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Nine Ways of Looking at Randy Couture's Final Fight

According to Randy Couture, his fight against Lyoto Machida at UFC 129 will be his last. After nearly 14 years in the cage and a couple failed attempts at walking away from the sport for good, the importance of this fight all depends on how you look at it.

I. Will he or won't he? When Couture says that, win or lose, he'll hang it up after this fight, it's hard to take him at his word. Not to question "Captain America's" credibility, but we've heard this song and dance before. His reasoning is perfectly sound. He can still compete at 47 years of age, but he's also still healthy enough to enjoy the fruits of his labors and he'd like to keep it that way. That makes perfect sense. Then again, it's not like that's a new development in his life. Couture hasn't needed the money for a while now. He's been doing this because he loves it, and maybe – just maybe – because he's addicted to the feeling he gets from standing in the cage on a Saturday night, listening to an arena full of people chant his name after he's physically broken another human being. You can't buy that kind of rush, but you might, if you're not careful, go looking for it just a little too long.

II. Couture enters this fight with a career record of 19-10, which, on paper, seems pretty mediocre. There are 28-year-olds with similar records getting turned away from 'Ultimate Fighter' tryouts. Tim Sylvia has a career mark of 28-7, for crying out loud. Keith Jardine is 17-9-2! What does it all tell us? That it's not just how many fights you won, but who you beat. Sure, Couture's record benefited from the Steven Grahams and James Toneys of the MMA world, but of his 29 pro MMA bouts, 15 were UFC title fights. If he really does retire after the Machida fight, he'll do so as a man who spent literally half his career in championship bouts. Now that's a legacy.

III. Even when doors have been slammed shut forever, they can usually be pried open again with the right amount of money.
While Couture insists he's done, he recently told Steve Cofield that the UFC would have to really "step up" to get him back. That vague phrase could mean a lot of things. Does he mean step up with a better fight offer? Step up with a cushy executive gig like Chuck Liddell's? We don't know, but we do know that's not something you say if you're absolutely, 100 percent done. It's more like something you say when you're 90 percent done, but could always be coaxed out by one last enormous payday.

IV. At this point, MMA could benefit more from Couture's retirement than from his continued participation.
As our own Mike Chiappetta wrote earlier this week, Couture has always had a bit of the advocate in him. That voice has necessarily been muted while under contract with the UFC, but once he's out he could be the leader on issues like fighter pay, health insurance, pension funds – maybe he could even be the driving force behind creating a fighter's union that would address all those issues. MMA needs an elder statesman with the clout and the fearlessness necessary to lead that charge. It also needs someone willing take on this battle even though he doesn't personally need the spoils from it. If that someone isn't Couture, then who? And when?

V. According to oddsmakers, Couture is probably going out on a loss.
Machida is greater than a 3-1 favorite all across the board, and when you look at Couture's recent performances you can see why. His best chance to win this is to do to Machida what he did to Brandon Vera, making this a slow, boring fight that takes place almost entirely in the clinch. He could potentially win that way, but is that really how he wants to spend his final 15 minutes in the Octagon? True, it would at least dampen the UFC's incentive to try and lure him out of retirement later, but every good showman knows that the key is to leave them wanting more, even if you have no intention of giving it to them.

VI. He'd been on this earth 43 years and 255 days when he beat Tim Sylvia for the UFC heavyweight strap, making him the oldest man to ever become a UFC champion. That's a record that's going to stand for a while. Or at least until Anderson Silva retires to become a professional dancer, gets bored, and comes back to beat up whichever poor sap is keeping his belt warm by then.

VII. How much does the success of Couture's latest retirement attempt depend on the success of his acting career?
Unlike many Americans, Randy probably isn't the type to spend his retirement watching Fox News and shopping around for the best price on a leafblower. He's got to stay busy, and he seems to think that his acting career is right on the verge of taking off. The thing is, as anyone who's seen him act already knows, he's probably not getting the call to join the Royal Shakespeare Company any time soon. He's not a bad actor – at the very least, he's better than Channing Tatum – but at the same time, a 47-year-old guy with cauliflower ear who's still just learning the craft will probably never be a leading man. If he does decide to come back to MMA, let's just hope it's because he really wants to, and not because he's run out of acting gigs.

VIII. Seriously, Randy? It's really going to be over for real this time? Win or lose? After a fight with Lyoto Machida, of all people? Okay, if you say so...

IX. But wait, you're telling me that even an offer to fight Fedor Emelianenko, just once, for an outrageous amount of money, that wouldn't be enough to convince you to lace 'em up one last time?
No? Please don't take this the wrong way, Randy, but I don't believe you.

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