Randy "The Natural" Duane Couture (born June 22, 1963) is an American actor and mixed martial artist, Greco-Roman wrestler, and former collegiate wrestler. Couture is one of only two MMA fighters to have held a championship title in two different divisions (heavyweight and light heavyweight) while in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) (the other one being BJ Penn), as well as the only five-time champion in UFC history, earning him the nicknames "The Natural" and, later, "Captain America". He is considered by many to be the most popular fighter in MMA history, and is a member of the UFC Hall of Fame.
Couture has been an Olympic wrestler alternate, and lived in Corvallis, Oregon throughout much of his career where he served as an assistant wrestling coach and a strength and conditioning coach for Oregon State University. He established Team Quest with Matt Lindland and Dan Henderson, a training camp for fighters, based out of Gresham, Oregon and headed by coach Robert Folis. In 2005 Couture moved to Las Vegas where he opened his own chain of gyms under the name Xtreme Couture, with additional locations in Vancouver, Washington; Wellington, Florida; Lombard, Illinois; and most recently Independence, Missouri. He currently trains at his Las Vegas-based gym. Couture has also partnered with Bas Rutten in the opening of Legends Gym, located in Hollywood, California.
Couture is generally recognized as a clinch and ground-and-pound fighter, utilizing his wrestling ability to execute take downs, establish top position, and successively strike the opponent on the bottom. Couture has also displayed a variety of skills in boxing, Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, submitting two opponents using different chokeholds. He is also the only athlete in UFC history to win a championship after becoming a Hall of Fame member.
Couture served in the U.S. Army from 1982–1988. Upon discharge, he was a three-time Olympic team alternate (1988, 1992 and 1996); a semifinalist at the 2000 Olympic Trials; a three-time National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division-I All-American and a two-time NCAA Division-I runner-up at Oklahoma State University. In 1992 he was the Division-1 runner up at 190 pounds coming in second after Mark Kerr.
Couture first appeared in the UFC on May 30, 1997 as part of UFC 13: The Ultimate Force. The event consisted of two four-man tournaments: one in the lightweight (under 200 lb) division and one in the heavyweight (200 lb and over) division. Couture fought in the heavyweight tournament, and won it, defeating Tony Halme and Steven Graham in the process. His next match was an elimination bout for the heavyweight title against the young Brazilian "Phenom", Vitor Belfort, who at the time was on a four fight winning streak. Couture scored a TKO victory in what UFC announcer Bruce Beck described as "a stunning upset."
Couture won his first heavyweight title via decision in a 1997 match against kickboxer Maurice Smith. Couture didn't keep the belt for long, shortly after he was stripped of the title when he could not come to contractual terms with the UFC and its parent company at the time, Semaphore Entertainment Group. After leaving the UFC, Couture signed with the RINGS organization, a fightsport promotion primarily based out of Japan. His tenure with RINGS would prove to be short-lived.
In 2000, Couture returned to the UFC to recapture the heavyweight title from Kevin Randleman at UFC 28 on November 17 of that year. Throughout 2001, Couture defended his heavyweight title twice, both times against the Brazilian heavyweight contender Pedro Rizzo. After defeating Rizzo he went on to lose the UFC heavyweight title in a fight with Josh Barnett via TKO in the 2nd round at UFC 36 in 2002. After the fight, Barnett tested positive for anabolic steroids and was subsequently stripped of his title. With the heavyweight title vacant, Couture fought Ricco Rodriguez, at UFC 39, for the title. Couture initially controlled the fight and was arguably on his way to a decision win, but eventually suffered a TKO loss in the 5th round.
After his two consecutive losses in the heavyweight division to larger opponents (Rodriguez, and Barnett both outweighed Couture by more than 30 lbs), Couture moved down a weight class to fight at 205 lbs in the UFC's light heavyweight division. In his light heavyweight debut, Couture took on long-time number one contender Chuck Liddell for the interim light heavyweight championship. Couture won by TKO in the third round, and became the only UFC competitor to win championship titles in two weight classes, a feat since matched in 2008 by B. J. Penn; this earned Randy his nickname "Captain America". His next match was billed as a "Champion vs. Champion" fight in order to settle who was the rightful, undisputed champion of the division. Couture faced the five-time defending champion Tito Ortiz for the undisputed light heavyweight title. Couture won a unanimous decision and became the undisputed UFC light heavyweight champion at age 40.
On April 16, 2005, Couture lost his title and suffered the first knockout loss of his career in a rematch with Chuck Liddell. Couture came back in August with a win over Mike Van Arsdale to re-establish himself as a top contender. He faced Liddell again for the third and final time in a championship match on February 4, 2006 at UFC 57. He did not succeed, falling victim to a second round knockout. Immediately after the match, he announced his retirement from the sport.
On June 24, 2006, during The Ultimate Fighter 3 finale, which was broadcast live on Spike TV, Couture became the fourth fighter to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame, joining Royce Gracie, Dan Severn, and Ken Shamrock
After retiring from the professional fighting circuit, Couture began embarking on a variety of activities, including appearing at UFC events as a regular broadcast commentator and as co-host of "Before/After The Bell" on The Fight Network. He also appeared in the Rob Schneider comedy Big Stan, along with fellow mixed martial artists Don Frye and Bob Sapp.
On November 17, 2006, Couture decided to compete athletically again, facing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champion Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza in a submission wrestling match. The bout ended in a draw.
