It's a decision he made once before. He retired in 2006 after losing to Chuck Liddell in the third fight of their trilogy, but with the benefit of hindsight, Couture says now that he knows that was simply a break necessary due to other trying events in his life. But this one, he says will stick.
Next weekend in Toronto will be the last time we see "The Natural" in his natural environment.
"I kind of want to go out on my own terms and decide when enough is enough, and I think that time has come," Couture said during a Tuesday teleconference.
If it is the end, he is certainly going to leave the sport in style. The event will be by far the largest MMA show ever promoted in North America in terms of attendance and gate. Though he downplayed it, the retirement of Couture, who has always been a fan favorite, may end up overshadowing the rest of the card and will almost certainly result in him receiving an ovation that will rival and perhaps surpass that of anyone on the card, including welterweight champion and Canadian national hero Georges St. Pierre.
Couture already has his first two post-fighting projects lined up. In May, he'll begin shooting a role in an action film entitled "Hijacked" while in August, he'll move on to the sequel to the 2010 hit "The Expendables."
His desire to move into a new phase of life factors more into the retirement decision than any fight-related factors. In fact, Couture told MMA Fighting that even at 47, his body is responsive and capable of competing at a high level throughout a grinding training camp.
"That was one of the things I've struggled with, is that I am healthy as ever and feel great and I feel I have the ability to compete, and compete at this level," he said. "I feel I've stretched it and pushed it, and I don't want to wait until I have those issues to think about and weigh into training camp or weigh into a camp. That's part of going out on my terms.
"I don't want to wait until I have that injury and have doctors telling me, 'You can't fight anymore,'" he continued. "That will affect all the other things I like to do. I like to hunt, I like to ride my bike. I like to do other things. I'm healthy and can enjoy most of my life right now. I don't want to wait too long."
Couture was ready to walk away and call it a career after his last match against James Toney, the boxer who ventured into MMA and was handily defeated by Couture in a first-round submission. A month after that fight, his lawyer Sam Spira told MMA Fighting that Couture might have fought for the last time, but could possibly be lured back for an "interesting" fight.
This time around, Couture added no such qualifiers to his retirement talk, though he noted that with a win, he realized the UFC might continue to approach him with fight offers.
With his decision seemingly made, the legend says a win or loss won't sway him; his lasting memories of the fight will come from how he performs, and they are memories that will have to last him the rest of his life. Before 55,000 fans and for the last time, the multi-time, multi-divisional champion will walk away from a sport he helped bring into international prominence.
"My life is going fantastic, it couldn't be going any better," he said. "I'm coming off three straight victories and everything's firing and going well. It's the right time for me to go out with my head up and go out with this competition. It's my 30th fight, I've been doing this for 14 years. It's time for me to focus on other things in life and enjoy my life a little bit."
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