UFC heavyweight champion, Randy Couture, one of the biggest names in the world of mixed martial arts, will defend his title against Gabriel Gonzaga in the main event at UFC 74: Respect, taking place this Saturday, August 25. The UFC Hall of Famer is the only athlete to have held championship titles in both the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions in the UFC. The five-time UFC champion was generous enough to spend some time with BuddyTV the other day to share his thoughts on his upcoming fight against Gonzaga as well as to talk about his career and foundation.
Read the full interview transcript and listen to the mp3 audio below.
Alright, well this is Tom Michel from BuddyTV, and it is an honor for us to have one of the most decorated and truly accomplished MMA fighters in the history of the sport today. Please welcome Randy Couture.
How you guys doing?
Fantastic, man. Well hey, you do it all – you act, I hear you’re starring or you’re taking part in an upcoming film to be released next year. You fight, you coach, you commentate. It seems like your life is clicking on all cylinders right now. How has your life changed since this sport really took off a few years ago?
Oh man, it’s been absolutely crazy in the last four or five years. The sport’s really stepped up, and it was crazy enough before, doing a lot of appearances and a lot of seminars and stuff. But now it’s, I mean, it’s pretty overwhelming.
Just going to normal places like Home Depot, I get people following me around, wanting pictures and stuff. It’s kind of nuts, out of all the opportunities like doing the movie, The Scorpion King coming up, things like that. I keep pinching myself, make sure I’m really here.
That’s awesome. How have you changed as a fighter over the same time period, over the last couple of years?
Well, I think I’ve just continued to refine my tactics and technique, obviously, I think my background and my strength is still probably my wrestling, but I’ve really been spending a lot of time refining my punching, kicking, kickboxing skills, and spending a lot of time working on submission positions and a couple of specific areas that fit my style, from the jujitsu and kind of submission realm. That’s what’s fun to me, is just to continue to progress and learn things as a fighter.
At what point in your career did you take a look around and realize that you’re such a huge star?
I don’t know, I don’t really think in those terms. I’m just kind of here to do what I do, and the rest of it, just kind of out there somewhere. So I don’t know, I never really think about it. Obviously, especially at fight events it’s gotten more difficult to kind of manage and get around the fans that want to get photographs and autographs. So I’ve got to be a little more selective in my routes to and from events, but I don’t know if it’s something I’ll ever get used to, it’s different.
You’re very humble, I think that’s one of the endearing qualities that makes the fans really gravitate towards you like they have for sure. You’ve accomplished pretty much anything you could ever hope to accomplish as a professional fighter. You retired, you came back. What pushes you or motivates you to continue to compete in this sport?
I’m purely here now as somebody who loves the sport. I’m physically capable of competing at this high level still, even at 44. And I think that certainly sends a lot of people into a tailspin, they can’t understand that or fathom that.
But I’m not out to win more titles or accomplish anything else, those are just kind of highlights, kind of the icing on the cake. I’m just here because I love the sport, I love to compete. And as long as I’m capable, I can’t see myself doing anything else.
And your fans definitely love to watch you compete. So you have been known doing a really good job of analyzing fighters’ styles, and predicting outcomes of fights for the UFC. You predicted Rampage to beat Liddell in the last fight. How do you predict your upcoming fight with Gonzaga?
Well, I think it’s gonna be a tough fight. I think Gonzaga’s a very well-rounded fighter, he’s got great submission skills, his stand-up skills are pretty decent. He’s a big strong aggressive kid. I think if I have an advantage, it’s just I’ve been in a lot of five-round scraps. And in a big fight like this, there’s a lot of hoopla, and a lot of attention and it can create a lot of pressure, especially for a younger guy who’s only had seven or so fights. So I think I’ll probably end up stretching this fight out into the later rounds, and I think by the fourth round or so, I should be able to wear Gabe out. And hopefully put him in a position where they’ll have to stop the fight, but I could see it going the whole five rounds, too. He’s a tough cat, I don’t think he’s gonna go away easy.
You’re no stranger to taking a fight into the later rounds. Have you been doing anything from a training standpoint, to prepare for a long battle with Gabriel?
Doing all the same things I usually do to get my body into shape, into peak for this fight. I have had a new strength conditioning coach for this training cycle, a kid that’s graduating, doing his internship at my school here in Vegas. His name is Jake, and it’s nice to kind of have a coach to put me through the workouts, instead of having to kind of do it all by myself. And it’s been very, very good, he’s fixed things up, a lot of core strength stuff and mixing that with rounds of cardio. It’s been a challenge, but it’s been very good, I feel I’m in great shape.
Are you 100% coming into the fight?
Yeah, I feel fantastic. And this is two fights in a row where I’m walking into the cage with no injuries at all. I’ve got a blister on my toe and a blister on one of my knuckles, but heck, other than that, I feel pretty damn good.
That’s great. We’ve read a bit about the Couture Foundation on your website. Can you tell your fans some of the things that the foundation is interested in, and some of the work that you’ve done with this recently?
