At what point in an ageing brawler’s life does he cast aside his gloves, making the difficult transition from a world characterized by bloodshed and constant battle to one completely devoid of it? When do the broken limbs, concussions, and losses add up to something insurmountable, forcing a fighter to leave the octagon despite his every inclination to remain?
With many of today’s top UFC fighters having received some form of martial arts or wrestling training for the greater part of their lives, fighting is obviously something that is entrenched in these individual’s DNA.
Maybe, then, this is why many fighters find it difficult to retire when they are so obviously meant to do so. A life marked by violence, suddenly transforming into something peaceful, may seem unnatural and against a fighter’s basic instinct. The question then remains, should violent lives end violently, or should fighters, like the rest of us, go quietly?
Case in point is UFC legend, budding film star, and multiple UFC title-holder Randy “The Natural” Couture. Characterized by the poetic grace of his movements, the subtle strength of his takedowns, and the resounding power of his strikes, Couture has always been someone who has let his work inside the octagon do all the talking.
If this is truly the case then what is “The Natural” trying to convey to us by taking on a fight against former light-heavyweight champion Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida at UFC 129? Is it simple curiosity that drives Couture, or is it yet another instance of the ageing superstar proving the pundits wrong and claiming that he is not done yet?
Marked as finished by many in the business multiple times, Couture has always bounced back, taking on a new challenger with renewed vigour and the athleticism of a man half his age. While the 47-year-old is currently riding a three fight win streak, with notable wins against Brandon Vera and Mark Coleman, he has not faced an opponent as dangerous as Machida in years. With UFC President Dana White claiming Machida may be on the outs with a loss to Couture, after losing his last two fights, I expect to see Machida hungrier than ever when the two do battle on April 30 in Toronto.
The question still remains however, what does the UFC hall of fame fighter Randy Couture have left to prove inside the octagon? The Natural still remains only one of two competitors (the other being BJ Penn) to hold title belts in more than one division, having claimed the light heavyweight and heavyweight title belts. While amassing a record of 19 wins and 10 losses, Couture is credited by many with helping establish UFC as a mainstream competitive sport. His trilogy with Chuck Liddell and his battles with Vitor Belfort and Tim Sylvia are arguably some of the best fights in the UFC within the past ten years.
Could the bout with Machida be a final farewell by Couture or the start of one last title run for The Natural? With competition in the sport of MMA increasingly becoming less confined by age brackets, as seen in 48-year-old NFL running back Herschel Walker’s Strikeforce debut, it would not be surprising to see Couture continue his dominance in the light-heavyweight division.
Whatever the case may be, I look forward to seeing Randy Couture battle Lyoto Machida at UFC 129, and hope that win, lose, or draw his decision to either continue in the sport, or embrace retirement, is made with the knowledge that he exits the sport a true MMA legend.