UFC 129 Results: Thank You for the Memories Randy Couture

"This is gonna be the last time you see these gloves and these shorts in this Octagon. I'm retiring tonight. I want to thank all my fans for all their support. That's it for me, I'm ready to do something else." - Randy Couture after his knockout loss to Chuck Liddell at UFC 57.

Leading up to this past Saturday, much was made about the retirement of Randy Couture. Matt Bishop put together a great series of posts covering the highs and lows of Randy's UFC career. A fight career that has spanned three decades, Randy has been the perennial underdog, the constant spoiler, and hero to almost every MMA fan today. A man who has, at times, allowed his personal life to affect his ability to remain competitive inside the UFC's Octagon, Randy Couture leaves a career that man fighters can only dream to ever achieve.

Randy Couture, like his fight record, is not a perfect man. He's been married and divorced three times and from some accounts, is a terror to work for and with. However, this post's purpose isn't to discuss his short comings as a man; instead, I want to celebrate his ability to inspire those of us that are unable to step into the cage. It's a safe assumption to say that outside of the rare Bloody Elbow reader, none of us have the grit, determination, and athletic ability to ever have a career in MMA. Instead, we live vicariously through the accomplishments of our favorite fighters and often will stand by them during even their most difficult moments.

When Randy retired at UFC 57, I was 21 years old and just getting back into MMA. A fan before the dark ages, I found myself compelled during the first season of The Ultimate fighter. It was through this weekly reality series that I found myself feeling the emotions that I once knew as a child growing up whose father had an illegal card for a Direct TV dish. The most basic of human emotions that only come out during only the mosts competitive experiences. In that first season of the Ultimate Fighter both Couture and Chuck Liddell came off as endearing coaches who truly were looking out for their fighters. The series would conclude with Liddell challenging Couture for his Light Heavyweight title, a fight that end with Couture suffering the first knockout of his career. As a fan of Couture this was devastating. While he had lost in prior matches, never had I seen him look so hopeless. The rubber match at UFC 57 would be the last time I got to see my hero for a year and his tearful goodbye still gives me goosebumps to this day.

With his amazing series of fights with Pedro Rizzo and Chuck Liddell, Randy became a legend. A look at his record without an understanding of significance and the assumption would be that Couture was a mediocre fighter. A sub .667 fighter, Couture has never had a winning streak beyond four fights since 2001. His short lived retirement would be capped with a massively dominant win against Tim Sylvia for the UFC belt and a defense against Gabriel Gonzaga. However, as stated above, Couture is not without his flaws. A long and drawn out legal battle with Zuffa tarnished his reputation with fans and fighters alike. It seemed that a man who was praised for his love of competition and testing himself against the best fighters in the world was solely driven by the financial aspect and took some underhanded steps to try and gain release from his contract. Once the matter was resolved and Couture was able to come to financial terms with Zuffa, he made his return against Brock Lesnar at UFC 91, one of the biggest Pay Per Views of all time. Couture, even in a loss, was able to exploit the holes in Lesnar's game. 

The fight game doesn't offer any comfort to losers. Aging fighters are chewed up and spit out in order to build up the resumes and marketability of the new breed. Last night saw Randy become the punchline to perhaps one of the greatest highlights of all time. He now finds himself in the company of Ben Henderson and Vitor Belfort as the victim of spectacular kicks that will forever be remembered. Yet for Couture, it seems to be a fitting way to walk away from active competition. He's given so much to young fighters and his last gift was rebuilding Lyoto Machida's tarnished brand as a fighter. Randy went out on his shield in perhaps the most memorable fight of his career. As everything with the Natural, it's not about the wins or losses. It's about the fight and he put up a helluva fight against one of the best fighters in the Light Heavyweight division. I hope he can transition to mentor for younger fighters, a wealth of knowledge not just on fighting but also on life. It's a role fitting for the man in his retirement. 

 

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More UFC 129 Results and Analysis from Bloody Elbow.

 

 

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