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UFC 102:

Like father, like son

Fighting has brought Randy and Ryan Couture closer together

Randy Couture Work Out

Justin M. Bowen

Randy Couture and his son Ryan pose for a photo at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas.

Back for the First Time

UFC Legend Randy Couture talk about his main event match against Antonio Nogueira headlining UFC 102 in Portland, Oregon. Couture, the Oregon native also talks about the UFC in Portland for the first time.

Randy Couture Workout

Randy Couture works out at his gym Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas Thursday in preparations for his upcoming fight against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in Portland, Ore on August 29. Launch slideshow »

The feeling Ryan Couture has tonight watching his famous father, Randy Couture, walk to the Octagon in his return to Oregon no doubt will be an intense one, but the son of the UFC Hall of Famer definitely won’t be as nervous as the first time he watched his dad fight on a big UFC stage.

“The first fight I can really remember that was a huge fight was his first fight with Chuck (Liddell). I was really nervous going into that fight because Chuck was knocking everyone out,” said Ryan Couture, who was a 20-year-old attending the fight in Las Vegas in June of 2003.

“To see dad come in there and dominate him and put on such awesome performance and show skills he’d never shown before, was really cool.”

A lot has changed in those six years since the elder Couture defeated “The Iceman” for the interim UFC light heavyweight title that night at the Thomas and Mack Center.

Namely that the 27-year-old Ryan is now a mixed martial artist himself, who knows that special feeling of walking to the ring.

“It’s easier now not to be nervous because I can put myself in his shoes. But it’s still kind of just a blend of nervousness for the safety concern, mixed with the big excitement factor,” said Ryan who has amassed a 3-1 record in the amateur ranks — including a victory last week at the Tuff-N-Uff event in Las Vegas.

“That’s still my favorite fighter getting into the ring.”

While Ryan may be the biggest (at least in terms of blood relation) fan of “The Natural” tonight, judging by Friday night’s weigh-ins, the quiet-demeanored Ryan certainly won’t be the loudest Couture supporter in attendance as the 46-year-old fights PRIDE legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 102 at the Rose Garden Arena.

“They love him up there, it’s crazy how people respond to him in that area,” said Ryan, who was born in Edmonds, Washington and grew up in the Seattle suburb of Woodinville.

“He was such a fixture there at Team Quest. Him and Matt Lindland really worked hard to sanction amateur MMA in Oregon and really built the sport up big in that area — he’s very well regarded in the fight scene in the Northwest.”

And to his son.

“If it wasn’t for what dad’s doing, I wouldn’t have ever been such a diehard fan. I always kind of wondered what it would be like to get in there and do it, but I never really thought I would,” said Ryan, who wrestled in high school but didn’t really mess around with MMA until a couple of his buddies introduced him to Jiu-Jitsu a couple of years after he graduated.

Ryan fell in love with grappling, and then he was then introduced to kickboxing. After training for another six months in both disciplines, Ryan got the urge to see what he was made of.

He quit his job at a bank in the Seattle area and moved to Las Vegas to train and help his dad at their Xtreme Couture gym.

“I had a lot of people asking me are you gonna do it since he did it,” Ryan said of entering the sport. “But I never put that kind of extra pressure on myself. I don’t do anything unless I want to do it and like doing it.

“Obviously watching wrestling while growing up, I was exposed to it and became a fan of it. But I never felt pushed like was expected to because of him. He’s been really good about stepping back and letting me come to him for advice rather than pushing it on me.”

But that doesn’t mean papa Couture isn’t proud that his oldest child (Randy also has a grown daughter, Aimee, and six-year-old son Caden), followed in his rough and tough footsteps.

“I wanted him to do (MMA) because he wanted to do it. Between parents who are trying to live vicariously through their kids or kids trying to get their parents attention, I didn’t want any of that — especially in a sport as tough as this one is,” said Randy, the five-time UFC champ.

“I think he got into this because he genuinely had a love for it, and that’s what’s most important.”

The two’s newly shared interest have offered a little extra bonding time between father and son as well. Maybe even a little too much as Ryan moved back in with his dad last month after he separated from his third wife, Kim.

“Yeah it’s been a little interesting,” Randy joked of the newly formed bachelors’ living situation. “But also a lot of fun.”

Ryan was 11 when Randy and his mother Sharon divorced. Randy was coaching wrestling at the time at Oregon State and after the separation Sharon, Ryan and Aimee moved back to the Seattle area.

The kids spent time around their dad, but his schedule as a coach, Olympic hopeful and eventually top-notched mixed martial artist meant scheduling visits was often tricky.

“Ryan got into high school and he had his own life, so it became less important for me to go down for the weekends,” Randy said. “So to kind of get a second chance now and see him every day and to work with him and see the passion he has for the sport, is pretty important to me.”

It shows.

As long as Xtreme Couture boxing coach Ron Frazier can remember, father and son have been awfully tight. But since the change in address, that closeness is quite apparent.

“You can see he’s a very proud dad when his son is in there competing. It’s not something he pushed on him to do. But he’s definitely very proud,” said Frazier, who just this month became the proud father of a little girl named Samara.

“Even though they were apart for some time, they’ve always had a close relationship. But him coming out here and deciding to fight, I think made them even closer.”

Tonight Ryan will watch with 50 or so family members and friends, as well as the additional thousands of area fans of his father, to see if the legendary Couture can pull off one more victory.

“He never ceases to amaze me. Physically he looks better than I’ve seen him in years,” Ryan said. “It’s just incredible, I don’t know how he does it.”

Yeah you do Ryan, it’s in the genes.

“They have very similar personalities. They’re very quiet and assuming guys, who keep their eyes on the prize and don’t sweat the small stuff,” Frazier said.

“Both are cardio machines, they both have a lot of heart. Don’t tell anybody this, but Ryan actually has a little better standup than his dad did at this point in his career.”

Perhaps the best fighter with the last name Couture won’t be in the Octagon, but rather outside of it tonight.

Andy Samuelson can be reached at [email protected] or 702-948-7837.

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