At 46 years old, multiple-time UFC champion Randy Couture (17-10 MMA, 14-7 UFC) is used to answering questions about his age. How could he not be? It comes up every time he fights.
But with Couture set to face the “equally experienced” 45-year-old Mark Coleman (16-9 MMA, 7-4 UFC), could this be the one time Couture can dodge the questions? Hardly.
“There’s almost 100 years between us,” Couture recently told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “I’m sure one of the old-age factions out there is going to get behind this fight. Maybe the Depends group. My buddies here say we should move it to Caesar’s and call it the ‘Geezers at Caesar’s.’
“I’ve heard it all for this one, so it’s no different, really. We’re having a good time.”
Couture and Coleman are set to clash in the main event of Saturday’s UFC 109 event in Las Vegas, and the matchup has taken a fair amount of heat for being what some have claimed is a lackluster contest. Based on the merits of his legendary UFC career, Couture has certainly afforded himself the right to pick and choose contests he deems interesting. So what was it about Coleman that piqued Couture’s interest?
“I think it’s always interesting for me to face another wrestler,” Couture said. “Kevin Randleman, Mike Van Arsdale – those were interesting fights. They had a different pace. Different skillsets came into play.
“Wrestlers have a little bit different mindset and do things a little bit differently in a lot of situations. It becomes interesting to me, personally, to face another wrestler and see how we solve some of those problems.”
While Couture has remained relevant throughout his career despite his advanced age, Coleman became a nearly forgotten legend with the 27-month layoff that preceded his current UFC run.
Regardless, Couture feels Coleman’s UFC 100 victory over Stephan Bonnar proves he’s still a formidable foe.
“Mark’s a game fighter,” Couture said. “He showed against Bonnar that he still can compete at this level. I’m anxious to get in there and compete against another wrestler and put him to task.”
It’s perhaps ironic that Couture would point to Coleman’s most recent contest as the proof of his current viability. Couture played a big role in re-inventing “The Hammer,” and now he’s forced to face the improved fighter he helped refine.
Couture insisted he’s not concerned with facing an opponent that was so recently a partner.
“There are no secrets in this sport,” Couture said. “Guys that try to keep all that tight to their vest, I think it’s silly. It’s a different mentality, and in the wrestling world, we don’t have that. I’ve trained in other gyms with other teams. I’ve wrestled some of my best friends for a spot on the team, and someone is going home disappointed. It’s a whole different mentality.
“Wrestlers grind it in, week in and week out. We wrestle two and three times in big matches every week. You learn to compete, and you learn to do it against guys you like and are friends of yours. This is no different. Mark’s a good guy, and I’ve known him for a long time, but this is what we do. We fight.”
Instead, Couture is focused solely on the preparation for his third fight in a six-month period. At 46 years old, the current run is one of the busiest stretches of “The Natural’s” near-13-year career.
“Rolling one camp into the next into the next has been technically really, really good,” Couture said. “I feel like my game is stronger. My ground game with Neil Melanson has been stronger, and it seems like one camp has just been built on the next and the next.
“Physically, I’ve held up real good. Outside of the stitches in the (Antonio Rodrigo) Nogueira fight, I really haven’t had any issues. I feel great. … I should have done it sooner.”
With two decorated wrestlers in the cage, Saturday night’s bout could very easily come down to a striking contest. But with Coleman a master of freestyle grappling and Couture a legend in the Greco-Roman field, “Captain America” is looking forward to the unknown.
“I feel like I have a different style of wrestling that implements in the fight game pretty well,” Couture said. “Mark’s style has always been to try and find a double-leg and put a guy on his back.
“He’s a big, strong guy, so you’ve got to be attentive in there. You don’t want to stand in front of him for very long. I’ve been working a lot on my footwork and moving and creating angles and using combinations. I want to continue to do that with Mark.”
And while, for once, Couture is just slightly the elder in his upcoming fight, the UFC Hall-of-Famer knows there will be plenty more age questions to deal with this week.
“I’ve gotten so used to it,” Couture said. “I’ve heard it since I started the sport, so I just roll my eyes anymore.
“You have the canned answers to all that. I think a monkey could do my job sometimes. But it doesn’t offend me. It doesn’t bother me. It’s all tongue in cheek, and it is what it is.”