MMAWeekly Radio & Jeff Cain
When Randy ‘The Natural’ Couture steps in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) octagon this weekend, he will have the opportunity to become a five-time UFC champion. Couture defeated Maurice Smith at UFC : ‘Ultimate Japan 1′ in December of 1997, winning a UFC title for the first time in his career. Randy then left the UFC for nearly three years to compete in Japan. He returned to competition in the United States and the UFC in November of 2000, defeating Kevin Randleman and becoming the only two-time UFC Heavyweight Champion in the organization’s history.
In 2003, after losing back to back fights in the heavyweight division, the only two times he fought in 2002; Randy Couture debuted as a light-heavyweight against Chuck ‘The Iceman’ Liddell for the UFC Interim Light-Heavyweight Championship. Randy upset the longtime light-heavyweight number one contender and went on to become the undisputed UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion by beating ‘The Huntington Beach Bad Boy,’ Tito Ortiz, at UFC 44: ‘Undisputed.’
Couture lost his first title defense against Vitor Belfort at UFC 46: ‘Super Natural’ due to a bizarre eye injury just 49 seconds into the bout. He avenged the loss to Belfort at UFC 49: ‘Unfinished Business,’ becoming a two-time UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion. At UFC 52: ‘Couture and Liddell 2,’ Randy was knocked out for the first time in his career by Liddell. Saturday night, Liddell and Couture will meet for the third time. Couture recently spoke with MMAWeekly Radio about his loss to Liddell and the rubber match this weekend.
MMAWeekly: Randy, how are you?
Randy Couture: I’m good.
MMAWeekly: How is Las Vegas? Have you settled into Vegas now? Do you feel good about living there?
Couture: Beautiful, sunny Las Vegas. None of my friends in Oregon can say that right now.
MMAWeekly: No kidding. Do you miss Oregon, or do you just really enjoy Vegas?
Couture: I like it. I do. I like it. I like the weather. I never thought the rain would affect me, but I like being out of the rain. I just have a lot more positive energy and positive things going on here right now. It’s nice to be here.
MMAWeekly: I saw some pictures of you training with some guy named Andrei Arlovski. What’s that been like?
Couture: He’s a beast. That guy is a monster.
MMAWeekly: Does he remind you of why you’re in the light-heavyweight division now?
Couture: He definitely reenforced my decision.
MMAWeekly: What was that like? How good is Andrei Arlovski?
Couture: He’s phenomenal. I mean he’s just awesome. I had a great week with him. He’s coming back this Friday, being part of the corner for this fight. Yea, it was great. It’s nice not to be the biggest guy in the gym and somebody in your face pushing you, making you work your ass off and literally just beating me up.
MMAWeekly: Do you see yourself, obviously the light-heavyweight division has worked so well for you, but do you ever consider if I was a heavyweight, I could probably out maneuver some of these guys, or are you just comfortable being a 205lb. fighter?
Couture: I’m pretty comfortable where I’m at. There are some guys in the heavyweight division that I could compete against, I’m sure, but it’s not really about that. I’m pretty comfortable where I’m at. I like competing at 205 with guys that are my size and not having to get cute. You know? Not having to sneaky and come up with inventive ways to get around guys that are that big. I’m pretty comfortable where I’m at.
MMAWeekly: You’re fighting ‘The Iceman’ this weekend. It’s here Randy. Are you ready for this?
Couture: Man, I can’t wait until it gets here. It’s kind of the fun part, the waiting. I had my last hard sparring session Wednesday night. I went through that last week with the radio and all that stuff going on, which is a nice distraction because all you’re really doing is sitting around with your thumb in your butt just waiting for the fight to get here.
MMAWeekly: Let me return to this just for a quick second. There’s this debate right now on how good Arlovski is, as far as a heavyweight. If we were to put him up against some of the other heavyweights in Pride, how do you think he’d fare against a Minotauro, a Fedor, or even an Aleksander?
Couture: I think he’d do great. I think he’d do great. I’ve not seen another heavyweight that has the footwork and the agility that he demonstrates for a guy his size. His ground skills are good. I just think he’s got the total package. I think he could go with any of those guys and do very well. Obviously, I think Fedor is the most interesting fight there. Just their styles; that would be an unbelievable fight.
