by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com
Randy “The Natural” Couture takes on Gabriel Gonzaga for the UFC Heavyweight Championship of the World next weekend at UFC 74 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Couture weighed in on the current state of the heavyweight division worldwide.

A year ago mixed martial arts fans were complaining about the lack of depth in the UFC heavyweight division. Since then we’ve seen Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic, Heath Herring and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira added to the roster, Randy Couture’s return, and the emergence of Gabriel Gonzaga.

“They aren’t making my job any easier are they, commented Couture about the influx of talent brought in over the last several months.

He added, “I came in and it was pretty much the Tim [Sylvia] and Andrei [Arlovski] show for a long time there. Suddenly I come out of retirement and these guys come out of the woodwork. I was going, what the heck is going on? There’s a lot of great fighters in that weight division now. It was kind of not as deep, and now it’s one of the deepest weight classes. It makes it a lot of fun for me to look at these guys and see how it’s going to shake out and what the next interesting match up might be. There’s certainly a lot of them. I don’t want to look past Gabriel Gonzaga. After that, we’ll see what happens.”

One can not talk about the heavyweight division in mixed martial arts without mentioning Fedor Emelianenko. Questioned about the number one ranked heavyweight in the world, Couture replied, “I don’t know anybody who wouldn’t want to fight him. He’s probably the best fighter in the world right now. We as fighters want to be considered the best, and you’ve got to fight the best. I’ve certainly admire his skill and admire his approach to our sport. I think he’s amazing to watch, and to get a chance to fight a guy like that would be a dream. It would be awesome.”

Questioned who could become the next number one contender for the UFC heavyweight title: Tim Sylvia, Nogueira, Mirko ‘Cro Cop,’ Andrei Arlovski, or Brandon Vera? Randy answered, “Well, I think those are some interesting fights. I think you’re going to see Vera and Tim Sylvia hook it up. Brandon Vera is going to get back in the mix here. He’s got some new management, so I think he’s going to be dealing with the UFC on a little more positive way. I think that’s a very interesting fight.”

Continuing, Couture said, “You’ve still go Arlovski, who in my opinion is one of the best athletes in the heavyweight division sitting out there. I think in a lot of ways is still recovering from the fights with Tim. I just don’t see him as aggressive and pulling the trigger the way he was before getting knocked out by Tim. I think if he figures that out he’s still physically one of the best guys in the weight class.”

Addressing Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic, Couture commented, “He’s got a great fight with Cheick Kongo, who I was surprised to see get beat in that last fight of his. I think whoever comes out of that fight is certainly going to be in contention.”

“Nogueira had a rocky start. [Heath] Herring was on top of things. I thought Herring had a great opportunity to finish him in that fight. Nogueira being one of the toughest guys out there, I’ve seen that guy take some shots. It’s been pretty amazing. He managed to recover and find a way to win,” said Couture.

‘The Natural’ went on to say, “Any one of those guys would be great fights. It would just be interesting to sit back and see how it all settles out.”

“I think the landscape in the heavyweight division keeps getting tougher and tougher,” said the current UFC heavyweight champ, and that pretty much sums it up.