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Friday April 11, 2008 10:39 PM PST


Randy Couture Q & A

By Gary Herman

The UFC heavyweight champion is not only a fighter but an actor as well.

None other than Randy “The Natural” Couture co-stars in the upcoming release of the new David Mamet movie, Redbelt. Couture plays the role of a well-respected TV personality. It’s a position Couture has done many times in real life as an announcer with the UFC.

Redbelt is a story about the struggle of a prior mixed martial arts superstar who tries to stay away from the sport he used to dominate, but when outside forces step in the middle, the former star is forced to fight his way back. The movie is set to premier nationally on May 9th.

We recently caught up with Couture to discuss his role in the upcoming movie, what he thinks about Fedor Emelianenko’s current situation, if he wants to fight Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and if he’ll ever take on professional wrestler Kurt Angle in real competition.

Question: What did you think about your role in Redbelt?

Randy Couture: I liked it. I was excited to get to act in a movie and not have to fight. I was happy to not have to do any of the physical stuff and move into more of a real acting role.

Q: Since the movie is about MMA, did you help with any of the fight scenes?

RC: No, I did not. I kind of had my hands full doing my own lines and focusing on my own character. They had the Machados and a few other Brazilian fellows to help with the training of Chiwetel (Ejiofor) who is the main character in the movie.

Q: Have you seen the entire movie yet?

RC: I’ve only seen the parts that I did voiceovers for so I haven’t seen the whole thing yet. I am really looking forward to seeing the finished product.

Q: Your role as Dylan Flynn in the movie, what does that entail?

RC: Dylan is one of the commentators on both a TV show in the movie and for the live fighting event in the movie. The main character is basically trying to get to me at the live event to try to blow the whistle on some of the betrayal that is going on in the movie.

Q: Do you think the MMA fans will be happy with the fight scenes in the movie?

RC: I think they will. The fight scenes are very grounded in jiu-jitsu. There is no crazy wire work or anything like that. It’s an accurate representation of our sport. They use a lot of real fighters. It’s not a fight movie. Fighting and MMA are just backdrop for the plot, and I think it’s very well done.

Q: How did you like working with director David Mamet?

RC: It was a great experience for me. I had no knowledge of David before this. I was familiar with some of the movies he did, but I did not know that much about him as a writer or director. So when people starting freaking out that I was doing a read with David Mamet, I started to realize that it is something I ought to look into. We just kind of hit it off because of his experience with jiu-jitsu. He’s been training for about five years. He understands MMA and the ground game. He and his casting director spent a lot of extra time with me. I even ended up on a couple of episodes of The Unit because of this whole process which was a great experience and provided me with a great deal of exposure.

Q: You mentioned acting a couple of times, is that something you’d like to pursue more when your fight career is over?

RC: Actually, yes. I’ve been in seven pictures now. I’ve been taking classes for about two years. In a learning sense, this has been a great experience. David’s reputation and credibility has given me some legitimacy in acting circles.

Q: Did you get a chance to work out with Mamet?

RC: I didn’t get a chance to roll with him, but I hope to at some time. I’m sure that’ll happen.

Q: Do you think acting will be next or could something be worked out with the UFC?

RC: I don’t think anything is going to get worked out with the UFC as far as me fighting for them again. More than likely, the courts are going to rule that the contract ends in July. I have a right to work in my profession so I would assume that the courts will uphold that, and I’ll be free from the UFC by July and then hopefully, I’ll be able to pursue the Fedor (Emelianenko) fight and see that happen somewhere in August or early fall.

Q: Now that Fedor is a free agent, does that change anything as far as the potential fight goes?

RC: That doesn’t really matter to me as long as it happens. I don’t care where. I talked to his people at the commercial we recently did. I even agreed to fight him twice. We can fight once in a cage here in the States, and we can fight in Japan where he’s very popular in a ring. I don’t care – as long as we get the fights.

Q: Fedor’s last big organization was the Pride Fighting Championships. A lot of other guys have also come over from Pride, but they have not had great results. Why do you think that is?

RC: I think that is a little different animal over here – they hype for the fights can be nerve-racking. The American crowd is very fanatical. I think the cage is a big difference. The cage can be your best buddy or your worst enemy depending on the position you’re in. I don’t think a lot of people gave that enough credence, and some of them paid the price for that.

Q: Very true. I remember in your fight with Gabriel Gonzaga – you definitely used the cage to your advantage to really wear him out.

RC: Yes. I felt like Gonzaga’s a big strong guy especially with good kicks. I felt like I didn’t want to stand out in front of him. I wanted to close the distance and smother him, and the solid barrier of the cage allowed me to push him up against it, smother him and use the Greco background that I have to take him and keep him out of his strengths.

Q: We talked about a possible fight with Fedor. Is there anyone else you’d be interested in fighting?

