UFC heavyweight champion and MMA legend Randy Couture is back in the fold with the UFC and will take on Brock Lesnar Nov. 15 at UFC 91 in one of the biggest and most intriguing fights of the year. I recently caught up with Couture and talked about UFC 91.
MMA Stomping Grounds: How many fights have you had that have been bigger than what they anticipate this fight with Lesnar will bring?
Randy Couture: Well, they are predicting a huge [pay-per-view] buy -- I certainly hope it comes through. I take all the fights the same and treat everyone the same. It’s a title fight and every single fight is a big fight and it just feels like another UFC to me.
MMA Stomping Grounds: Do you think Lesnar deserves a title shot against you?
Randy Couture: It’s really not my call. I don’t think they are pretending Lesnar is the No. 1 contender, but I think first and foremost the UFC wants to put on big fights and this is a big fight.
MMA Stomping Grounds: In your mind, who is the favorite in this fight?
Randy Couture: I have no idea, I don’t really care about things like that. It’s all about who goes out and performs on the night. I know I’m preparing and will be ready to go on the 15th of November. Whatever happens happens.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What is the main roadblock at this point preventing a matchup with Fedor Emelianenko?
Randy Couture: I don’t really know what the issues are. I haven’t plugged back into that. I’ve focused on Brock and the fight coming up. If it’s meant to be it will work out the way it was supposed to work out. He has his Affliction contract and a bunch of other stuff to settle and Ill let the UFC deal with that. I just focus on the things I can control and that right now is my training, and [there's] a lot of that going on.
MMA Stomping Grounds: You were outspoken about the issues facing fighters in the UFC. Have your problems with the UFC and the way it handles fighters been reconciled?
Randy Couture: It’s been reconciled for me, a lot of water under the bridge and you let bygones be bygones. I couldn’t afford to spend another year spending money on lawyers to see what may or may not happen. I gotta fairly short window of competition left here and I had to do what I had to do to take care of myself and my career.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What is your relationship like with UFC president Dana White?
Randy Couture: It’s been fine -- it was never personal between Dana and me. There were never any dispersions cast or personal issues. It was all business things that needed to be worked out and now everything is fine.
MMA Stomping Grounds: Do you think Kimbo Slice did any damage to the sport?
Randy Couture: I don’t think Kimbo has done any damage. I think that they pushed him out there ahead of where his real skills and capabilities, and some athletes were irritated by that. He got the pay and notoriety when his skill level wasn’t really at that point, but Kimbo has never acted that way. He’s been at our training center and I’ve been around him on several occasions. He’s fairly quiet, humble guy who realizes he has a lot to learn in MMA and what happened to him against [Seth] Petruzelli could happen to anyone. Fault doesn’t lie with Kimbo -- If there’s anyone to blame it’s the powers that be that have marketed him like that.
MMA Stomping Grounds: If you could change anything about MMA, what would it be?
Randy Couture: I guess if there’s anything I could change, it would be that the athletes got things like health insurance and retirement plans and more equal compensation compared to other professional athletes and sports in our country. I definitely think its going to take time, any kind of change, especially like that, you’re talking about a lot of people and money. It’s going to take time.
MMA Stomping Grounds: It seems like there’s a growing number of MMA message boards. Do you follow any of that stuff?
Randy Couture: Nah, I don’t keep up with that. I don’t need to elaborate.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What do you like the most about the sport and the least about the sport?
Randy Couture: I think the one-on-one tactical, technical competition is what I like about it most.
Least? I don’t know, I guess at this point for me it’s sometimes the celebrity status that comes with competing at a high level. It can be overwhelming at times. There can be a lack of privacy and personal space just about everywhere I go at this point.
MMA Stomping Grounds: When did you first notice you were gaining some celebrity status?
Randy Couture: I think it was slow but the thing that stuck out to me was after the second Pedro Rizzo fight at MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Normally I just walk from the arena to the lobby and my room, but after that fight it took me three hours to get down the walk and get back to my room. I had my whole family with me and they were all frustrated by the time we finally got to our rooms. That’s when I realized I had to come up with alternate routes and some security might be in order, but that was the first time it really stuck out to me.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What is the coolest experience you’ve had because of your celebrity status?
Randy Couture: Well I’ve gotten tons of opportunities and met tons of interesting people through this sport and the exposure in this sport, it’s hard to single out just one. Probably going over to Iraq and getting to spend 12 days on the ground there with the soldiers that were putting it on the line over there. That was one of the coolest things I’ve gotten to do. The guys were great and they really appreciated that Rich Franklin and I came over. It was a good experience.
MMA Stomping Grounds: How much longer do you think you will fight?
Randy Couture: I haven’t put a date or limit on it. I take it one fight or training camp at a time and go from there.
MMA Stomping Grounds: You recently filmed The Scorpion King sequel. How was that experience?
Randy Couture: That was great. I’ve done seven movies now but this was my biggest part and the six weeks in Cape Town, Africa, were awesome. I really enjoyed the city and the people there and the sights in that part of the world were impressive.
MMA Stomping Grounds: If there was going to be a movie made about your life, who would you want to play you?
Randy Couture: I don’t know, I’m not sure ... probably a lot of guys could pull it off. Maybe a Sean Penn or Colin Farrell.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What do you like to do when you're away from fighting?
Randy Couture: I like the outdoors, motorcycles, mountain biking, hunting and fishing. Anything outdoors.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about MMA?
Randy Couture: Well, I think for a long time the misconception was that we were somehow dangerous or criminal because of what we did. Most of that is gone and I think there're still some people out there [who] think we will walk up and kick peoples' asses on the street for no particular reason.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What do you think has been the biggest change to the sport during your career?
Randy Couture: The fan base. My first fight was in a little civic center in Augusta, Georgia. The weigh-ins were at the Holiday Inn lobby and there were maybe 1,500 people at the show. They just got free tickets to come to a fight, they didn’t know who it was. Our fans are well-educated now.
MMA Stomping Grounds: With the economy in shambles, how do you think the sport will be affected?
Randy Couture: I don’t think it will be affected. Even in tough times people want that little escape, they want to forget about things and I think going to one of our sporting events or buying a [pay-per-view] allows them a couple hours where they can relax and not have to do anything but get into the fights.
MMA Stomping Grounds: Have you been affected personally at all?
Randy Couture: I haven’t had any issues: the training centers are doing fantastic, the clothing line continues to grow. We’re coming out in Men’s Wearhouse in November with Xtreme Couture, new blazers and denim and stuff. We have a new sports drink we’re kind of launching that I think a lot of guys will like. We’re building that from grassroots level -- it’s called Undefeated and things are going very, very well.
MMA Stomping Grounds: Chuck Liddell has endorsed John McCain. Are you endorsing any presidential candidates?
Randy Couture: Traditionally I’ve been a Republican, since I’ve been old enough to vote, but I haven’t endorsed anyone yet. It’s fairly complicated so I’m paying close attention to the issues.
MMA Stomping Grounds: Finally, what’s the key against Brock Lesnar?
Randy Couture: Well, I think like every other fight I’ve been in, I need to stick to the plan and impose my pace and my tempo and my will on the fight and things will go my way.