Rising Son

Ryan Couture following in famous footsteps of UFC champion father

He doesn’t have the physique of his famous father, nor his fighting style, but Ryan Couture carries one of the most revered names in the world of Mixed Martial Arts and the 29-year-old plans on carrying the championship torch his pop passed on as far as he can take it.

“It’s always going to be a part of my fight career, there’s no avoiding that. It would be silly to think that would ever go away,” said Ryan Couture of always being connected to his father, five-time UFC champ Randy Couture.

“I just take it as a challenge to try and do enough myself, build enough of a resume that eventually my last name—and my relationship to Dad—will be a footnote, rather than the main story.”

The young Couture (2-1 MMA record), who fights Maka Watson (4-1) Friday night at the Palms during Strikeforce Challengers 19, said while his pedigree has added pressure at times, he also admitted being the son of arguably the most beloved MMA fighter of all-time has opened up opportunities other aspiring young fighters likely would not see.

But his Xtreme Couture coach Ron Frazier said Ryan Couture has never relied solely on his famous name to make his own mark in the fight game and has been just as committed studying technique and training as his father, despite their obvious differences in stature and style—Randy stands 6-feet-1 and his weight fluctuated between the 205-pound limit of light heavyweight to the middle of the heavyweight division that tops off at 265 pounds and was known for his superior wrestling and dirty boxing; while Ryan is 5-foot-10, 155-pounds and mixes jiu-jitsu into his wrestling base.

“It would have been very easy just to rely on that last name. But you have to realize that with that name comes great pressure,” Frazier said. “Everyone is coming at you because a win over Randy Couture’s son is a feather in their cap. Had he just relied on it and not worked hard, he would have put himself in a bad position.

“I think it was the best thing for him that he had the famous last name. He kind of got used to that as an amateur and has been more comfortable in his own skin as a pro and that has allowed his own skill set to come out more.”

Couture—who like his father is a Washington native, wrestled in high school but only briefly messed around training in MMA while in college—decided he wanted to see where the sport would take him. He quit his job as a bank supervisor in Bellingham, Wash. in January of 2008 and moved to Las Vegas to train and work at his dad’s gym.

He won his first amateur fight a few months later and amassed a 5-1-1 record before winning his pro debut in August 2010 with a triangle choke over Lucas Stark.

“I think ever since making the transition of turning pro, having that extra income and having fighting be my main job has allowed me to really dial in my training and focus at professional level,” said Couture, who still works about 10 hours a week managing aspects of the gym.

“That has led to bigger improvements in my game over a shorter period of time.

But Couture’s quick start got derailed in his last fight when he was outpointed by Matt Ricehouse at a June Strikeforce event in Kent, Wash., surrounded by 100 family members and friends.

“I don’t think he was nervous, he’s fought up near his hometown twice as an amateur so he knew what to expect,” Frazier said. “He just came out and had a flat performance. His timing was just a split second off and I think that frustrated him a bit. He just never really recovered and that caused the decision to happen.”

Couture agreed with his coach and said in order not to be placed in the precarious position of losing successive bouts, he must block out what happened his last trip in the cage and focus on the game plan he created for Watson, a Hawaii native who trains under Wanderlei Silva.

“I don’t feel like I have an option but to win this fight, and do so emphatically,” Couture said. “I feel that’s very important for my career to move forward that I put an exclamation point on this one.”