From the moment Ryan Couture made the decision to try his hand at MMA, the comparisons to his Hall of Fame father were bound to come.
Back in August 2010, Couture’s father Randy was approaching the end of his legendary UFC career while Ryan was set for his first professional fight. Both men were victorious that month, with Randy easily dispatching of former boxing champion James Toney at UFC 118 and Ryan winning his debut in 75 seconds with a triangle choke submission of Lucas Stark at a Strikeforce Challengers show.
Present day, Randy is long retired and involved with coaching and movies while Ryan is preparing to fight Saad Awad in a 160-pound catchweight bout in the co-main event of Bellator 201 at the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, Calif., on Friday.
Couture is now 35, past the age that his father was when he defeated Maurice Smith to capture the UFC heavyweight championship. Titles have eluded the younger Couture thus far, and though he’s still set on chasing gold himself, he opened up to MMA Fighting about the what could be in store for the next generation that will follow in his and his father’s footsteps.
“I sure hope so,” said Couture in regards to whether he and his wife Emily expect to start their own family. “We definitely want that and are looking forward to it when the time’s right.”
“I would definitely want them to learn martial arts and compete in whatever sport they’re most interested in,” Couture continued. “I think it’s a great skill to have just to be able to have that confidence that you can protect yourself if you need to and just being active and staying in shape.
“As far as competing in the martial arts, I would never push that on them at all. Possibly, their mother would push the opposite on them, I don’t know if she’d stand for having a child fighting or having her kid grow up to be a fighter.”
Couture isn’t done creating lasting memories in his own career and in his last outing he had the privilege of achieving something not even his famous father can claim to have done. During Randy’s 14-year run, he was never able to fight in the state of New York due to MMA being banned there until 2016.
When Couture made the walk to the cage at Bellator 180 last June, where he defeated Haim Gozali by unanimous decision to snap a two-fight skid, he became the first member of his family to fight and win at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
“It was really fun soaking it all in during fight week,” said Couture. “I had never even visited New York City, it’s always been a place I wanted to go and see, so to get to do it in that way and experience the city and compete in such a historic venue and furthermore to walk away with a win was a career highlight for me, for sure.”
Randy was there, of course, and Couture described the feeling of sharing that moment with his father as “pretty incredible”. The two have worked closely together for years and beyond the fact that they still train together, Couture has also taken an active hand in the family business.
Xtreme Couture is one of the most recognizable brand names in MMA and one that Ryan has become more involved with as the years have gone by. He had plenty of time to dig in after tearing his meniscus in training following the New York fight, and he used the opportunity to focus on gym management, coaching, and understanding all aspects of the business while recovering from surgery.
“Definitely, I’ve kind of stepped up and taken on a bigger part of that — especially the last year, but over the last couple of years I’ve been sort of working in that direction and starting to lay the groundwork for when it’s time to move on from fighting, what I’ll be doing then and have been enjoying it,” said Couture. “Trying to learn how to be a business person and make myself think a little more in that way than I’ve ever done in the past. It’s been really cool to get to be involved there.”
For the immediate future, Couture is hoping that a strong showing against Awad keeps him in the contenders’ line at 155 pounds, though he’s also interested in taking fights at 170 if they make sense.
Awad has been a mainstay on the UFC roster since 2013. He has three consecutive wins under his belt and Couture is looking to swoop in and steal his thunder.
“I think it definitely puts me in the conversation immediately, even though my last couple of lightweight fights didn’t go my way,” said Couture. “I think you go in and you knock off someone with the history and the pedigree of Awad and there’s no way not to be in the conversation after that.
“So I was excited when they offered him, I’ve known of him for years and knew he was dangerous, knew he was one of the top guys, so it’s a good opportunity to get to go in and knock off one of those guys that’s perpetually at the top of the division and put myself right back in the mix.”
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