Friday, March 9, 2007

Randy Couture talks about life as the champ -- again

By Mike Chiappetta

NEW YORK -- The Randy Couture Victory Tour came to a close Friday, but not before the new UFC heavyweight champion rolled through New York City.

As if the champ's schedule hasn't been hectic enough after delighting millions of fans by defeating Tim Sylvia at UFC 68, he filled in for the ill light-heavyweight champ and former trilogy foe Chuck Liddell at a Men's Fitness party celebrating the launch of Liddell's cover issue.

It's been a whirlwind week for the champ, who hasn't slept in his own bed since winning the heavyweight gold for the third time (he also has two reigns as light-heavyweight champ). He's done interviews for TV shows, websites and newspapers across the nation, but only was with the 43-year-old and his wife, Kim, as they wound their trip down and celebrated at Duvet.

Walking in to the strains of Aerosmith's "Back in the Saddle," the same song he rode into on his way to the championship, Couture basked in the adulation of adoring fans. In between posing for photos, the ever-gracious Couture sat down for a Q A, discussing why he's glad he didn't knock out Tim Sylvia with his first punch, the early motivations that drove him to success and what's in his future.

Q: How much time will you take off now and just enjoy what you accomplished?

A: I'm not worried about being off. I'm going to start training again on Monday. I took this week off and I'll start training Monday for general purposes. And once we actually sign my next fight, I'll go to a calendar, periodize the program and come up with a strategy, look at tapes and figure things out.

Q: Before the fight you mentioned how a knockout would be a shock to everyone, yet you nearly KO'd Sylvia with your first punch. You nearly finished him there. At the end of the first round, did you feel like you missed a golden opportunity?

A: I clearly felt like there was an opportunity to finish the fight. Tim did a good job recovering and protecting himself and didn't allow me to find the space and opening to finish the fight. But I was ready to go five rounds. I'm actually glad it went the distance. It was a much more definitive, decisive victory. If it had ended there, most people would have said I got a lucky punch.

Q: As the fight came to a close, the fans started counting down the final seconds like it was New Year's Eve. That seemed like a goosebumps-type moment. What did that feel like to hear them counting down your victory?

A: It was absolutely crazy. I don't believe I've ever seen or experienced that. I could hear it clear as day and I knew at that point I was just seconds away from the fight being over. It made me stand up in Tim's guard and I wanted to finish strong. It was definitely a motivating moment.

Q: You and Tim have a long-standing friendship. Have you two talked since the fight?

A: He came into my dressing room after the fight. We didn't say a whole lot. He just said I love you, great job. I said the same and that was about it.

Q: You're often mentioned as the ultimate underdog in that you're so dangerous when your back is against the wall, and in the pre-fight interviews, Sylvia said that what concerned him most about you was your will to win. Is there something in your background that shaped your unrelenting pursuit of victory?

A: It's probably a combination of a few things. I've always had a passion for competition and wanted to be successful. I think early on, I competed out of some desire to please my father who was never around. He was never there as a kid growing up. I think that's how I got into wrestling, how I started striving to be the best at something because I was trying to attract his attention. It was never terribly successful but it certainly created a drive in me, and that never really went away.

I learned my work ethic and demeanor from my mom, who was a hard-working woman and single mom. And the combination of those things and coming through a sport like wrestling which breeds a particular intensity and a certain will to win. All those things make up who I am and what drives me to be a successful athlete.

Q: Were your parents in the crowd to see you win on Saturday?

A: Yes, they were there along with my family. Except for my youngest, the kids come to all the fights. My son wrestles, my daughter did judo and jiu-jitsu. They're very into it. They all come and they love it.

Q: So your relationship with your father is better now?

A: It's gotten much better in recent years. He's been around a lot more.

Q: Have you had any quiet time to sort of sit around with your family and reflect on what you've accomplished?

A: Two of my children are grown, one's 24 and another's 22. They've got their own lives and go home to their own friends. I'm sure they're talking about it. I talked to my daughter on the way here, and she was at work and all her co-workers were yelling in the background, 'congratulations!' Her voice was still hoarse from Saturday, so they're into it, they enjoy it, and it's something that brings us together. They get to come to the gym, and see me train or come to the event and see the fight and we have a chance to be together. Otherwise they live their lives and I don't get to see them as much as I'd like.

Q: A potential fight with Mirko Cro Cop is in the future as long as he beats Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 70. What do you think about the possibility of facing him?

A: I haven't had a lot of time to think about it yet. When it becomes a little more real and we actually sign to fight is when I'll really knuckle down and start analyzing it. One of the things I want to do is fight the best fighters in the world. He certainly qualifies, so I'm very excited about the prospect.

Q: As a kickboxer, Cro Cop might be wary to throw his high kick because he leaves himself open to the takedown. He also doesn't have a whole lot of submissions off his back in his career. Might this be a style matchup that suits you better than some think?

A: I think first of all in analyzing Cro Cop, he's a southpaw, so I have to get ready for dealing with another southpaw. His straight left hand is just as dangerous as his left high kick. I'm sure he'll be trying to set up his punch first and his kick second. He tends to throw higher body shots than head kicks with his legs and he's very, very quick, so those are all problems he poses that I'll have to come up with answers for. I know he'll be concerned about being taken down and controlled on the ground and against the fence. He'll probably use a lot of footwork. It'll be interesting.


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