Could Randy Couture be just a rarity of endurance, or rather has he perfected a style of fighting that will keep fighters fighting far beyond our previous inclinations of what expiration dates can be. Is it not years on your birth certificate, but rather the will you have to evolve, and the damage you incur in your career?
On May 30th, 1997, Randy Couture entered UFC 13, at the age of 33. One of the last of the second generation of mixed martial artists, Randy Couture has survived and built a career out of something he once did just to pay the bills.
Stop and think about that for a second, Mark Kerr, was still the Titan. Tank Abbott was a star. Bas Rutten had yet to debut in the UFC, and that guy from TalkRadio started doing the interviews.
He's outlasted them all (well, except Joe Rogan) and he's working on outlasting another generation of fighters, guys like Mirko Filipovic, and Wanderlei Silva, how can this be?
He's a 46-year-old in a sport renowned for chewing people up and spitting them out. Is he just blessed with inhuman durability? Or iss he just lucky we've never had to hear him say things like; you guys go ahead I just need to drain this out before dinner, or that he can't remember where he left his keys.
There are a lot of moving pieces with this kind of longevity, and there are a lot of components that are fairly obvious.
For starters, Couture only has 25 career fights, in those he's only been separated from his consciousness three times. His wrestling background has allowed him to dictate the pace, and positioning in just about everyone of his fights.
Hes never a guy who's taken a lot of punishment, the only fight I can think of that he's really been brutalized in was his fight with Pedro Rizzo, in 2001.
But the leg kicks he took that night ended up shaping his game, he's always managed to adapt and add a new wrinkles, which has kept his opponents of guard, and him off the trainers table.
While Wanderlei Silva has well over 40 fights, in his legendary career. He's started to have meetings with doctors that has no doubt sapped a large portion of his greatness. So far this hasn't happened to Couture, he managed to formulate game plans around his slumping athletic ability, and has been competitive in all of his fights.
Maybe instead of looking at the age of the make, we should be checking odometers.
While we seem to have a love/hate relationship with fighters who are more defensive(see Anderson Silva, and Lyoto Machida) and cerebral, It seems to mean longer careers, and more peak years.
We embrace fighters who take beatings and come out the other end, but the facts appear to be that it will mean shorter career arcs, with more injuries. Which for a fighter makes for a choice straight out of a rock song.
Is it better to burn out, or fade away?
Is Randy Couture a statistical oddity? Probably, but that doesn't mean that we have nothing to learn from his improbable run to 5 UFC titles.
Like all extremes, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
The trick is finding it.