BOSTON - AUGUST 28: Randy Couture (R) reacts after defeating James Toney in the first round of their UFC heavyweight bout at the TD Garden on August 28 2010 in Boston Massachusetts. (Photo by Al Bello/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
This is the conclusion of my two part interview with UFC legend, Randy Couture. This segment deals with all things MMA. If you missed Part I, you can find it here:
Stephie Daniels: I recently read an article that talked about how Dan Henderson lost his front teeth. The article said that you were responsible for that. Is this correct?
Randy Couture: That's actually true. We were training up in Portland, and at that time, it was before Team Quest started. We were training at a JKD gym. I hit Dan, and he was wearing his mouthpiece and everything, but I must have caught him just right and knocked out his front tooth. I think he'd already damaged one from wrestling, so maybe that led to it coming out as easily as it did.
He paid me back, though. He was the first guy to ever knock me on my ass. I didn't know where I was at until I hit the ground. He's got an amazing right hand. I'm really excited for his fight in September against Bones Jones. I think he's going to pull that off and surprise everybody.
Stephie Daniels: I interviewed Joe Rogan recently, and he said that fighters could learn a lot from you about training because you always trained smart and avoided injury. Is there any advice you could pass along to the up and coming guys to help them out in this regard?
Randy Couture: There's such a very fine line between overdoing it and underdoing it and getting it right. You always know when you got it right, because you feel good. There isn't a fight you walk into that you don't have some small, nagging injury. That happens throughout the course of training camps. It's the bigger ones that affect your performance that you try to avoid. Fortunately, as we get older, we get a little smarter, and learn to listen to your body a little more. You don't really have anything to prove to anybody, and you kind of know when to pull back, and you know when to turn it on.
Having started in a sport, like this one, at 34 years old, I really had to learn quickly that I couldn't just go wide open all the time. I was notorious for overtraining in wrestling when I was competing for the national team. I think as I transitioned to fighting, I learned I couldn't get away with that. I had to dial it back and learn to listen to my body. It's something that comes with experience.
I think the biggest issue I see with the younger guys is this huge up and down. They don't keep their fitness level as high as they should in between fights. They get way out of shape, and then they're trying to crawl back up into shape. It seems to me that's when a lot of the injuries occur, when they're trying to get themselves back into fight shape.
Stephie Daniels: What are your thoughts on some of the advancements in sports recovery tools and therapies, as well as the incorporation of new training implements? Specifically, hyperbaric therapy, yoga, and diet gurus like Mike Dolce?
Randy Couture: I think we've come a long way in sports medicine. I think that's attributed to guys like myself and Henderson, that lasted as long as we did, because what used to be no man's land after 30, is now closer to 40. Maybe 40 is the new 30. Guys are learning that they are running a finely tuned car in a lot of ways. You're only going to get one car, with this body you carry around, and what you put in it is very important. If you put crappy oil and crappy fuel in it, it's not going to run very well or very long.
Select physical therapy helps us out at Xtreme Couture. It's nice to have athletic trainers to help us with our injuries and things that happen along the way. Nutrition changed significantly for me when I started cutting down to 205. I wanted to make the weight without suffering in speed and strength. I learned about alkalinity and acidity and all those things that Dolce is using a lot in his diet to get peak performance. I think there's definitely something to those things.
Stephie Daniels: What are your thoughts on TRT, and do you feel that maybe some of these guys might be starting too early with it?
Randy Couture: The thing is, we put our bodies through a very intense regimen to get in shape for these fights, and that is really hard on all your glands. That can cause some of the low testosterone in the younger guys, under 35. It's not normal for guys that age to have low testosterone. The average guy walking around, there's a very small percentage of guys that actually have that, but because of the intensity that we train on a regular basis, we hammer our glands. The adrenals and all those glands that control those hormones are under stress all the time.
If you figure that you fight three times a year, that's 30 weeks out of the year that you're in two a day, hard work training sessions. That's a lot in a 52 week period. I think that's where some of it comes from. My concern is that once you start TRT, your body is going to require that for the rest of your life. You're taking an external sourced testosterone and putting it in your body. Your body is going to adapt to that to maintain a status quo, and it's not going to produce what it should be on it's own. I think that's the biggest issue with it.
