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Randy Couture Still Regrets 2001 Loss in Rings King of Kings Semifinal

Randy Couture will fight Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in the main event of UFC 102, a fight that MMA fans have wanted to see for years. But not many fans have been itching for this fight as long as Couture himself has -- Couture said Tuesday that he's still kicking himself over a 2001 loss that cost him the opportunity to fight Nogueira eight years ago.

The fight Couture lost was to Valentijn Overeem on February 24, 2001, in the semifinal round of the Rings King of Kings MMA tournament. Nogueira had already made the tournament final, so if Couture had beaten Overeem, he would have advanced to face Nogueira. Instead, as you can see in the above video, Couture got caught in an Overeem guillotine choke and tapped out less than a minute into the first round.

On a Tuesday conference call to promote his fight with Nogueira, Couture still sounded upset about that loss to Overeem. He talked about what a stupid mistake he made to get caught in the guillotine, and about how much he wishes he didn't have to wait until 2009 to take on Nogueira. You could hear it in his voice: Couture views his failure to reach the final as one of the big disappointments of his career.

As it turned out, Nogueira needed just 1:20 to beat Overeem in the King of Kings tournament final, catching him in an arm triangle choke, and Nogueira was the Rings King of Kings champion. Looking back on that 32-man tournament, it's kind of amazing that Overeem (best known to most fans today as the brother of Alistair Overeem) advanced to the final at all. This was an outstanding tournament with some of the best fighters in MMA history. Consider a few other fights in the King of Kings:

-- Overeem also beat Renato "Babalu" Sobral in the tournament's second round. The wins over Couture and Babalu remain the biggest of Overeem's career.
-- Fedor Emelianenko defeated Ricardo Arona by unanimous decision in the first round of the tournament.
-- Fedor suffered the only loss of his career, a TKO because of a cut, in the second round of the tournament. That loss is controversial because it came when Tsuyoshi Kohsaka hit him with an elbow, and even though elbows weren't allowed in the tournament, they awarded Kohsaka the victory anyway.
-- Couture beat Jeremy Horn in the first round of the tournament. Yes, Horn has fought everyone, everywhere.
-- Dave Menne, who would become the UFC middleweight champion later in 2001, lost in the third round of the tournament.

Rings King of Kings was quite a tournament, and it's understandable that Couture is disappointed he didn't make it to the final. But when Couture and Nogueira step into the Octagon on August 29, Couture's wait will finally be over.

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