http://www.mmafighting.com/2010/08/12/randy-couture-hollywoods-toughest-tough-guy/Michael David Smith
In a recent interview with David Letterman, Sylvester Stallone was talking about all the tough guys in his upcoming movie, The Expendables. The cast features a who's who of Hollywood action heroes -- Stallone, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Stone Cold Steve Austin and more. But Stallone said none of those guys can hold a candle to Randy Couture.
In an interview with MMAFighting.com, Couture talked about his status as a Hollywood tough guy -- Hollywood's toughest guy, according to Stallone -- and what he thinks the future holds for him as an actor. He also touched on his upcoming fight with James Toney at UFC 118, and discussed his son's professional MMA debut on Friday night's Strikeforce card. The full interview is below.
Michael David Smith: Did you see Sylvester Stallone and David Letterman talking about you?
Randy Couture: I didn't see it. I heard about it.
It's no surprise that Stallone would say you're the toughest guy in the movie, but there are a couple of other guys in this movie who at least know how to act like they can fight, Jet Li obviously has some martial arts talent as far as fighting on screen, and Dolph Lundgren played a boxer in Rocky IV and Stone Cold Steve Austin was a pro wrestler, but do those guys actually know anything about real fighting?
The only guy who really has any combative sports experience was Dolph Lundgren in full-contact karate. Steve Austin was a pro wrestler, but I don't think any of them really had much fighting experience. Jet Li would be the first person to tell you he's not a fighter. He's an amazing martial artist, but he's not a fighter.
Is there anything you could learn from a person like Jet Li that you could apply to MMA, or is the type of martial arts practiced by Jet Li something that only works in Hollywood, not inside the Octagon?
I think you can learn from anybody. I don't know if you're going to learn fighting on a movie set, but there are things that a person like Dolph or a person like Jet could teach me, for sure.
You've got two jobs at the moment, as an actor and as a fighter. How hard is it to do those two jobs simultaneously?
It isn't that difficult. It hasn't taken me away from the training environment very much. I've had more work promoting the movie over the last month, and I've had to juggle that, but my coaches travel with me and keep me going.
When you were filming The Expendables did you have people with you that you could spar with and train with?
I filmed The Expendables last summer and then moved straight from filming that to my fight camp for my fight with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in August, and I was in good shape for that fight and had a good fight, so I think the work I did was enough to have me prepared.
Are more acting jobs on the way? Do you think a time is coming when acting is going to be your primary occupation?
Absolutely. This movie is going to help me get bigger and better parts. It's my eighth picture in the last seven years and it certainly shows that my career is heading in the right direction. I won't be able to compete at this level in MMA for a whole lot longer, and acting will be next for me.
Is it important to you to work with the real heavyweights in Hollywood, like you are in The Expendables and working with someone like David Mamet in Redbelt?
That's how you get better, to work with the best people. It's the same thing in fighting. I want to work with good people and keep improving. In my acting career I want to work with great people and be in movies that people will want to see.
Was there anyone in particular you worked with on The Expendables that you wanted to learn from?
I paid a lot of attention to Sly, how he works, how he writes and changes things, getting an idea of what he was shooting and how he was shooting it. I also paid a lot of attention to Chad Stahelski, our stunt coordinator, and see how he would capture the action.
In addition to the movie opening Friday, your son has his pro MMA debut coming up on Friday. Are you nervous about that?
No, I don't get nervous about that at all. He's prepared, he's a very smart kid, and I think he's going to be great. I'll be there, I'm going to help corner him for that fight. I'm very excited.
Do you think he'll have a long MMA career?
That's up to him, but yeah, he has a ton of potential and he has a passion for the sport, which is the most important thing.
You're a few weeks away from fighting James Toney. Is the game plan basically as simple as go inside for a takedown, make sure you don't get knocked out on the way in, and as long as you can grab hold of him you're going to take him down and beat him on the ground pretty easily?
What I'm preparing to do is take him down, put him on his back and take him out of his strength.
