Saturday, March 3, 2007

Taut Couture: At 43, Champ Returns for More

By Andrew Levine

Randy Couture had already cemented his legacy, retiring last year as the only fighter in UFC history to hold titles in both the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions.

With seemingly nothing left to accomplish, he's left many to wonder why, at 43, he's returned to challenge heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia tonight at UFC 68 in Columbus, Ohio.

"The first question I get is always 'why?' and the other is how long can I keep it up," Couture said. "The answer to the first question is, why not? I'm still physically capable of competing in the sport I love to compete in.

"How long? I can't answer that. I've been blessed to have been able to hold up this long. I just have to be rational with my performance and training."

Couture (14-8) has always defied what his age should dictate -- he won the light heavyweight title at 40 -- and he said he wasn't truly ready to leave the sport when he retired following a knockout loss to light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell in February 2006. Instead, he needed to regroup while going through a divorce.

He faces a tough challenge in the 6-foot-8 Sylvia (23-2), who, despite winning lackluster decisions in his previous two fights, has exhibited punishing knockout power (16 KOs) in the past.

"Tim's stature" is his best attribute, Couture said. "Both his height and his reach present problems. For a guy 6-foot-1 walking around at 225 pounds, that's part of the challenge. I have to try and figure out a way to get past that."

Tonight's pay-per-view card starts at 10, with former middleweight champion Rich Franklin and former welterweight champion Matt Hughes each making his first appearance since losing his belt last year.


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