Age of the Cage


Randy Couture steps out of the practice ring inside his Las Vegas training facility, Xtreme Couture, wipes his sweaty brow and faces the media -- which points out he's old (46) for the UFC, and so is his next opponent, Mark Coleman (45).

"There's 100 years between us," Couture's running joke goes. "Buddies here say we should move it to Caesars and call it, 'The Geezers at Caesars.' "

Couture and Coleman are old friends. They freestyle wrestled back in 1989 at Oklahoma State. Coleman (a freestyle wrestler) beat Couture (a Greco-Roman wrestler) by a point and went on to earn seventh place at the 1992 Olympics.

They were slated to face off in the UFC in 1998, but Couture got injured, making Saturday's showdown at Mandalay Bay Events Center 12 years in the making.

A few UFC bills ago, Couture didn't think Coleman was getting the proper training, so he told him, "Mark, bring your butt out to Vegas and train. We've got a staff. The gym's open to you."

Coleman came. He trained. He won. But now they're facing each other, so Coleman's in Vegas at Tapout Training Center with Shawn Tompkins, who used to be Couture's partner at Xtreme Couture.

Question: How many friends have you beat up over the years?

Answer: We beat each other up on a daily basis, almost, (at Xtreme Couture). We're all great friends. ... It's just what we do.

Q: There's no smack talking, like, "Ha-ha, I got you," or "You got me"?

A: Not from me. Everybody's wired different. ... Most of us are sensitive about those sorts of things. We are not trying to be a bur under somebody's saddle.

Q: Joe Rogan says the best fighters are the nicest ones, and the not-nice guys are the ones still struggling.

A: The edgier ones are still carrying a chip on their shoulder and trying to prove their self-worth. ... It comes out in their personalities, or their personas that they create for the camera and the crowd.

Q: Does that explain Brock Lesnar?

A: I'm not sure. I know Brock. I've sat and talked to him a few occasions. If he was sitting, and you were just talking to him, you'd like him. He's a very personable guy. When the little light goes on, on the camera, I think that WWE thing kicks in. I can't decide if he just has a short fuse and certain things get under his skin and he loses his mind, or if it's intentional, if that's a persona that he's created and that he's living up to.

Q: When you fight, does it feel as fresh as the first time you fought?

A: Thankfully, no! (He laughs). That first fight, I thought I was gonna pee myself. I was scared to death. I didn't know what I'd gotten myself into. Those first two guys were huge 300-pound guys. I was like, "What the hell am I dong here?" Fortunately, it went well and I got some more experience and got some more confidence and progressed.

Q: You're gonna be in this summer movie "The Expendables" with Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Jet Li.

A: I can remember five or six years ago taking meetings in Hollywood with my manager and agent at the time. (Movie execs) were like, "Oh, you're one of those cage fighters." They'd heard of it. But now, you take meetings, and guys are coming from two floors up because they hear you're in the building and they want to see you. It's a whole different landscape, largely due to "Ultimate Fighter" (the Spike TV show).

Q: Is there anything going on with the "Ultimate Fighter?"

A: Not with me. I did three of the first four seasons. ... It's been great for our sport.

Q: You just got tired of it?

A: They didn't ask me. And, frankly, I was busy doing a lot of other stuff.

Q: Who do you think are the best pound-for-pound fighters?

A: Obviously Anderson Silva and Georges (St-Pierre) are gonna be at the top of the list. You've got to throw Fedor (Emelianenko) in there -- is he in the mix? Is he keeping himself relevant, fighting the competition he's been fighting the past couple years? I don't know, but he's certainly been impressive.

Q: Who are the best up-and-comers?

A: I've been very impressed with a lot of different guys. We have Gray Maynard and Tyson Griffin here, who are two of the most exciting guys to watch fight, in my opinion, in a long time. ... Bones Jones is very impressive. He's only had three or four fights in the UFC. The way he's incorporated his wrestling into his fighting style is athletic, long and explosive.

Q: To get into the movies, does it help to have the look -- the bald head?

A: It can help and hinder. You get every fight script down the pike thrown at you. It would be easy to just be pigeonholed and do those parts. So I'm trying to steer away from that. I have the bald head because I'm bald. I don't have a choice there.

Contact Doug Elfman at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

 

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