UFC Hall of Famers Randy Couture and Mark Coleman spoke Thursday about their upcoming bout at UFC 109 on Feb. 6 where the former heavyweight champions will compete at 205 pounds. Most of the questions from the assembled media Thursday predictable centered on age. Couture is 46. Coleman is 45. The two wrestled 20 years ago in the finals of a college tournament and were supposed to fight over a decade ago, but Couture pulled out due to injury.
The fighters answered questions with the aplomb expected of veterans. There were many questions but only a few subjects. FIGHT! has condensed their thoughts on each.
(Randy rests between rounds as he preps for Coleman. Check out the full gallery here.)
“Captain America” is a living legend. A sports editor for a major newspaper once asked, if Couture’s so good, why is his record (17-10) bad? That editor knew nothing about mixed martial arts. Fifteen of his 27 bouts have been UFC championship fights. He was the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and Heavyweight Champion on several occasions.
On aging “I’ve got better as I’ve got older at listening to my body. Win or lose Mark and I still have a lot to contribute to the sport. This is not a make or break fight. Every time Mark or I fight, they are going to judge us. Oh, he’s slowing down. I’ve been hearing that for six years now.”
On gaining experience “Early on it was new and in some situations overwhelming. In some ways you do appreciate it more. It doesn’t feel like work. I feel really fortunate to do this for a living. I do appreciate it more at this stage of my career.”
On preparing for Coleman “One of the biggest chances I’ve made in the last few months was to concentrate on my ground fighting. It’s always interesting to take on a guy with similar background and similar styles. There is no doubt that Mark used his wrestling very diligently and won a lot of fights from there. You have to be ready to deal with Mark’s wrestling.”
On Lyoto Machida and Mauricio Rua “I would love to fight either one of those guys. Machida is walking around with the belt and he certainly has a big target on his back. But you have to go where the opportunity is. If something presents itself at heavyweight I’d have to consider that.”
On the wrestling match with Coleman “I was at Oklahoma State. I remember the match pretty clearly. Mark was firing on all cylinders in his wrestling career at that time and he beat me. He came out and got in my face and beat me.”
(Coleman nails Stephan Bonnar. Courtesy of Zuffa, LLC)
The godfather of ground-and-pound, Coleman (16-9) was the first UFC Heavyweight Champion and also won the 2000 Pride Grand Prix. He was out of fighting for more than two years before his recent three-fight stint in the UFC. Once an arrogant and brash young fighter, Coleman has become an elder statesman, soft-spoken outside the cage and genuinely happy that fans still recognize him.
On aging “If I had listened to the critics, I would have retired 10 years ago. This won’t be my last fight and I don’t think it will be Randy’s. This is what I love to do. There’s no reason for me to retire. I can still compete with all these guys out here. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to train smarter and take care of myself.”
On fighting Couture “It’s the number one question for the last 10 years. People asking me, ‘When you going to fight Randy?’ This is at the top by far the biggest fight in my life. I’ve been in some big fights but none compare to this. Personally there is a lot on the line for me. Winning is very important but I was to put on a good show for the fans. That’s critical. I want to win, but, most importantly, I want it to be a good competitive fight.”
On the wrestling match with Couture “We were banging pretty hard. He brought it to me. At the time I was giving it back. I remember he was very strong and, kind of like he fights, he was in my face the whole time. He gave me an accidental head butt during the match and I had to get two stitches. So maybe I owe him a head butt.”
On being the underdog “Well it’s just kind of what I deserve. I deserve to be the underdog because of my performances in the past. For the Bonner fight I was able to get away from Ohio and put a nice training camp together. If I put a good camp together and come in good shape, I pose a threat to anybody out there.”
On being a UFC main event (his last was UFC 14 in 1997) “I’m very grateful. I was devastated when I pulled out against Tito (before UFC 106). I felt like I missed out on a huge opportunity. I didn’t anticipate being able to top that match up. I do feel lucky to face Randy Couture because he is, in my opinion, one of the greatest of all time in this sport.”
On fighting Couture “I’m aware that Randy can change his styles and the way he fights. I’m not known for a great gameplan. I mean, I have a gameplan, but I stick to a certain style. It’s all about reacting to what your opponent does that night.”