Can't keep him down

CHAD SCARSBROOK

, Last Updated: 10:59 AM ET

Don't compare Randy Couture to Rocky Balboa.

The mixed martial arts superstar, who will turn 44 the day before he makes an autograph appearance for the Ultimate Cage Wars event in Winnipeg on June 23, retired from the sport after a loss to Chuck Liddell in February of last year.

But a year later, the competitive juices began to flow again and Couture came out of retirement to defeat Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia in a unanimous decision.

The aging fighter comes out of retirement to shock the world. Sound familiar?

"Rocky didn't come back and try to fight for a world title," said Couture over the phone from Las Vegas, where he lives and trains, earlier this week. "I don't think he had any allusions of beating the guy he was fighting. He was happy that he lasted. I'm not out there just trying to last. If I was just lasting, I'd retire for good. But people see parallels (with Rocky) and that's OK."

His reasons for returning to the octagon were simple.

"I just missed the competition," said Couture, the only five-time champion in UFC history. "I'd been out for a year. I got involved in a grappling match in November and that went really well (he fought to a draw with Brazil's jiu-jitsu champ Ronaldo Souza). It just started the wheel turning again. I thought 'If the opportunity comes, I want to fight.' Sure enough, Dana (White, UFC president) threw the opportunity at me and I took it."

'The Natural' trains six times a week, twice a day. He'll typically take 10 weeks to peak physically for a fight. Morning workouts consist of conditioning oriented exercises (sprinting, circuit training or biometric training) while mat training, grappling and sparring consume his afternoons.

Conditioning, especially when fighting opponents half his age is huge. Couture has never been a knockout artist so he relies on his Greco-Roman wrestling background to take an opponent down and outlast him with superior conditioning.

STANDUP TECHNIQUE

"Conditioning is a tool in the tool belt I can use against my opponent," said the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder. "Tim's probably the closest I've come to having a one-punch knockout. I think it surprised me as much as it surprised everyone else. I've definitely been working on my standup technique for a few years now and it's getting better all the time.

"Conditioning is definitely the key to my success. I liked to keep it fast paced and wear my opponent down as much as possible."

Sprinting is probably Couture's favourite cardio exercise.

"Nothing we do in fighting is long and slow," he said. "Everything is short bursts of explosive energy. We try to simulate the fight as much as possible."

Couture will defend his title against Gabriel Gonzaga on Aug. 25, the second in a four-fight contract with UFC.

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NO PAIN, NO GAIN

Randy Couture's metabolic conditioning workout:

Grab a barbell. Twenty-five pounds on each side should do to start. Take a deep breath, this is gonna hurt. All exercises are done for eight reps, one after the other without stopping. When complete, rest for one minute and then continue for two to five sets depending on your level of fitness. Metabolic conditioning is great for both strength and cardiovascular endurance.

- Bent-over row

- Upright row

- Military press

- Good morning

- Lunges (each leg eight times)

- Squat push press

- Deadlift


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