UFC.com's Elias Cepeda checks in on UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture to see how retirement is treating him.
UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture may have retired from professional fighting in 2011, but the five-time champion hasn’t exactly been sitting in a rocking chair to pass the time. He runs one of the world’s largest MMA fight gyms in Las Vegas, is mentoring his son’s own burgeoning fight career, and is starring in the summer blockbuster film The Expendables 2, which opens today, August 17th.
When Couture is at home in Vegas he likes to take a hands-on approach with his gym, the sprawling Xtreme Couture MMA facility. “I’m here every day when I’m in Vegas,” he tells UFC.com. “I’m here every day, working out. Still training, working with the guys. Obviously, I travel a lot but I have a great staff that takes care of everything and allows me to go make a movie or do the other stuff that I’m doing.”
Xtreme Couture MMA includes a who’s who stable of elite fighters and Randy still enjoys helping those that ask for his assistance with their fight preparation.
“I do it on more of an individual basis,” he explains, as opposed to teaching structured classes. “Those individuals that come to me and say, ‘hey, can you help me with this,’ or ‘What do you think about this opponent, how should I approach this,’ I’ll work with.
“I’ve always liked coaching. I’ve been coaching longer than I’ve been fighting, at the collegiate level in wrestling. It’s rewarding and fun.”
With Couture’s 40 years of wrestling and 14 years of championship-level MMA experience, the process is no doubt rewarding and enriching for his fighters as well.
As for the acting career that often keeps him running to Los Angeles and remote shooting locations, Couture says that he never expected his life to go in this direction, but he is enjoying it.
“The acting thing has kind of come out of the blue for me,” he says. “It wasn’t something I ever aspired to, but it has been a nice surprise. Right from the start, with the first movie I was a part of, I became immediately intrigued by the process of making a movie. So I immediately started taking acting classes and started to learn more about movies, paying attention on set and going and hanging around the directors.”
Given his interest in the intricacies of film-making, Randy admits that he would relish the opportunity to direct or produce movies in the future. “I get a clear vision in my head when I read a script of how a movie is going to go and look, and that seems to be a part of what the directors I’ve seen in action have to do,” he says. “I’d love to get the opportunity to do that some day.”
For now, Couture is enjoying being on set as a fellow actor with movie legends and stars like Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, Jet Li and many more from the action movie dream team ensemble cast of The Expendables movie series.
“We had a blast,” Randy says. “Jason [Statham] is a great guy, Jet Li is a great guy. All of them were really nice to me. We had a lot of fun just hanging out on the set. Especially me, Terry [Crews] and Dolph [Lundgren]. We kind of developed a rapport. We were in a lot of scenes together and we did a lot of stuff together.”
Couture says that of all his fellow Expendables castmates, former professional wrestling mega star Steve Austin was the biggest MMA fan. “Stone Cold” played a villainous henchman in the first Expendables movie and had an on-screen battle with Couture, but when the cameras were off all he wanted to do was talk MMA with Randy.
“Steve is a huge fight fan,” Couture says. “All the guys seemed to think MMA and boxing were cool but Steve knew things inside and out – stats from every single guy in the UFC, things like that. I rode in the van with him a bunch and we had some scenes together in the movie and he asked a ton of questions. It was fun.”
Couture loves making movies, but emphasizes that it is still work, “a grind,” that can often entail 14-16 hour days, six days a week. Because of this, he never minds being back home in the gym, training and working in the business that made him famous.
It also helps that he’s got his son, Strikeforce lightweight fighter Ryan Couture, in the gym with him, working on his own career. “We’re in the same environment, we are striving for the same things,” Randy says. “He studies all the fighters just like I do, and we talk about all those things. In a lot of ways we’re wired a lot alike.”
Couture says he doesn’t stress out about his son fighting for a living because he sees how well he prepares and because he knows that Ryan loves doing it. Randy also says that he only tries to help as much as he’s asked, and not to loom larger than he has to in his son’s career.
“I try to stay out of the way as much as possible,” he says. “It’s already a burden dragging around the last name. In some ways it slapped a target on him from the jump. He takes all that in stride.
“I don’t try to impart anything [to him]. I always try to lead by example, so I’ve tried to do things as best as I could and in some ways he’s followed that example. If he asks me questions I share my experiences with him. Especially in his last two fights, which were steps up in competition, he’s wanted me to get involved in developing a game plan and all those sorts of things.”
Couture seems relaxed and at peace sitting in his office discussing his life, post-fighting, and he doesn’t seem to have any angst about his decision to retire and stay retired. Much of that peace seems to be connected to what he calls a second chance to get a close relationship with his son Ryan. The pitch in his voice rises and he beams when he talks about working and living near his son again.
“It is very cool. There’s a block of time there in junior high and high school, after the divorce, where I didn’t get to spend as much time with him, so now I to get to have him here in Vegas and to be a part of what he’s doing and what he’s trying to accomplish,” Randy says.
“I’m kind of making up for some lost time in a lot of ways. Most people don’t get that opportunity but I’ve been fortunate to have him as close as I get to have him to me right now, at this stage of his life. I’m just enjoying the ride.”