Well, having been a service member in the United States Army for six years, I kind of understand that mentality, I understand what those guys are going through. I was fortunate enough to never have been in a wartime situation, and now 20 years later, I get the opportunity to go and kind of give back and spend some time with those guys. I do a lot of seminars and appearances, and things like that with the military guys. They’re a very knowledgeable group about our sport. The combatants program was kind of spawned out of jujitsu, and out of mixed martial arts, so they’re a very educated crew. They ask great questions, and they understand the positions and things that we as fighters find ourselves in.
I think we share kind of a kindred spirit. I don’t know how you can go and meet some of these guys, especially the guys coming back from the war that are wounded and so forth, and not kind of be touched by their patriotism and what they’ve sacrificed. Having been to the hospitals and been to Iraq, and met a lot of the guys, we wanted to start a foundation that can raise, first of all, awareness about those Americans that are kind of putting it on the line. They’re on the front lines defending our freedom, defending our way of life, and standing up for what we’ve spent a few hundred years developing. And then we hope to raise some funds to help those guys that are coming back wounded, taking that extra step and really made a sacrifice, whether it be a limb or a couple of limbs. And help them kind of integrate themselves back into society, so they can support their families.
Sounds like fantastic work, we appreciate the effort there. Is there anything else you’d like to tell your fans, like any other big interests outside of the ring? What’s life like for Randy Couture when he’s not fighting or training?
I’ve become a master juggler, I’ve got a lot of balls in the air, and the training centers are exploding all over the place. We’re opening in San Diego and Chicago this next month. We just found a space in Toronto, Canada, we’ll be opening there. We’re looking at Des Moines Iowa, Kansas City, Kansas here in the next few months. So we’re excited about the Extreme Couture Mixed Martial Arts Training Centers. The clothing line has just been off the hook. The Extreme Couture with my partners at Affliction have just been going through shirts and coming out with a new line of clothes. Athletic-based clothes, rash guards, and board shorts, and sweats.
All with the kind of Affliction-style graphics on them that are all very cool. I think Quinton Jackson wore one of our Extreme Couture shirts out in his fight against Chuck Liddell, and we can’t keep those things on the shelf. The nutrition line is doing very well, Couture Nutrition, and kind of came up with an athletic base line that’s doing well. I think the fighters like it a lot, it’s all stuff that I use or wished I had to use as I’ve competed and come through. We’ve started a booking agency for fighters, out of Canada called Fight Lab, where we’re kind of helping fighters establish their brands and get appearances, and do speaking engagements and kind of take advantage of the brands that a lot of these young fighters are developing, as they come up into the top echelons of fighting. That’s something I wish that I had was some good representation, when I was coming through, to help me do some of those things.
So Fight Lab is off and running, and doing pretty well. We’re working on some pretty cool stuff, that I think in the next couple of months people are gonna be excited about. We’ve also started a new association for the fans, MMA Worldwide, and Tapout magazine. Go to mmaworldwide.com and sign up for your VIP card, and get discounts on gear and tickets and it’ll get you in the door at affiliated schools across the country with MMA Worldwide and your membership, as well as getting both those magazines for a year. So if you’re a hardcore MMA fan, it’s a great deal. Again, I’ve found a lot of opportunities through mixed martial arts, so it’s kind of nice to be able to give back to the fans, and some of the other fighters as they continue down the road.
Cool. Well, speaking of younger fighters and some of the hardcore fans we have now, is there any advice that you would give to a young wrestler or fighter that’s looking to break through and make some noise in the sport?
I think the biggest thing is to find the proper environment. Find the right team, a group of guys that are gonna take care of you, that are gonna help you learn and push you to the limit. But at the same time, are not out to prove anything, they don’t have an ego about who’s the best. It’s all about kind of nurturing each other. You’re going to put knots on each other’s heads on a daily basis, but all done from a place where you’re trying to get better and better with each other. You’re really only as good as your workout partner, so you find that right group of guys. That’s something you want to hang on to, that’s something that’s pretty special, it’ll take you a long way.
Do you think any one single fight has had the most profound impact on you both personally and professionally?
One single fight?
Yeah. Has there been one moment in your career, one fight that you look back on as being a pivotal fight in your career?
Well, I think I’ve had several, I’ve been in a unique position to continually be put in this underdog spot. The first time was with Vitor Belfort way back in October 1997, and he was the phenom that was tearing everybody up, and nobody really gave me much of a chance at beating him and I managed to come out of that fight victoriously, and kind of shocked everybody, and that kind of set the stage and tone for the rest of my career. I found myself in that situation several other times: Pedro Rizzo, Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, and obviously most recently with Tim Sylvia. That was a very telling fight for me, and early on in my career, it kind of set the tone for me.
That’s great. Randy, you’re truly a world-class fighter and we’re privileged at Buddy TV here to have you today as our guest. Thank you for your time, and we wish you nothing but good luck and much success on August 25th and beyond, in everything that you do. So, thanks Randy.
I really appreciate it, guys. Thanks for having me on.
(Interview conducted by Tom Michel)