"My dad can beat up your dad."
Back in school, you'd hear that thrown about now and again when kids were butting heads. It was always a phony threat, though. No matter how many times "No, he can't" and "Yes, he can" were menacingly tossed back and forth, everybody knew that no one's father was about to get involved in sophomoric playground politics.
Who knows what it was like in the schoolyard when Lee Higgins was growing up? But one thing the fledgling mixed martial artist wants the world to know is that he's not calling out anyone's dad. Which is a good thing, considering that his opponent in the co-main event of Friday night's Strikeforce Challengers 14 event (11 p.m. ET/PT, Showtime) is the son of a UFC Hall of Famer.
"I can't and won't allow myself to get caught up in the hype of fighting a fighter with a very famous last name," said Higgins, speaking at a Strikeforce news conference this week. "Besides, I'm fighting Ryan, not Randy."
Yes, the "very famous last name" he was referring to is "Couture."
This will be just the second professional fight for lightweight Ryan Couture. The 28-year-old from Las Vegas won his debut last August -- not at a small-time event in front of a couple hundred onlookers, but on Showtime as part of a Challengers main card. "Obviously, I have my old man to thank for that, the last name to thank for that," Couture told FIGHT! Magazine's Danny Acosta last fall. "But I really like it. It's kind of trial by fire, really. It's a little extra pressure than getting to cut my teeth on the undercard, but I welcome that challenge."
His challenge on Friday night is another relatively inexperienced latecomer to the sport, also undefeated. Higgins, a 30-year-old fighting out of Houston, is 2-0, with both wins coming by rear-naked choke. And like Couture, who won his bout by triangle choke, he hasn't been out of the first round.
As much as Higgins insists that he's not fighting a family legacy, Couture believes otherwise. He's the son of a legendary five-time UFC champion, after all, and fighters will always be hoping to make a name for themselves by beating someone with his name. "I pretty much expect that from everybody because of who Dad is," he said. "I use that as motivation to really see if I can really live up to the name."
As far as Dad is concerned, Ryan is doing just fine so far. All on his own. "I keep my distance," Randy Couture told Steve Cofield of ESPN Radio in Las Vegas a few months ago. "He comes to me if he needs anything. Other than that, I stay out of it. It's all about him."
* * * * *
Oh, yeah, there are some other fights on the card, most notably a main event featuring lightweight Lyle "Fancy Pants" Beerbohn, who has a pretty interesting story of his own. A former methamphetamine addict, he spent a year in prison on a drug-related felony conviction before turning to MMA. The fighter out of Spokane, Wash., is the subject of a forthcoming documentary film, No Submission.
Beerbohn's opponent is Pat "Bam Bam" Healy, which makes this fight not just a battle of pretty cool nicknames but also an intriguing matchup of an undefeated contender and a rugged veteran.
"This is going to be a fun, tough, hard fight that I expect will go everywhere," Beerbaum (15-0) said at the news conference. "There'll be stand-up, wrestling, a little bit of everything. Pat is definitely an all-around great fighter who is coming off a great performance."
That performance was a back-and-forth battle with former Strikeforce champ Josh Thomson that Healy (25-17), a former UFC and WEC fighter, lost by submission in the third round. Prior to that, he scored victories over Carlos Condit, Paul Daley and Dan Hardy.
"This is a great matchup and I am very excited about fighting in my first main event for Strikeforce on Showtime," said Beerbohm, who in his last Strikeforce bout, in May, defeated four-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Vitor Ribeiro. "My time has come, and I am really looking forward to the fight. l want that title shot.''