Randy “The Natural” Couture officially retired from MMA after being KO’d by Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida at UFC 129 on Saturday (April 30), but he was never more certain about his decision to leave and promises that it’s for real.
“There wasn’t a sentimentality about it. There was kind of a sense of relief,” Couture told SI.com, after being defeated in his final bow in the octagon. “I felt like it was the right decision long before this and I felt more secure walking out that this is the right time and the right thing for me to be doing. There was no doubt in my head.”
Couture, 47, was KO’d by a front kick to the head at 65 seconds into the second round. The MMA legend was out-worked by the younger Brazilian for nearly the entire fight. While Couture wanted to clinch Machida from the start, Machida threw combinations and pulled away in his trademark evasive style.
Couture just wasn’t able to get close enough to him to utilize his wrestling skills, as he usually does.
“It looked like he started to throw a front kick with his left leg and kind of jumped into that crane kick thing, which comes purely from karate,” Couture of the kick. “It wasn’t anything I’d seen in practice ever. I don’t think anyone’s seen someone do that in an MMA fight.”
Despite the defeat, Couture received thunderous applause from the reported 55,724 fans in Toronto. The legend said the overwhelming love from fans would not sway his decision to walk away from the sport he’s competed in for nearly 15 years.
“Definitely, it’s the last fight,” he told Sports Illustrated from Toronto on Sunday. “I know they’re going to try to throw me something and get me to come back, but it’s not going to happen.”
During his 14-year career in the UFC, Couture has won six championships in a record 15 title appearances. He’s built a storied career on triumphing over younger, faster opposition. Some of his wins include Tim Sylvia, Brandon Vera, Victor Belfort, Tito Ortiz, and Chuck Liddell, among others.
His last fight came in August 2010, when he made quick work of boxer James Toney, during the former boxing champ’s MMA debut. Couture leaves the sport with a 19-10 professional record.
Though Couture doesn’t have any immediate plans for his retirement, he tells SI.com that he plans to remain a fixture with the UFC. “It’s apparent that [the UFC] 100 percent want to incorporate me into what’s going on in this next year and the coming years,” Couture said.
In December, Zuffa LLC (UFC’s parent company) hired retired UFC legend Chuck Liddell as the UFC’s vice-president of business development.
The 55,724 fans in attendance at UFC 129 on Saturday was a North American record for the sport since its U.S. debut with UFC 1 in November 1993.