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Couture reflects on career, looks ahead to UFC 109


The name Randy Couture has become synonymous with the sport of mixed martial arts.

Along with Chuck Liddell, whom he has battled three times, Couture is universally credited with launching MMA into the mainstream of American pop culture and sports.

At 46 years young, "The Natural" continues to subject himself to the rigors of training that come with being a top level mixed martial artist.

Why you might ask?

"I'm probably a little twisted and demented, but this is my idea of fun," Couture chuckled. "I am still learning new things everyday and feel blessed and fortunate every time I get to go out there and compete."

Couture has said it before and he reiterated it again. Beyond having fun, his motivation lies in taking "interesting fights." While a title would be great, it is not the determining factor in him continuing to compete.

"I've won all the titles, and done all that stuff. If they come, that's great. But simply competing is what's most important to me at this point.

Although Couture admitted, fighting Lyoto Machida in a title fight would be "very interesting."

"No one has completely figured out the puzzle of Machida. I'd like to try and figure him out."

Many have questioned the motives of the seemingly ageless icon, calling for the Hall of Famer to retire, yet Couture doesn't let that affect his decision-making process.

"I don't worry about what anyone else thinks. It's about how I feel and am I achieving the benchmarks I have set for myself. I examine things after each and every time I compete. I look at if I'm still physically capable of doing what I love to do. And so far that's been the case."

One might assume that as a fighter ages, they'd prefer to take more time off between training camps but that's simply not the case with the oldest man currently fighting inside the octagon.

In fact it's just the opposite. His upcoming fight with Mark Coleman at UFC 109 will be Couture's third fight in a five-month span.

"I have been taking fights on shorter turnaround and I have actually enjoyed the shorter champs," Couture said. "Physically, I have held up real well. It's been nice. My fighting style and technique has actually changed because of the closeness of the camps."

As wild as it sounds, the 46-year old said that he felt better then ever after his epic and long overdue war of attrition with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 102. Couture believes the combination of supplements and mental exercises are the key to his success.

"I've learned to listen to my body more. I rest more and train smarter. Beyond the physical, the mental is critical. I started mental training skills back when I was a wrestler. Visualization, positive thinking and hypnosis are all tools that I have used.

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"Learning that your mind controls everything, your body does what the mind tells it to. Athletes in particular have a voice in their head that can turn negative...questioning their training and questioning themselves. Learning that you can shut that off and control it is something that I've focused on over the years.

"As far as supplements go that's a journey I started seven years ago when I first cut to light heavyweight. I learned and studied more about what to put in my body which led to forming our own supplement line.

In the last two years I started getting my blood chemistry tested and choosing foods and supplements based around that. I just feel better, I feel like I am getting a lot more out of myself. In a lot of ways, I feel younger now then when I got into this sport."

Couture got into the sport at an age when many athletes would be considered in or past their prime. One month shy of his 34th birthday, the former collegiate All-American wrestler and three-time Olympic team alternate made his debut as a mixed martial artist at UFC 13.

He entered the four-man heavyweight tournament where he was matched up against Tony Halme, a man who outweighed him by nearly 100 pounds. For the fighter later given the nickname "Captain America" you'd expect nothing less then superhero coolness, right?

"The whole thing was surreal. When I looked at the size of the guy standing across the cage from me I about pissed myself. It was quite an experience and I wasn't sure what I had gotten myself into. I relied heavily on my wrestling. I didn't have a lot of other skills. I just went in there and did what I knew to do. The experience let me know I had a long way to go and needed to learn a lot more about the sport."

Couture would go on to win the heavyweight tournament. It became the launching pad for a Hall of Fame career which would see Couture consistently face bigger men and routinely play the role of the underdog who pulled off the upset.

Fast forward 12 years. Couture would stand across the cage from a completely different type of 290-pounder. The evolution of the heavyweight division is something that Couture has dealt with first hand during his career and it reached a zenith when he faced Brock Lesnar at UFC 91.

"Back in 2002, I faced with guys like Ricco Rodriguez and Josh Barnett, who were bigger athletes with good ground control. But they didn't have anywhere near the athletic ability of a guy like Brock Lesnar or a Shane Carwin, some of these guys in the top 10 now, Cain Velasquez. Athleticism keeps going up a notch or two and Brock marked a new era in the heavyweight division."

Consecutive losses to Lesnar and Nogueria marked the second time in Couture's career he'd lost back-to-back heavyweight fights. With history repeating itself, Couture once again cut weight to compete in the light heavyweight division.

At UFC 109, Couture will make history once again when he collides with Mark Coleman. The bout will mark the first time two Hall of Famers have met inside the octagon. For Couture, it isn't the facet he finds most intriguing.

"I didn't realize the Hall of Fame part of it until after the fact. They asked me if I'd fight Mark and I said yes. I think the match up itself is more interesting. We were supposed to fight before but I injured myself and now the fight has come back around. We're fighting now, that's what matters; that's how the cards were dealt."

Couture and Coleman were originally scheduled to fight back at UFC 17 but a Couture injury forced the cancellation of the bout. While Couture feels Coleman will present a challenge, he feels comfortable with the match up stylistically.

"Mark's fighting style has been the same since he started. He's got a great double leg. He's a big strong guy. I've been training off my back to prepare for if and when the fight goes there. I was able to get off my back with Lesnar so I am not too worried. Mark is a big strong guy but he's certainly not Lesnar. I will have more then enough skills to deal with him on the ground or wherever the fight ends up."

While nothing is ever official in MMA until it happens, many have speculated that if Couture wins in impressive enough fashion, he will be propelled into one last title fight with the winner of Lyoto Machida vs. Shogun Rua.

Couture however would not admit to thinking about anything other then his fight with Coleman. "I'm not thinking about it, I'm not thinking about anything but Mark."

Couture is completely content living in the moment when it comes to his career at this point.

"I am just taking this one fight at a time."