RC: That’s really the fight for me at this stage. I’m 44 and looking at the end of my career. I want to fight the best guy in the world and be considered the best guy as well. That fight is the only way that will happen. It doesn’t make sense – the UFC is criticizing me for not fighting (Antonio Rodrigo) Nogueira, and I have a lot of respect for Nogueira. I think he’s a great fighter, but he’s been beat by Fedor twice. That fight doesn’t make sense for me right now. If I have more fights left in me after Fedor, maybe I’ll fight Nogueira then, but right now, it just doesn’t make sense.

Q: The UFC has publicly said that are sending you offers to fight Nogueira. Are they really doing that?

RC: They have sent me an offer to fight Nogueira. Yes, that’s what they do. They are going to try.

Q: How do you react when Dana White and Nogueira call you out to fight Nogueira?

RC: I’m not surprised by that. He (White) starts making other derogatory comments, and that’s a little surprising that he would need to go there. He wants me to fight for him and make his organization money. At this stage of things, I’d like to see the way fighters get paid change. Fighters are the ones that are putting it on the line. The UFC has done a lot of great things for our sport, but we’re at a point now where the biggest fights need to happen regardless of the organization the fighter is tied up with, and the fighters need to be paid. Why should (Floyd) Mayweather or Oscar De La Hoya make $20 to $40 million dollars for one fight? And mixed martial artists are doing so much in the mainstream in a professional sport and not be compensated in the same way. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Q: Do you feel there are any similarities between your situation and what is going on with Tito Ortiz right now?

RC: I’m not too familiar with Tito’s case. Maybe there are some similarities – I’m not sure. I’ve had my own hands full. I haven’t really kept up with Tito’s deal.

Q: One guy that talked about possibly having a grappling type match with you is Kurt Angle. Is there any truth to that?

RC: I would be interested in a submission match with Kurt. I think Kurt was saying that it is going to be a fight and all this other stuff. I don’t think that would be a wise idea for Kurt. Just like Brock Lesnar, Kurt has a lot of potential. He has a great wrestling base, but he doesn’t really know anything about MMA yet, but he’s certainly a great wrestler so if he wanted to do a submission match, I’d be interesting in doing that. But there’s nothing officially scheduled at this point.

Q: Do you think the submissions match is a realistic possibility?

RC: I think it’s a possibility. I did a Jacare match last year. But again, I wait till I am free and clear contractually from the UFC because my contract includes wrestling and submission wrestling, and I don’t think they are going to give me any permission to do anything at this point. Until the courts’ rule that the contract is over with, I wouldn’t be free to do anything with Kurt.

Q: You mentioned Brock Lesnar a little bit earlier, what do you think about his potential in the UFC?

RC: I think he’s got great potential. He was a great collegiate wrestler. Pro wrestling is still very physical. He’s a great athlete. I think the Mir fight was a silly choice, especially for a wrestler, style wise. Put Lesnar in there with a good striker – somebody that he can use his strengths against – and I think Lesnar would have been successful. The one athlete you have to watch for as a wrestler is a world-class submission guy, and that’s who they put him in with – a world-class submission guy. I wasn’t surprised by the outcome, but I don’t think Lesnar will be discouraged. He’ll be back and he’ll be a force.

Q: How do you feel about Lesnar getting such a big contract without having an established name in MMA?

RC: I mean again – the UFC is about selling pay-per-views and putting butts in the seats as they should be, but that’s why I question why they would put him in with Mir and not protect that investment a little bit. I don’t think the UFC thought Frank has a lot of heart left. Some of his performances the past few years have been lackluster, but if you looked at his last fight, he showed that he is getting himself back on track to become the top fighter again.

Q: Switching topics a little bit, your wife recently had he first big victory in MMA. What did you think of her performance?

RC: I was very excited for her. It was a lot of fun. The crowd really got into it. She showed some great skills. Her stand-up is something she’s been working on for a while. She’s spent the last four weeks in a fast course in ground fighting and jiu-jitsu with Robert Drysdale. I think she’s going to keep training now and then look to set-up another fight this summer.

Q: What’s it like to sit in the corner and watch your wife fight?

RC: I wasn’t nervous at all. I watched her train. I’ve seen her get hit in practice so it’s like anything else – you need to keep it in perspective. If the worst thing that would happen is she loses a fight, she’s doing pretty good.

Q: And of course as we mentioned earlier, Redbelt is coming out in just a few weeks. Are there any other movies you’re currently working on?

RC: Big Stan is a movie that I actually worked on two summers ago with Rob Schneider. The movie is coming out the same weekend as Redbelt oddly enough. I am excited about that too.

Q: How about the new Scorpion King movie?

RC: Yes, the prequel to the Scorpion King called Rise of the Akkadian comes out in August. I just finished the voiceovers for that. I got to see a rough cut of that, and it looks good. It’s a PG-13 movie. Whether or not it comes out in a full theatrical release, I don’t know. That’s up to Universal. It’s probably the biggest role that I’ve played so far in getting the chance to play the Scorpion King of that era.

Q: So among the movies, training your wife and cornering all the fighters, do you have any time to train yourself?

RC: Heck no. There’s no rest for the weary. It’s pretty busy, but it’s fun.

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