During the broadcast of UFC on FOX 2 this weekend past, something became evident in a hurry: There will never be another Randy Couture.
He was assigned analyst duties in between Curt Menefee and light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and exuded confidence and intelligence as he broke down fights and explained nuances of the sport. Once again, just as when he first entered the cage in 1997, he unsurprisingly lived up to his nickname and seemed to be a natural.
Perhaps it was the fact that he was flanked by an MMA layman and a young champion who was more focused on swaying in his chair and trying to look cool (hard to do when relying so heavily on the prepared notes sitting on the desk in front of you), but Couture seemed to be the steadying presence in a broadcast that needed one.
And from that reality, so came the realization mentioned above that no man will ever fill his shoes.
He’s a man who started in MMA in his mid-30s, won championships in multiple weight class multiple times, fought into his late-40s, and embodied all that was ever right with the sport. He fought legends of every generation, fought guys who came from other sports and stuck a finger in his chest, and even fought Dana White when he felt that he wasn’t getting a fair shake in his contract.
Nobody can match that.
When the time came that he wasn’t so sure he wanted to fight anymore, he took one last matchup against a former world champion still in his prime. He looked sluggish, but soldiered on until he was victimized by a fantastic knockout that brought the biggest live crowd in UFC history out of their seats. He went out as he wanted to, fighting the best and being cheered heroically as he left the arena for the final time.
However, now he’s popped up on television and in movies, extending his shelf life in the public eye with savvy business ventures such as his MMA gyms and clothing lines. He endorses products when he’s not running his businesses or appearing in action flicks. He’s said he’s open to working in some capacity for the UFC should it need him, and perhaps his appearance on FOX was the first such example of that need.
The bottom line is that Couture was a once-in-a-lifetime athlete. As MMA grows bigger and more guys come along, there will be fewer men interested in fighting across multiple weight classes or fighting into their fifth decade on Earth. Even if the interest is there, chances are the physical tools won’t match the commitment the way that Couture’s did.
Randy Couture is an MMA legend, nobody will deny that. The things he accomplished in the cage are unheard of, and they’ll never be replicated. He’s also among the classiest, brightest ambassadors the sport could have, and that’s something that will always be needed.
Fighters come and go, but The Natural will be around forever. He’s one of a kind, and wherever his career takes him, it’s safe to say MMA will never see another one like him.