Randy “The Natural” Couture didn’t win the bout on Saturday night (story here), but his estimable fighting abilities are just a small reason why Rees Lloyd admires him so much. Rees writes:
I spoke with Randy Couture briefly after post-fight press conference, thanked him for his support of troops and vets. He is a six-year U.S. Army veteran–like many poor kids from Oregonian and across America, he went directly from high school to the Army, serving two hitches (1982-1988), in the all-volunteer Army. Couture, whose formal nom de fight is “the Natural” (because he is), has acquired the second fan-created nickname, “Captain America” (because he is). Couture, now 46, has become a legend-in-his-own-time, as the saying goes, and deservedly so. He didn’t win his match, but he triumphed in defeat by the fight he put on, which UFC President Dana White described simply as “a great fight, one of the greatest ever.” It was named “fight of the night,” meaning Couture and his opponent both received an additional $60,000. Couture is a phenomenon. He was the underdog in this fight as he has been in almost all his fights. But, while he is described as an underdog, few predict he will in fact lose, almost all fellow fighters, reporters and commentators, saying “you can never count Randy Couture out until the fight is over.”
Witnessing the fight he put on at 46 in a battle with one of the superstars of the sport, a former champion who is 13 years younger, taller, and more than twenty-pounds heavier, I think the nickname “the Natural” is a misnomer; it ought to be Super Natural.
“How does he do it? “No one comes to a fight better prepared, physically and mentally, than Randy Couture,” Dana White says. “No one has more heart.”
The question is why has Portland, why has Oregon, not embraced and celebrated a native son who is perhaps the greatest athlete to come out of this region–a veteran and unapologetic patriot who has gone to extraordinarily lengths to support our troops, traveling to Iraq to do so, and who proudly calls the Portland-area “my home. I grew up here. It’s great to be home,” as he said at the weigh-in?
More than 16,000 Portlanders and Oregonians rocked the Rose Garden expressing their admiration for Couture. But what about Portland and Oregon more generally? The man has become an icon among athletes who are among some of toughest and skilled in the world — as well as the most highly educated, the great majority college-educated, as is Couture, an All-American wrestler after going to college at Oklahoma State on the GI Bill after Army service and then athletic scholarship?
If the late Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris are already on the Olympus of Martial Arts, Randy Couture of the Northwest generally and Oregon and the Portland-area in particular, is well on his way there by those who know the sport. Indeed, he is to the sport of mixed martial arts what Lance Armstrong is to the sport of cycling, what Lou Gehrig or Babe Ruth were to baseball What Joe Lewis or Muhammad Ali were to boxing. What Johnny Unitas or Bronco Nagurski were to football. What John Wayne was to movies. Legends. Embodying what Americans would like to think are American virtues — courage, rectitude, fortitude, humility, modesty, and a sense of humor and a sense of gratitude for the opportunities we have been given, and that indefinable quality embraced in the word “heart.” Triumphing over adversity. Staying the course, making the fight, giving it the all, win or lose. There is a sense, I think, that these are qualities of the American character at its best, what Americans can, and should, be.
On Saturday night August 29, 2009, at the Ultimate Fighting Championship 102 at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon, those qualities were on display, most poignantly in the person of the now legendary Randy “the Natural” Culture, American to his bones, a “Hometown Hero” fighting his heart out, a “Rocky” for real, but articulate, cerebral in his technique, almost being counted out in every round but turning the tables, freeing himself from submission holds, almost but not quite triumphing, but never giving up and giving his all till the final bell, doing honor to himself, and the place he calls “home.”
Randy Couture, who smiles modestly at the “Captain America” tribute the fans have given him, is alive and well in Portland, Oregon, and America, and we are all the better for his example.
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