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Randy Couture on Nogueira, Lesnar and How Long He'll Fight

It seems almost impossible that, at age 46, Randy Couture is still fighting in the UFC. But in less than two weeks he'll get back into the Octagon once again, taking on Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 102.

In an interview with FanHouse, Couture talked about what kind of opponent Nogueira will be, why he thinks he could beat UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar if he gets another shot at him and whether it's realistic for him to keep fighting into his late 40s. The full interview is below.

Michael David Smith: Is Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira someone you've always wanted to fight?
Randy Couture: Absolutely. I've watched his fights for years, and he's a very, very impressive fighter. He has a lot of skill, he's very durable, he's a submission practitioner who's one of the best submission guys in our sport. There was a time when this would have been the dream match-up of Pride vs. UFC, both of us were once the champions of those organizations. That was a fight I had to turn down back then because I was under contract to the UFC, so I'm glad this fight came back around. ... I've got one more fight after this fight on my contract. And if I beat Nogueira I could be next in line for Lesnar, to try to end his reign as heavyweight champion. But I just have to take it as it comes and go with the flow.

Frank Mir was the first person to finish Nogueira. How much have you studied what Mir did and to what extent do you think you can do the same thing?
There have been all kinds of rumors since that fight, that Nogueira was hurt, he had a back injury, or he had staph. But I can't consider any of those things in my preparation. I have to prepare for the best Nogueira and assume he's coming into this fight at his best. I think he will, and that will make for a very good fight. He'll be a formidable opponent.

Looking technically at what Mir did, he's a southpaw and I'm a right-handed fighter, so there are differences there, and ultimately I have to prepare to have all the tools I'll need.

How much of your preparation is film study, watching Nogueira against Mir and against other opponents? Is film study a major part of your preparation?

It always is for me. I like to study tape, see what guys' tendencies are, see where they like to be, where they don't like to be. I've seen a lot of Nogueira's fights, so I have an idea of what kind of fighter he is. Studying his fight with Heath Herring was interesting, and I thought his fight with Mir was interesting, and those are definitely fights I've closely studied.

With how good Nogueira's submissions are, would you prefer to keep that fight standing?
Well, I have to be attentive on the ground, but I think working with Neil Melanson, I've come up with ways to control the submission game, and I think if we go to the ground, I can be on the top or bottom and I'll be fine -- I think I can win the fight there. How cool would it be to submit Nogueira? Beating him on the ground would be an accomplishment.

It certainly would be. No one has ever submitted Nogueira. If you beat Nogueira, do you think your next fight should be a rematch with Brock Lesnar?
It doesn't really matter what I think. It's what the UFC thinks that's important. So I've just got to take what comes along and see, after the dust settles, where I am. But I'm not looking past Nogueira. If other opportunities present themselves, there are a lot of good fights for me in the UFC right now.

Is that always your mindset? That you don't look beyond the fight you're focusing on now?
I think it has to be. I think if you start overlooking anybody, or thinking you've got all the answers, then somebody's going to point out to you that that's not a smart way to think.

I know you're looking ahead to some relaxing after the Nogueira fight, though, because you have this Sports Legends Challenge scheduled for next month.
I've got a unique opportunity to go down to the Bahamas in September with a number of other top athletes and sports stars and play some poker. I'm really excited to play some tournament-style, Texas hold 'em poker, and we're going to have some fun down there in the Bahamas, talking sports and playing some poker.

I'd also like to ask you to look ahead at some of the other fights the UFC has scheduled. Who do you think are the heavyweights who have the best chance to beat Lesnar? Your fight with Nogueira is a big one, Shane Carwin vs. Cain Velasquez is a big fight, Mirko Cro Cop vs. Junior dos Santos is big, too. How do you view the way the heavyweight division stacks up right now?
With the guys you just named, you hit the list. The heavyweight class over the last year has gotten deeper, and a few newer guys in the UFC have stepped up and shown they're worthy of being contenders in the heavyweight division. Before I think the division wasn't quite as strong, but it's a deep division now, and getting deeper all the time.

What's the way to beat Lesnar? Does it need to be someone who can come close to matching his size and strength, like Carwin? Or is it someone with superior experience, like yourself?
I don't think there's one specific prototype. He's obviously a big, strong, very good athlete, but I think there are also still some technical holes in his game. I think a guy who's big enough and strong enough -- and adept enough in wrestling -- can keep the fight in the right position to kind of pick him apart at the seams. But that's no easy task, as big as he is and as well as he moves.

I also think there are some holes in his submission game that can still be exploited. Mir didn't get a chance to put him in a submission at UFC 100, but a guy with Mir's submission skills could still give Lesnar some problems.

How much longer will you fight? You have one more fight on your contract after Nogueira. Could that one more be your last fight?
I'm taking it one fight at a time. I'm not anticipating anything, but I'm having fun and getting better as a fighter, and this is where I like to be. As long as that continues to be the case, I'll continue to fight. But as I get older, it's something that I'm constantly asked about.

And I'm sure you're constantly asked about this as well, but what do you attribute your longevity to? There are a handful of athletes, like you, Dara Torres, Bernard Hopkins and so on who can keep competing at a high level a decade older than most athletes have to walk away. Is it genetics? Is it work ethic? Is it something else?
I don't think there's any easy answer to that. I think it's a combination of things. I was fortunate enough to compete at a high level in wrestling into my 30s, and so my fitness base was very high. Then I got into fighting and was able to adapt my training appropriately. I haven't allowed any distractions to get into the way of doing what I need to do to get into shape and compete.

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