(CBS Local)– Randy Couture has been a fixture in the mixed martial arts world for decades.
The UFC Hall of Famer will be in New York on New Year’s Eve for the Professional Fighters League championship at Madison Square Garden. Couture didn’t jump into the MMA world until his 30’s and has seen the sport grow immensely over the past two decades.
“It was a lot different back then. You filled out an application and said I’d love to fight in your show,” said Couture in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “There was no amateur ranks, there was no nothing. I was fortunate enough to get in and I left my coaching job to pursue fighting and become a professional athlete. The first [Vitor] Belfort fight in a lot of ways set the tone for the rest of my career. I was a 34-year-old and most people already thought I was too old. Nobody gave me a snowball’s chance in hell that I would win that fight. That set the stage for several other fights in my career.”
Couture was an All-American wrestler prior to his days in the UFC and nearly made the U.S. Olympic wrestling team in the 1990s. While the man known as The Natural served in the military and faced a lot of difficult challenges in his life and career, few compared to fighting Liddell in the octagon.
“Chuck is really the only guy that ever knocked me out,” said Couture. “I’ve been flashed before, Brock [Lesnar] flashed me. I lost a little piece of time. I was there one second and the next second I was like woah, who are these guys and what happened. He [Liddell] was the only guy that hit me that hard and knocked me out. The athletes are a lot better today.”
Although Couture never got to fight at Madison Square Garden, he’s excited to be back at The World’s Most Famous Arena to call the action in the Professional Fighter’s League. The UFC Hall of Famer also got the chance to watch his son compete in Bellator at MSG.
“There’s a huge fan base here and even when it was banned, you’d hold it in New Jersey,” said Couture. “My son Ryan fought at the Garden, it was three years ago in Bellator. It’s an amazing venue and he got to weigh in on the scale that Muhammad Ali weighed in on.”