Coutures demand grows as Hollywood calls
• His eye healed, Portland ultimate fighter is acting and has committed to more bouts
The battle-scarred Randy Couture will return to fight another day. In the meantime, Hollywood has come calling.
Couture, the Ultimate Fighting Championship great who lives and trains in the Portland area, has been spending time in Los Angeles recently, co-starring in an HBO-produced movie, 'No Rules.'
He plays a bad guy. In the film, similar to 'Fight Club,' Couture fights and kills a man whose son then goes on a quest for vengeance. It's his second movie role; he also appeared in 'Cradle 2 Grave.'
It still looks like Couture will get back into the UFC octagon in June, in a rematch against Vitor Belfort, who took the light heavyweight title from him Jan. 31 -in Las Vegas. A left-handed punch from Belfort grazed -Couture's left eye, cutting the eyelid and scratching the cornea. Forty-eight seconds after the fight started, officials ended it.
Couture had stitches removed from the damaged eyelid recently and resumed full-contact sparring and training. He can also see clearly now, after taking steroid drops for inflammation of the iris.
Three more fights to come
Minutes after the January fight, Belfort assured Couture he would give him a rematch. A week later, Belfort called Couture and told him the same thing.
Now, 'the news I'm hearing is Vitor's reneging on wanting to step up and give me a rematch,' Couture says. 'He's saying, 'Why should I fight him again? I beat him. I want to fight somebody else.' Well, the UFC will put pressure on him, because it doesn't make sense to fight anybody else. It would be one thing if he beat me fair and square.'
Dana White, UFC president, says the rematch will probably be in June in Las Vegas. The winner of April's Chuck Liddell-Tito Ortiz bout then would fight the Couture-Belfort winner in September.
Couture recently signed another three-fight contract Ñ two fights guaranteed Ñ which would pay him $150,000 for each bout and an extra $75,000 if he won. The UFC has to find somebody for Couture to fight.
Couture, the only UFC fighter to hold the heavyweight and light-heavy belts in his career, has been one of the pillars of the fledgling sport, White says. Thus, the UFC takes care of him.
'He was with it in the Dark Ages, when it looked like it would disappear,' White says.
'What made him a superstar was beating Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz (in 2003). That put him over the top. That made him the man.'
Against all odds, including his age, 40, he won the light-heavyweight belt. Then, he lost it, in an instant against Belfort.
'If anything, it will create more hype and interest for the rematch,' White says.
Sport's poised for greatness
White says the sport Ñ essentially wrestling, boxing and martial arts combined Ñ soon could be broadcast on cable, as opposed to simply pay-per-view and live gate. The UFC owners, Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, very rich men who also run the Station Casinos in Las Vegas, have been losing money on ultimate fighting, but they are committed to keeping it, White says.
And Couture will be around for a while, despite being long in the tooth compared with his opponents. He has had some injuries, too Ñ especially to the left-eye area in the Belfort fight. Couture endured an abrasion just below the eye while training three weeks before the Belfort fight, and he suffered a broken orbital bone against Josh Barnett in 2002.
'Worst injury I've seen in the sport,' Couture says. 'Instantly lost sight.' He had to tap out, and lost the title, but Barnett later tested positive for steroids.
'My only concern was if I was going to get my eyesight back,' Couture adds.
His wife, Tricia, has bittersweet feelings about Couture not retiring right now.
'He's had so much success, and he's peaking. It's a good business decision,' she says. 'But I worry about him getting hurt. My nerves just have to go through it three more times.'
After the next two UFC fights, Couture hopes to meet Vanderlei Silva, a superstar in Japan in the rival Pride organization.
'It would basically be the Super Bowl of mixed martial arts,' he says, of a Couture-Silva matchup.