Posted On:1/17/2006 11:32pm
Randy Couture’s ultimate fight?
Speculation high that UFC great could retire after Feb. 4 championship bout
By JASON VONDERSMITH Issue date: Tue, Jan 17, 2006
The Tribune Is the end near for one of the greatest mixed martial arts fighters of all time?
Randy Couture has grown tired of the retirement question and any speculation about how his best days may be behind him. Couture says he cannot say for sure if his Feb. 4 fight against Chuck Liddell in the most anticipated Ultimate Fighting Championship bout ever could be his last.
“It’s all about feeling competitive. I’m not in it just to fight,” the 42-year-old Couture says. “I want to be successful.
“It’s speculation that has been out there since I was 38 or 39. I’m not going to go on record and say one thing or another.”
His closest confidantes have their opinions about Couture, who has deep roots in Oregon.
Is the fight his last?
“Yeah, I think it is,” says Matt Lindland, who co-founded the Team Quest Fight Club in Gresham with Couture and coach Robert Follis. “I know he’s talked about that, because he wants to get into other things” — like acting, and moving to Hollywood.
“It could be,” says Dan Henderson, Couture’s longtime friend and a champion in rival organization Pride. If Couture beats Liddell, “it’d be hard with the championship to be offered a lot of money and walk away from it.”
Win or lose, Couture still would have two fights remaining on his UFC contract, which pays him $225,000 for the Liddell fight. If he loses, does the money lure him back? If he wins, are the money and status too much to leave behind to retire on top?
“I’ve heard rumblings that it could be his last fight, win or lose,” says UFC President Dana White, whose organization’s popularity can be partly attributed to Couture’s success. “But there’s too much money in this thing now. I don’t see it being his last fight. I can’t see him walking away. Even if Randy says he’s retiring win or lose, he’ll still be with the UFC in some capacity.”
‘He’s a freak of nature’
Even Liddell, 36, has heard retirement linked with Couture.
“If I beat him, I think he’s done a lot and has nothing left to prove; he won’t want to fight for the No. 1 contender spot again,” he says. “It’s up to him, how his body feels, how he’s able to perform. He’s a tough guy and still competitive.”
Says White: “Randy has lived a healthy lifestyle; you never see Randy Couture out of shape. That’s one of the reasons he’s lasted so long. He’s a freak of nature.”
Liddell knocked out Couture last April to claim the UFC light heavyweight title, and the third fight, a rubber match between the combatants at the 12,000-seat Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, has been sold out since early December.
White says scalpers were asking upward of $9,000 for some tickets.
“It’s pretty friggin’ big. It’s crazy,” he says. “We’ve been bombarded with ticket orders.”
Local, national star
Couture, a former All-American and Olympic alternate wrestler, began fighting in UFC bouts in 1997 and has racked up a record of 14-7. He was born in Everett, Wash., and until recently has lived in Oregon, mostly in the Portland area.
He served as assistant wrestling coach at Oregon State and Centennial High School. He helped start Team Quest in 2000, in the midst of his burgeoning success as mixed martial arts competitor in the UFC.
He has held the heavyweight and light heavyweight belts, the only UFC fighter ever to win titles in two weight classes. His notoriety has led to many clinics, camps, appearances and movie parts, and Couture helped start UFC reality and live event shows on SpikeTV.
When people think of the UFC, they think of Couture.
“It’s a blast,” he says of the UFC’s rising popularity. “Fun to be part of. It’d be a tough thing to walk away from.”
Couture has made ample money; the latest UFC contract could pay him more than $700,000. But the knockout loss to Liddell has motivated him. He overaggressively moved at Liddell, and left him something open. Pop went Liddell with his right fist. Edit: How does that make sense?
“He got caught because he got out of his game plan,” Lindland says. “I’ve never seen him get out of his game plan. He’s the most focused guy I’ve ever seen.”
Couture moved to Las Vegas before the last Liddell fight, and he has been going through a divorce, a stressor he says affected his preparation for the bout. He returns to Portland each month to see his young child and friends, and for Team Quest business. “He looks better and more relaxed,” Lindland says.
Couture has been doing some high-altitude training at a judo center in Colorado, and planned to train some in Sacramento, Calif., before heading back to Vegas.
“It’s been going great,” he says. “I’m definitely prepared. I can’t wait until (the fight) gets here.”
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