Couture was featured on season two of Spike TV's reality show "Pros vs. Joes", which premiered on January 25, 2007. His teammates on the episode were Michael Irvin, Kevin Willis, and José Canseco. He returned for the finale, where he even took part in a football based round. His teammates were Willis, Randall Cunningham, Bruce Smith, Roy Jones Jr., and Tim Hardaway. Couture also had a brief cameo appearance on the season finale of the CBS show The Unit as a military guard and on the film Redbelt as a fight commentator. Couture also appeared on an episode of The History Channel's "Human Weapon" on September 27, 2007, and starred in the 2008 film, The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior
On January 11, 2007, Couture appeared for an interview on the Spike TV magazine show, Inside the UFC to announce his return from retirement. In a conversation with Joe Rogan, Couture confirmed that he would be facing Tim Sylvia for the UFC heavyweight championship at UFC 68 on March 3, 2007 and revealed that he had signed a four-fight, two-year deal with the company.
At the age of 43, Couture defeated then-champion Tim Sylvia at UFC 68 by unanimous decision to claim his third UFC heavyweight title. Couture's first punch, at :08 of the first round, sent the 6'8" (2.03m) Sylvia reeling to the mat. Couture controlled the pace of the fight for five rounds, smothering Sylvia with effective striking and numerous takedowns. All three judges' scored the bout 50-45 for Randy, making him the first fighter in UFC history to become a three-time champion. On August 25, 2007, at UFC 74 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, Couture defended his title against Gabriel Gonzaga, who previously defeated Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipović at UFC 70 to become the number one contender. In the fight, Couture defeated Gonzaga by TKO (strikes) to retain the title. Randy suffered a broken left arm from blocking one of Gonzaga's kicks during the course of the fight. Randy's ulna was not displaced and would be in a sling for 6 weeks, and he was expected to recover completely. It was doubtful he would be medically cleared to compete before January 2008, this would be the least of Randy's worries as shortly after the fight he would be embroiled in a legal battle with the UFC.
On October 11, 2007, Couture announced that he was severing all ties with the UFC, leaving two contracted fights, a position as an on-air analyst, and his heavyweight championship behind. Reportedly he received $250,000 plus $936,000 of PPV revenue for his comeback against Tim Sylvia. He also reportedly received a $250,000 purse for defeating Gabriel Gonzaga, as well as a $35,000 bonus for "Fight of the Night" and $787,000 in PPV revenue. This became a sticking point since Chuck Liddell lost his two previous fights yet is still being paid a higher amount, according to Couture. Randy cited the UFC's failure to sign #1 ranked heavyweight fighter Fedor Emelianenko, as well as disputes with UFC management.
UFC president Dana White said Thursday Oct. 18, 2007 that Couture remains the promotion's heavyweight champion despite his announced plans to quit. White also reiterated he will not release Couture from the final two fights on his UFC contract. Couture held a press conference on October 25, 2007 in which he denied his leaving of the UFC was a "retirement", set forth his grievances over the pay he received for his fights against Tim Sylvia and Gabriel Gonzaga, and reiterated his belief that he would be free from any contractual obligations to the UFC after nine months. On October 30, 2007, UFC president Dana White and co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta held another press conference. There White reiterated the UFC's position that Couture remains the promotion's heavyweight champion despite his tendered resignation, and that Couture would remain obligated under his UFC contract well beyond nine months. White also released documents at the press conference to refute Couture's claims about the pay he received. Sherdog.com analyzed language reportedly found in the UFC's standard contracts relating to fighter retirement which Sherdog believes clarifies the dispute over Couture's contractual status.
In another chapter to the Couture/UFC saga, Dana White and Randy Couture met and had a "good" conversation at UFC 78. White also met with Randy during the Thanksgiving holiday to discuss a possible return to the octagon. Couture said he had no desire to return to the UFC at that time.
Cornering some of his fighters from Xtreme Couture at HDNet Fights on December 15, 2007 in Dallas, Texas. Randy Couture answered questions about Fedor stating that he would like to fight Fedor in October once his employment contract with the UFC has expired, if the UFC cannot come to some kind of co-promotion agreement with M-1 global before that time.
On January 15, 2008 Zuffa filed a lawsuit in Clark County District Court in Nevada citing breach of contract and irreparable damage. Zuffa is seeking over $10,000 in damages. This suit concerns only Couture's employment contract and not his promotional contract.On February 28, 2008 Judge Jennifer Togliatti handed down the first ruling in the case of Zuffa v. Randy Couture issuing a preliminary injunction barring Couture's participation in an IFL event to be held the following day.
On August 02, 2008 a Texas appeals court granted Zuffa LLC's (the UFC's parent company) request for a stay against a motion for a declaratory judgment in a suit filed by HDNet regarding Randy Couture's contractual status with the UFC. The stay effectively ends the dispute in the state of Texas and Zuffa will be allowed to move forward with the Nevada suit.
Former WWE and TNA World Champion Kurt Angle has expressed interest in fighting Couture in a Full-Contact MMA fight sometime in the Future. However, Contract compilications with Ultimate Fighting Championship will delay the fight with the Olympic Gold Medalist.
Couture was previously married to Sharon and Tricia and he is now married to Kim Holderman Couture. He has three children, sons Ryan and Caden and daughter Aimee, in addition to a stepson.