Toney has been talking all kinds of crazy stuff about how MMA fighters aren't really tough and he doesn't have to worry about leg kicks because kicking is for girls, and on and on. He can't really believe that, can he?
No. I don't listen to it, first of all, but I hear about it from people like you and I don't think he really believes that. Bottom line, he'll have to walk into the cage and back up whatever he says on fight night.
This is an intriguing fight in the sense that Toney is the first high-level boxer to sign with the UFC, but in a sense is fighting a guy making his MMA debut something of a step down for you?
No. It's still an interesting fight because James has accomplished so much as a boxer. I was an accomplished wrestler when I transitioned into this sport but I hadn't fought in MMA when I first fought in the UFC. Maybe some of the guys I was fighting back then thought I was a step down for them, but they wouldn't have thought that after I beat them.
That's true, but with how far the sport has come since your debut in 1997, is it realistic anymore for a newcomer to fight at a high level in his first MMA fight?
I don't know how realistic it is. Listening to the stuff James says, I don't know how realistic any of it is. But boxing certainly counts for something, and it makes him dangerous in this fight. He's going to be explosive in his punches, and I'll have to stay out of his way, make him work and then show him that this is a mixed martial arts fight, not a boxing match.
What's left for you to do in MMA after the Toney fight? Do you want another shot at Brock Lesnar? Do you want another shot at the light heavyweight title?
I'm taking the fights as they come. This is an interesting fight, and then we'll see what else I can do that's interesting. I've accomplished what I've set out to accomplish and now what's left for me to do is have some interesting fights.
Is the reason you wanted the Toney fight that simple? You wanted an interesting fight?
Yes. I wanted to train for someone who would pose different problems for me, and that's what a boxer crossing over to the sport does. And that's what this sport did in its original version: It brought together all these different styles and all these interesting match-ups. I've done what I wanted to do as far as competing at a high level, and now I'm just looking to fight some interesting fights.
That's what UFC 1 was supposed to answer: What's the best fighting style? When you move outside MMA circles and into Hollywood cricles, do you still hear that question?
What I find is that most people get it now. Most people understand the sport, they're fans of this sport, they understand that this is more closely related to a real fight, and we're not limited to the rules of boxing. At one point people viewed the heavyweight champion of boxing as the toughest guy in the world but I think now people know the toughest guy is in our sport.
Is there anyone you've met in Hollywood you were surprised to find was an MMA fan?
David Mamet was pretty unlikely, he loves MMA and he's a purple belt in jiu jitsu himself. I'm always impressed by how many people like the sport, are interested in training in the sport and have become huge fans. Stone Cold Steve Austin is a guy who really loves the sport, knows it and asked me a ton of questions.
When you meet people from other walks of life and find that they're MMA fans, does it make you feel like MMA is finally putting behind it all the questions that it faced when you were new in the UFC, about whether it should even be legal at all, whether it had no place in society?
I think so, although we still get those questions when we move into other countries. But in this country people get it and understand it.
What did you think of Saturday night's Anderson Silva-Chael Sonnen fight?
It was a great fight. Chael had a perfect game plan but got a little out of position and a little careless in the end. Anderson Silva is a great fighter but Chael was very close to winning the title.
Chael's background is in wrestling and yours is in wrestling. Did seeing someone with a similar background do so well against Silva make you think maybe you'd like a shot at him in the future?
I've known Chael for a long time and I've trained with him, and I've said for a long time that a guy with that skill set is going to be difficult for Anderson. And in that fight we saw the proof. I think I'd be a good match for Anderson and I want to face the best competitors so he's someone I'd certainly be interested in competing with.
You're certainly more known as a UFC fighter now, but do you think there might be a day when you're known more as an actor than a fighter?
It's certainly a possibility. I don't worry too much about public perception but just as I've accomplished a lot in my sport, I hope I accomplish a lot as an actor and that takes care of itself. I think I'm on the right track.