While 2017 wasn’t a particularly productive year inside the cage for lightweight Ryan Couture, what he was able to do in his single fight was nonetheless positive.
Against Haim Gozali at Bellator: NYC in June of 2017, Couture was able to pick up a unanimous decision win, and do so in a venue that’s played host to some of the most significant moments in sports history.
“The fight and getting to be a part of that show and fight in (Madison Square) Garden and get a win in that historic venue was a career highlight for me,” Couture told MMAWeekly.com. “It was an incredible experience, and I’m so thankful I got to be a part of it.”
Unfortunately, Couture wasn’t able to capitalize on his win over Gozali, as an injury has kept him sidelined for a year. Still, he has been able to use his time off in a productive fashion.
“There were talks about me returning in October, but then I tore my meniscus in September, so I had to get knee surgery and got bumped to the back of the line, and it took a while to get re-booked for something,” said Couture. “That’s been on the more frustrating part of the spectrum, but it’s part of the sport.
“I’m trying to keep myself busy at the gym and focus on teaching and coaching. I’ve taken a larger role in the management in the gym. I’ve made the most of my time off. I definitely don’t have any trouble finding other things to do and keep me productive.”
After a year off, Couture (11-5) returns to Bellator on Friday in Temecula, Calif., against veteran Saad Awad (22-9) in a main card catchweight bout.
“I’m stoked about the matchup,” Couture said. “(Awad is) obviously a very dangerous opponent. He’s somebody that’s always right there in the mix at lightweight. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to go in there and make a statement and get myself back on track.
“He’s known for being heavy-handed, but he’s dangerous with his submissions as well. It’s a fun match-up. I have to be sharp and be on my game. I think I’m ready to get in there and shut him down, frustrate him, and find a way to win.”
Having experienced multiple prolonged layoffs over the past couple years, Couture is eager to get back to the days of consistent fighting he experienced earlier in his career.
“It is frustrating to only get in one or two fights a year and not feel like I’m making any progress towards my ultimate goal,” said Couture. “Now that I’m 35 and don’t have many years left to pursue that goal, it’s given me a little bit of urgency to make sure that I break that trend and become more active.
“It always comes down to what opportunities present themselves, no matter how much I have in my mind of what I want to do. Ultimately I need to go out there and get this win, and then fight at least one more time this year.”