MMAWeekly: Randy, when you fought Josh Barnett in his prime, Josh Barnett was in the best shape of his life for you. You could say the same thing about Ricco Rodriguez. I mean he was like down to 250. How would Arlovski do against the two you fought for the championship those nights? Who would win those fights if Arlovski had to fight Ricco in his prime, and Josh Barnett in his prime?
Couture: I don’t think those guys, and not that it wouldn’t be a fight because I think both of those guys have the potential to submit you. They’re both very talented with submissions, but I think the issue they’re really going to have facing Andrei is he’s quick, and he’s going to be hard to get a hold of without getting your head knocked off. The challenge for both of them would be to get Andrei on the ground, and hope they could find a way to submit him before he got back up. I think it’s rare that you find a guy that can move that well at that size, and he hits like a Mac truck.
MMAWeekly: It’s obvious. We’ve all seen the tape. You got out boxed by Liddell in the last fight. What have you done that you can show us to change the outcome of the fight, to not get caught stepping straight in or whatever? What have you been doing differently this time with your stand up game?
Couture: Well, obviously working a lot on protecting myself better, keeping my left hand up and in position. I think the biggest thing for me is patience. Chuck has to bring this fight. He’s standing there holding the belt, so I need to go out and establish myself in the middle of the octagon and make Chuck come to me and not chase him. Not try to run him down. Be patient, keep pressure on him, but not over commit. Not get careless and over commit.
MMAWeekly: Randy, you said the second fight, the poke had nothing to do with it. Let me ask you, if you did not get poked in the eye, would you have still been knocked out?
Couture: You know what, that’s hard to say. I’m not one to make excuses, and I don’t think Chuck intentionally poked me in the eye. Things like that happen all the time. I got poked in the eye two weeks ago in practice. It happens. It definitely changed my composure, which is my fault. I allowed it to piss me off, and when I came back after John [McCarthy] let me recover, I had my vision. I could see. There was no problem. The eye was fine. I was a little angry. I was like God damn it, and I went straight after him. I hit him, but I still, it was the wrong place and the wrong thing to do. I put myself in a bad position and created the opportunity for him to step off to that angle and land that shot.
MMAWeekly/Frank Trigg: For all the years that I’ve known Randy and all the crap that I’ve done to him, all the jokes I’ve played on him, all the shit we’ve done together that I should have literally gotten my neck broken for; you get mad a Chuck for poking you in the eye during a fight and you never got mad at me?
Couture: It’s not like I haven’t had some issues with my eyes. That was the thing. After the Rodriguez fight and being out for six months with the fracture, and then the Belfort fight with the slice of the eyelid, and I had seen Chuck. He had been accused of poking other guys in the eye, and to have it happen, it just instantly kind of set me off, which is unusual for me. I don’t usually get pissed off, but it did kind of set me off.
MMAWeekly: With that said, what do you do? Is that a concern in number three here?
Couture: I’m not concerned about it. I thought about going out there with some Kareem Abdul Jabbar goggles, but I don’t think that would be cool. If it happens, it happens. I think that mentally I’ve visualized and prepared for the instance that it could happen. It happened in practice two weeks ago. I’ve still got a bit of a black eye now from getting poked in practice, so if it happens, it happens. I’m prepared to keep my composure and stick to my game plan, hunt this son of a bitch down, throw him on his head when I get the chance, and beat him.
MMAWeekly: Randy, you’ve heard the rumors out there. A lot of people believe this is it, win or lose for you. What do you say to that?
Couture: Well, I just signed a three-fight contract. It’s the best contract that I’ve ever signed. The sport is literally exploding in front of us. Competitive wise, I feel as good, I think that I’m the best fighter that I’ve ever been right now. I’ve always said to take it one fight at a time. I’m not looking past Chuck at all. I’ll let the dust settle here and then decide what I want to do. There’s a lot of opportunities to do a lot of other things. I see my friend there talking on Fox Sports. There’s all kinds of other things besides getting punched in the head to do right now. I’ve been doing this a long time.
MMAWeekly: Who has worse cauliflower ear, you or Trigg?