I think there are natural ways to boost your body's own production, other than putting it in from an external source. There are natural herbs and things. That's the road I chose when I realized that my glands were fried from the stress of all the workouts. It was to jump start my body's own production, and not put it in from somewhere else. That's where the XCAP program and the supplement line that I use came from. I was going through the court case, and just finished the big divorce, and all that stuff. I was a mess. My doctor looked at me and said, 'I don't know how the Hell you're doing anything, let alone competing at a high level.' I started using some supplementation to force my body to start to produce it on it's own, and I've been doing that ever since.
Stephie Daniels: How important do you think it is to have a good wrestling base when you're coming into MMA, as opposed to the other disciplines?
Randy Couture: I don't think you have to have a pedigree or have won titles, but I definitely think, like with everything else, you have to get some quality time in with some quality guys to show you the ropes and develop the sensitivity in your body, the mat sense, to know when you're in trouble and where you're at, when you have to turn it on and when you're ok. That's not the easiest thing to find.
It was the same for me. I had to learn the jiu jitsu and the striking piece of the puzzle. I had to go find good strikers and good submission guys and put myself out there to learn the subtleties of those styles so that I could become a more well rounded fighter and take advantage of my strength, which was always my wrestling.
Stephie Daniels: There's been a lot of talk about VADA testing recently, especially in light of several athletes in both MMA and boxing testing positive for banned substances. Do you feel that VADA is the answer to get a handle on the steroid problem?
Randy Couture: It started in the sixties, in the Rome Olympics, and obviously the testing at the Olympic level is the most stringent, and that's kind of the program that I was used to when I transitioned into MMA. I think there's always going to be guys trying to be ahead of the curve, that will try to find a shortcut. They're going to try and get away with it. I think that's part of human nature, it's part of our society. I don't think that's going to change.
To be honest, my personal opinion is if I saw a guy that was suspected or rumored to be using steroids, I thought that was an advantage for me. I thought there was a psychological letdown for that guy, because he doubted himself, which is why he was using. He was more concerned with his appearance and how he looked rather than his technique and skill to win fights. Most of the guys that use are going to blow up within the first round and a half. They aren't going to be able to move anymore because of the cardiovascular requirements of driving all that muscle, so I usually saw it as an advantage. If you're smart about it, you can exploit both the psychological and physical weakness.
Stephie Daniels: What's your take on the heavyweight division?
Randy Couture: I think it's about as deep as it's ever been, with some quality guys. Dos Santos has solidified himself there as the real deal. He's not just a one trick pony with just a great striking game. I think he's got a ton of tools, and he uses them very well. It's good to see Cain Velasquez back in the form that we got used to seeing him in. We'll see what happens with Overeem, and how things shake out with him. He's a tremendous striker and a dangerous fighter. There's a ton of guys in the division, and it's the deepest it's been in a long, long time.
Stephie Daniels: We recently saw the retirement of Fedor Emelianenko. What's your take on his career overall, and what kind of legacy do you think he leaves behind?
Randy Couture: He had a very long career arc, and he did an amazing job. We saw the best fighting out of him, obviously, in PRIDE. He was a remarkable fighter and did some amazing things. He beat some top level guys. His demeanor in fights and the technique that he showed was top notch. I enjoyed watching him, and I enjoyed getting to meet him. He's got a great spirit, he's a very friendly guy. I wish I spoke Russian, because the language barrier is always an issue, to really get to the bottom of what he thinks and feels about things. I think he's a very smart guy, so I think it would be kind of interesting to hear his take on a lot of things, because we rarely get to speak to him that way.
I'm happy for him, and I hope things go well for him. It's a sensitive thing, deciding to retire as a professional athlete. Having done it just this last year, I know how long and painful that decision can be, so I hope he's comfortable with the decision he's made and I think it's probably the right one for him.
Stephie Daniels: You made it clear that you wanted to fight him a few years back. Is that the one fight that got away?
Randy Couture: Certainly it's the one that never happened [laughs]. At that time, I think we were both at the peak of our fighting careers. He was considered the number one guy in the world, and those are the guys you want to fight. I don't have any regrets, though. Things turned out the way they should have, and it is what it is.
You can follow Randy via his Twitter, @Randy_Couture