Though Randy Couture’s been retired almost three years now, Drew Griffiths explains why the behavior the MMA fighter modeled remains worthy of emulation.
I don’t think there is one, universally agreed way to quantitatively define what a role model should be, and what characteristics that person should have.
If I had to name my heroes, I think I’d have to list several, for different reasons; but Mr. Couture would definitely be the first name on my list.
The first time I saw him fight, was against Pedro Rizzo in UFC 31. Both men proved themselves to be great warriors and athletes, but neither were the usual brash and angry meatheads that are stereotypically associated with Mixed Martial Arts.
I’ve never met Randy Couture, but since that fight he’s been a role model of mine and, I believe, a great ambassador for MMA. Here ‘s why:
Randy always seems to have a smile on his face. I think my favourite example of this is when he fought Tito Ortiz in UFC 44, and Tito attempted to intimidate and ‘stare down’ Randy upon his introduction. Randy just laughed at him; brilliant!
Emotional Control and Mental Toughness
Having fought only on small shows in sports halls, in front of 100-or-so spectators, I can only imagine how scary it must be to fight in front of thousands of fans, with millions more watching around the world on their TVs. Not only that, Randy often fought men much larger than himself—Brock Lesnar being the best example.
Having seen the damage Brock had done to Heath Herring just three months prior to their fight, even I was petrified when Randy stepped into the ring against him to defend his heavyweight title. Randy, on the other-hand, didn’t seem intimidated at all, and remained perfectly composed before and after the fight.
Passion and Hard Work
Along with the likes of Kevin Randleman and Matt Hughes, Randy brought the wrestler’s work ethic to the octagon. His discipline with diet and training made him one of the first fighters with to have great physical conditioning as well as technique, and allowed him to carry on fighting into his mid-40s.
Respect for Others
Randy, in the words of Mike Goldberg, is “pure class.” He saw each fight as a ‘competition’ and he always had his emotions completely in-check. He proved that you don’t have to win the ‘war of words’ to win the actual fight. Like another MMA legend—Fedor Emelianenko—he truly did let his fighting do the talking.
He made it okay to lose
Randy finished his MMA career with a record of 19-11; but is still regarded as one of the greatest fighters and characters to have ever graced the sport, with a singular ability to come back from defeat to achieve bigger and greater victories. For example, he lost twice to Chuck Liddell and came back to beat the seemingly invincible, 6’ 8” Tim Sylvia. Most people would have their confidence dashed after a brutal knockout loss, but Randy was able to objectively assess his skill-set and abilities against those of Sylvia and returned to the octagon to achieve one of the most inspirational victories of all time. Even if Randy had lost against Tim Sylvia, he would have still showed amazing courage to even fight the giant man with arguably the most powerful right-cross the UFC has ever seen. Randy truly embodied the Bruce Lee quote: “In great attempts it is glorious even to fail”
Randy was once regarded as the best fighter in the world. He showed that it is possible to hold such a mantle with a humble attitude and demeanour. He demonstrated that nice guys can, in fact, finish first.
Photo: Jeff Bottari – AP