Couture: [laughs] That’s a toss up. I think it would have to be judged, and it would probably be pretty subjective judging going on.
MMAWeekly/Trigg: You’ve got to remember, my ears were not a part of an ad campaign for Nike called ‘Scars.’
Couture: That’s true.
MMAWeekly: Really? I did not know that. When was that?
Couture: I was in a national commercial with Picabo ‘Peekaboo’ Street and Ronnie Lott. I can’t remember who else was in the commercial, but it was about athletes and their scars. It aired during the World Series. It was a pretty big commercial.
MMAWeekly: Wow. How long ago was that?
Couture: It was, holy cow, it had to have been back in 99-98.
MMAWeekly. I had no idea about that. That’s crazy man. That’s good stuff. A third time against Chuck Liddell, I know you can’t really say what you’re going to do this third time, but let me ask you, does this fight favor you the later you. Is this fight something where you feel you’ve got to get Chuck out of there early? What do you see as the best scenario for you to win?
Couture: I think it always favors me if it goes later. I think my conditioning has always been a tool that I’ve been able to use in a lot of fights. With rare exception, it has been an advantage for me, and I think this fight is no different. I’ve got to be sharp early. I think Chuck’s going to come out throwing and trying to stroke and find a way to try and take me out of there early. I’ve got to be sharp and make him work as hard as I can. I’ve made no bones about it, I’m going to try and dump him on his head. The more times I can pick him up and put him on the mat and make him work his butt off to get up, the better off it will be for me.
MMAWeekly: Randy, how do you get it back to that first fight? What did you do in the first fight you did not do in the second fight?
Couture: I think the biggest thing in the first fight was the element of surprise. Nobody expected me to step in there and hit him first. He made the adjustment in his footwork for the second fight. He didn’t stand around. He didn’t plant his feet and try and land any shots. He ran and ran and ran and got me to over commit. Got me to chase him down, and was able to step to that angle and land that shot.
MMAWeekly: Randy, you signed that three-fight deal. Lets just say you beat Liddell. Who are two and three? You’re at a point in your career now where you don’t want to fight a no-name. Obviously you want to fight the best. Who appeals to you in fights two and three if this works out for you?
Couture: Man I don’t know. I don’t even care. I start thinking about down the road, and I run right smack into this road block standing in front of me, so I haven’t even thought about it. They always come up with something interesting. There’s still a lot of guys. Tito is coming back. Ken Shamrock is trying to get back into this. There’s a lot of guys in the division coming back now.
MMAWeekly: Who else have you been training with besides Arlovski down there?
Couture: I spent two weeks up in Colorado with Ed Anderson’s Judo school. I took Mike Pyle out there with me, and Keith Wilson. A bunch of the wrestlers from the area came in and had a great camp there. Those guys all ganged up on me at about 6500ft. And you know how that air feels. It was kind of fun to be out in the mountains, in the clean air and back in Southern Colorado. The training camp out there was great. Other than that, it’s been Mike Pyle and Alex Schoenauer, Forrest Griffin, Chris Tramel, John Wood. There’s a couple of young guys that have been coming in there every day. Frank Mir showed his face a few times.
MMAWeekly: How did he look?
Couture: He looks good. He’s got some work to do. He’s still Frank Mir. He’s got some amazing ground skills, and his stand up wasn’t too bad either. We went some sparring rounds, and he moves well and holds his own there in the standing position. I think the biggest thing is he’s got to get his fitness level back up where it should be.
MMAWeekly: He’s kind of a wild card because I talked to a few people that were worried about his take downs because when you break your femur, what can you do? That will be interesting.
Couture: Yea. I wondered if mobility was going to be an issue, or how much pressure he can put on that leg. I’m sure it’s still pretty early for him, but seemed to be moving fine with the workouts we went through. It didn’t seem to be an issue for him. The biggest issue was he had been out for a while, so he was trying to get his fitness level back up. Heath Herring has been coming in a little bit. Man. He’s a big cat.
MMAWeekly: Yea. He’s a strong kid. Randy, it’s always a pleasure to track you down man. Thanks for letting us harass you.
Couture: You bet man. Thank you guys.