Couture down to one last fight

NEIL SPRINGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:11 PM ET

Win, lose or draw, Randy (The Natural) Couture is hanging them up after his fight with Lyoto (The Dragon) Machida.

“I don’t want to wait until doctors go, ‘Look, you can’t fight anymore,’” Couture said on a UFC conference call. “I’m healthy and can enjoy the rest of my life. I don’t want to wait too long.

“It’s my 30th fight and I’ve been doing this for 14 years. It’s time to focus on other things in my life and enjoy my life a little bit.

“It’s about the journey; it’s about the performance. As long as I have a good performance, I’ll be satisfied and happy either way. It’s all good.”

In what, it turns out, will be his final fight, the UFC Hall of Famer meets Machida at UFC 129 at the Rogers Centre, April 30. The card will be headlined by a welterweight title fight between Canadian Georges (Rush) St. Pierre and Jake Shields. In the co-main event, featherweight champion Jose (Scarface) Aldo takes on London, Ont. native Mark (The Machine) Hominick.

The show will set a North American live audience record for mixed martial arts. Tom Wright, director of operations for UFC Canada, also confirmed tickets have been bought by fans from all seven continents.

Couture said he has no problem making the announcement before fighting Machida because the size of UFC 129 overshadows his retirement.

“It’s certainly exciting to get on a card like this with the guys that are on this card and to have it be before a crowd of 55,000 (fans),” Couture said.

“This card is so huge that me retiring isn’t that huge a deal in the grand scheme of things. I answered the question when the first person asked me about it and now everyone is talking about it, but it’s not that big a deal.”

MMA fans will likely ignore Couture’s attempt to downplay his own retirement and meet him with a hero’s welcome. If he wasn’t already due for one of the loudest reactions of the night, he is now.Machida said he feels privileged to be Couture’s last opponent.

“It’s an honour to fight someone like Randy Couture,” Machida said through his translator, Ed Soares. “Randy Couture has helped build a history in this sport. He’s helped build this sport to what it is today. I just feel honoured to be able to fight him.”

When the cage door shuts, Machida plans to come at Couture with everything he has. After all, not punching the MMA legend as hard as possible would be downright disrespectful.

“Out of respect, I want to give my best to Randy Couture on that night,” Machida said. “This plays an important part not only in history — to be the last guy to fight Randy Couture — but it plays a big part in my career, to have a legend like Randy on my resume.”

Couture admitted he’s considered retirement while training for his last few fights. He had been asking the UFC brass to fight Machida for some time, but was given other opponents. Now that the opportunity has come his way, he can’t pass it up. “Machida just has such a unique style in the way he competes,” Couture said. “He’s the kind of athlete that has these fights that are kind of intriguing for me to try and figure out and test myself.”

It wasn’t that long ago fans and writers alike thought Machida was invincible. His unique, evasive style made many talented fighters look amateurish. However, after suffering a knockout loss to Maurico (Shogun) Rua last May in Montreal and a controversial, split-decision loss to Quinton (Rampage) Jackson in November, the pressure is on for Machida to deliver against Couture.

In January, prior to UFC Fight for the Troops 2, UFC president Dana White called this a “must-win” fight for Machida. Whether that means the former light-heavyweight champion could be on the chopping block remains to be seen.

Machida said the losses have helped him grow as a fighter.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is that you constantly need to be changing and you constantly need to be evolving,” Machida said. “A lot of people think, ‘If it’s working, don’t change anything.’ But I realize now that when you’re winning and you’re the champion, that’s when you have to be constantly evolving because everybody’s gunning for you.”

As for Couture, things are looking up for his life after fighting.

He’s about to start filming an action movie called Hijacked with Vinnie Jones and Dominic Purcell. On Aug. 22, he’s also tentatively set to begin work on The Expendables 2. Though he plans on turning down any future fight contracts, he hopes to remain a part of the UFC.

“I’m sure the UFC is going to have other ideas for other fights and they’re going to try and entice me into coming back and fighting again,” Couture said.

“I see myself hopefully being with the UFC and Zuffa and getting involved in some other way, shape or form.

“I enjoyed commentating when I did that for a couple years. That’s something I could see myself going back to and continue to give that fighter’s perspective.”


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