Couture is motivated to continue his pursuit of UFC gold by his love of developing strategies.
“The enjoyable part for me is solving the problem,” Couture explains. “Solving the puzzle. It’s always kinda been what’s intrigued me about this sport is solving the equation. You see each and every opponent as a problem. He poses different things and different strengths and weaknesses. And figuring out how I mesh up with that. And what’s going to put me in the right places to overcome it.”
Couture, a former Olympic alternate Greco-Roman wrestler, has enjoyed most of his success in the UFC by using a combination of ground and pound and dirty boxing. He has a pretty good idea how he’ll overcome Vera, stating “Definitely this camp and with Brandon, I need to make Brandon wrestle. I need to go out, use the striking I’ve learned to figure out and protect myself and close the distance and get my hands on him. And make him wrestle me for the whole fight.”
Brandon Vera, sporting a 3-1 record since dropping to 205 pounds in the UFC, can’t help but be an admirer of Couture. In an interview with Brett Okamoto of the Las Vegas Sun, Vera stated, “Randy’s a hero. When they first told me I was going to fight in 105, I was like, ‘Hell, no. That’s nine weeks from now. I just got done fighting (at UFC 101).’ Then they said I’d be fighting Randy and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll fight Randy.’”
Vera knows that to fulfill his ultimate dream of becoming a UFC champion, he needs to fight against the best opposition. “I always knew at some point in my career I would fight Randy. He’s one of the best. If you’re on a certain path, you’re going to have to cross certain people. I’ve told everyone it’s like a dream and a nightmare coming true at the same time.”
Despite his admiration for Couture, Vera’s still able to focus on the task at hand. “When they raise my hand, I want Randy to look over and be like, “That (expletive).” I want him to be proud of me for turning into the fighter I always talked about being. He’s been there and watched me run my mouth at the Olympic training center. I want him to experience it first hand and say to himself, ‘He’s going where he said he was going to go.’”
Couture has stated in the past that he believes fighting current UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto “the Dragon” Machida would be a great challenge. “Right now the best guy in the weight class is Lyoto Machida. He’s got a very interesting style. But Brandon Vera and Rashad Evans and a whole slew of other guys . . . Tito coming back in . . . Forrest Griffin and they’re all looking at Lyoto too. Figuring out how do you attract that attention that’s gonna put you in against Lyoto first. And Brandon is definitely a step in that direction.”
At UFC 105, Vera and Couture will face off. Whichever fighter emerges victorious should find himself within striking distance of a shot at the title.