Randy Couture is planning to retire following his fight at UFC 129 against Lyoto Machida. The 47-year old former UFC champion made the announcement this week to the MMA media. A win by the +274 underdog would be the biggest upset of his career.
“I think it’s time to focus on the other things I have going in my life after the fight. It’s been an ongoing transition for me. I kind of want to go out on my own terms and decide when enough is enough. I think that time has come.” – MMAJunkie.com
The 14 year MMA career of the fighter known as “The Natural” will come to a close with arguably the toughest fight of his tenure. At 47, Couture is stepping into the octagon against one of the most elusive fighters in all of MMA. By the odds, defeating Machida would be the biggest win of Couture’s career.
[adinserter block=”2″]Randy Couture is generally referred to as a “legend” on UFC broadcasts due to his impressive legacy. Randy Couture is the first fighter in UFC history to hold two championships in two different weight classes. He also holds the record for most title reigns with five. He is tied for second for the highest number of UFC fights behind Matt Hughes. He is first overall in competing in the most UFC title fights with fifteen. His status as a “legend” is certainly with merit by those standards.
However, calling Couture a legend is something I have always found a little hard to swallow. Couture certainly is one of the most decorated fighters in MMA history. But Couture’s 19-10 MMA record doesn’t necessarily support legendary status. James Toney was the only Couture opponent in recent memory to publicly say the same thing and call Couture a “fraud”. Camel Clutch Blog contributor Brett Clendaniel also agreed and wrote a fantastic piece on the Camel Clutch Blog breaking down why Randy Couture is not a legend.
Couture is also seen as something of an ambassador in the world of MMA. He is highly respected among his peers in the fight world. He is generally referred to as a leader by the MMA media and UFC broadcasters. He has been honored by the UFC for his career, but he wasn’t always the company man that the UFC would lead you to believe that he is.
In 2007 as UFC heavyweight champion, Couture quit the company. Couture walked out on the company at a very critical period while under contract. Couture’s “strike” was an attempt to strong arm the UFC into releasing Couture from his contract so he could seize an opportunity at a big money Randy Couture vs. Fedor Emelianenko fight. UFC’s parent company wound up suing Couture in 2008 for breach of contract.
The lawsuit blocked any attempts by Couture to fight elsewhere, including a planned IFL appearance. Once it became apparent that Couture was stuck in his contract, he and the UFC resolved their dispute and he returned to the company. Wasn’t that nice of him?
I bring all of this up for the same reason I brought it up two years ago in a blog entitled, “MMA Fans Are Big Babies” when the MMA world went bonkers on Brock Lesnar following his win at UFC 100. After defeating Frank Mir, Lesnar got in Mir’s face and flipped off the crowd. The MMA world went nuts with many calling Brock a terrible representative of the sport and pointing to Randy Couture as an example. Make no mistake about it, Couture’s strategy was to cripple the company and turn Affliction into the number one MMA promotion. Whether it is Brock, Chael Sonnen, Rampage Jackson, Michael Bisping, or Anderson Silva getting criticized for being bad representatives of MMA, none of them walked out on the company with a UFC championship to take a fight somewhere else in hopes of hurting the company.
[adinserter block=”1″]Couture’s victory of Tim Sylvia for the UFC heavyweight championship is considered one of the biggest wins in UFC history. The fight was ranked number 16 all-time on the list of UFC top 100 fights by the UFC. Couture at 43 years old was an underdog against the 6’8” 300 pound Sylvia, but at +225 odds he certainly wasn’t this huge underdog that revisionist history paints him out to be. Couture wound up dominating him for five rounds and winning a unanimous decision. A look a Tim Sylvia’s career following the loss makes the win a lot less impressive, especially when Sylvia was knocked out by 48-year old Ray Mercer in nine seconds a couple years later.
Couture at 47 years old is riding his first three fight winning streak in ten years. He has wins over Brandon Vera, Mark Coleman, and boxer James Toney. I think it says a lot about Couture’s hunger for competition to take this fight with Machida, especially after his one-sided destruction of Toney. He certainly could have rode off into the sunset after beating James Toney as a winner and conquering MMA hero. Instead, he will go out fighting a man who up until his last two fights was thought of as arguably the greatest in the sport.
Keep in mind that Couture has made retirement announcements in the past. Couture is probably tied with Brett Favre for the number of times he has told people that he is done. Notice the words, “I think” as opposed to “It’s time.” Couture has also told reporters this week that he expects that the UFC will attempt to entice him back for one more elite fight. Would I be surprised to see a 50-year old Couture back in the UFC?
Not at all.
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