As UFC 105 fast approaches, Randy “The Natural” Couture is hoping to get back to his winning ways. Following a very public contract dispute with the UFC that resulted in an extended layoff from action, Captain America has jumped back into the octagon with the passion and vigor that earned him a place in the UFC Hall Of Fame.
On the heals of two unsuccessful showings in the heavyweight division, a second round TKO loss to UFC Champion Brock Lesnar in November 2008 and a third-round unanimous decision loss to the formidable Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in August 2009, “The Natural” is once again ready to battle for octagon supremacy.
This time his opponent is an extremely talented, but often inconsistent, Muai Thai fighter in Brandon “The Truth” Vera. Despite being 14 years older than Vera, BetUS Sportsbook has Randy Couture as a slight favorite in their UFC betting lines. Couture is the -120 favorite while Vera is the -110 underdog (click here for full UFC betting odds). Clearly respecting the challenger, Couture described Vera to Michael David Smith of FanHouse as “A striker who uses his long frame and his Muay Thai skills to stay away from guys, draw guys in and find ways to win. Thanks to those long, straight punches and his kicks, he rarely has to use his wrestling skills or his ground skills at all. It’s not that he doesn’t have them, but he doesn’t use them effectively as an offensive weapon very much.”
Couture noted that with Vera, he would much rather take the fight to the ground than to stand with him.
“I’ve see Brandon fight a lot and I’m very familiar with his style, how he uses his hands, with his motion,” he said. “I definitely don’t want to stand around and allow him to establish his range and hit his rhythm. I’d like to make it as much of a wrestling match as I can. That is what’s going to put me in the best position to win. I’ve studied the places he likes to be and where he doesn’t like to be and now it’s up to me to use that in the octagon.”
No longer at odds with the UFC’s top brass, the once defiant champion seems quite pleased with his present contract and overall future with the organization. Couture noted that his main motivation is not money or titles, but interesting fights.
“If I got a shot at [Lyoto] Machida for the title, that would be great, but whatever happens I’m just looking for interest fights and there are a lot of other interesting fights.”
Obviously at the twilight of his career, the notion of “interesting fights” appears to be prominent on Couture’s agenda. When asked about the shift between the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions and the related rigors of weight cutting, he noted that it wasn’t a major issue for him.
“I’ll just fight at whatever weight class that will make for an interesting fight,” says Couture. “I weighed in at 220 for my fight against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and I was 217 this morning before practice. I have a lot of experience cutting weight, and there were times in my wrestling career when I cut a lot of weight. So I’m familiar with what it takes, and it’s kind of a routine.
“I’ve cut to 205 pounds plenty of times and it’s not a problem,” he continued. “I can go either way. It’s not like I’m cutting much weight or changing my body drastically to make 205. That’s not a huge issue for me.”
While some superstar fighters are hesitant to fight overseas or to have their bouts broadcast on Spike TV instead of pay-per-view, The Natural expressed no such concerns.
“I’m excited about going to Manchester [England]. They have a great crowd there. I’ve heard the fight’s already sold out, and that’s going to make it a lot of fun,” stated the former champion.
His sentiments were similar with respect to the Spike TV broadcast.
“I know the UFC will take care of me so I’m not terrible worried about that [pay-per-view bonuses]. It all comes out in the wash because I’m satisfied and the UFC is satisfied,” he explained.
Despite a storied and expansive career, Couture mentioned a first with respect to this coming bout.
“My son Ryan will accompany me as one of my corner men for this fight… He’s never cornered me before. He’s been to most of my fights, maybe even all of them, but this will be his first time cornering me.”
The Natural is excited for this father and son experience as well as the prospects for young Ryan’s career, stating, “It’s going well. In his last fight he [Ryan] won with a first-round armbar, and he’s going to take a little time off, probably through the holidays, and then get a few more amateur fights and then look at stepping up to the pros.”
When asked about the defection of Shawn Tompkins from Xtreme Couture to the TapouT Research & Development Training Center, the former champion only had well wishes for his former trainer and corner man.
“I think he’s interested in building his own brand and we’re restructuring some things at Xtreme Couture, so I think it made sense for both of us. He’ll do very well where he ends up,” explained Couture.
The Natural addressed his unparalleled longevity and the possibility of maintaining a fighting career at the age of 50.
“Anything is possible. I’m not thinking that far ahead, but I’m not ruling anything out either… I keep my body healthy. I stay in good shape,” shared the former champion. “In the last couple years I’ve spent a lot of time getting my blood chemistry evaluated, taking the supplements and eating the things that my blood chemistry says I should be. That’s been the biggest thing the last couple years, age 45 and 46… I’m just preparing myself for a great fight and I hope I’ll have more of them.”
As he prepares to face an opponent approximately 14 years his junior, Couture feels good about his chances. “The last time I fought two times in pretty quick succession were my fights against Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz [in June and September of 2003], and that worked out pretty well for me, so I feel great about it,” he stated. The Natural won both of those bouts.
So with a battle against not only against a dangerous young opponent in Vera, but also the hands of time, mixed martial arts fans from Manchester to Manhattan will be watching to see if the legend of Randy Couture will live on or if the time tested warrior is on a well disguised swan song. Couture faces Vera at UFC 105 in Manchester, England this Saturday night. The event will air on a tape-delay on Spike TV at 8 p.m ET.