Saturday night is (in all likelihood) the last time that one of the greatest mixed martial artists of all time will compete professionally.
I’m talking, of course, about two-division champion and UFC Hall of Fame member Randy “The Natural” Couture.
If his fight with Lyoto Machida is in fact the end of his legendary 14-year career, then Couture will be remembered as not only a great fighter, but a terrific ambassador for MMA and the UFC. His likable personality and humble attitude have endeared him to fans and helped show the wider community that mixed martial artists are more than thugs and street fighters at a time when the sport was struggling to survive.
Couture’s willingness to challenge himself has earned him respect from everyone who knows anything about MMA. He fought at both heavyweight and light heavyweight during his career in order to find new challenges and fight the best fighters he possibly could. This attitude is no doubt the reason that his record is not more impressive (19-10), but it is also why he is one of only two fighters to be UFC champions in different weight classes.
For a seven-year period between 2001 and 2008, Couture fought 14 times in the UFC and, incredibly, 13 of those were title fights. His UFC record for this period may only have been 7-6, but the fact that he was always facing the very best talent the UFC had to offer speaks volumes of his talent, commitment and passion for the sport.
“The Natural” is also well known for maintaining his high level of performance despite being by far the oldest fighter in the UFC. At 47 years of age, he is seven years older than the next oldest, fellow light heavyweight Vladimir Matyushenko.
The fact that he can still compete with men in their early 30s is a testament to his physical fitness, ability and exceptionally clever game plans. It is highly unlikely that we will see a fighter of Couture’s age fight in the Octagon again, let alone win a world title.
Despite being nearly 50 and having done everything there is to do in the sport, don’t rule out another Randy Couture comeback at some point down the road. He retired at age 42 after losing his third fight with Chuck Liddell, only to come out of retirement and win the heavyweight belt at age 44.
If this is the last time that we see Randy Couture grace the cage, then it will be the end of one of the greatest careers in MMA history. He has been a pioneer, champion and ambassador for MMA like no other fighter and will be sorely missed.
Farewell, and thanks for the memories.