Lesnar to meet Couture in training sessions
Don't be surprised if Brock Lesnar and Randy Couture meet in the cage again in '09 -- not as opponents, but as sparring partners.
Don't be surprised to see Brock Lesnar and Randy Couture back in the cage together this year.
But this time, they'll be training partners.
UFC heavyweight champion Lesnar inquired about a visit to Xtreme Couture Mixed Martial Arts in Las Vegas when he spoke with the UFC Hall of Famer at UFC Fight for the Troops on Dec. 10 in Fayetteville, N.C.
"I told him that would be fine," said Couture, who lost his sixth career title to Lesnar at UFC 91 on Nov. 15 in Las Vegas.
Lesnar (3-1) trains primarily with Minnesota Martial Arts Academy head trainer Greg Nelson in Alexandria, Minn., though a stint with Couture could be a wise play.
The 45-year-old icon has practiced an open-door policy throughout his career when it comes to expanding his training horizons. Before his rematch with Muay Thai stylist Pedro Rizzo at UFC 34 in November 2001, Couture sought out former opponent Maurice Smith, an accomplished kickboxer, for tutelage. Most recently, Couture trained with three-time rival Vitor Belfort before the Brazilian's victory in July 2008 against Terry Martin at Affliction: Banned.
Couture's training preferences haven't spoiled his future bouts, either. Couture worked out with Tim Sylvia in 2004, then earned a decision over the former heavyweight titleholder at UFC 68 in March 2007.
After losing to jiu-jitsu black belt Frank Mir in his Octagon debut, the 31-year-old Lesnar blazed through the UFC in 2008 with a nod over former Pride gatekeeper Heath Herring before wresting the title from Couture.
Lesnar, a 2000 NCAA champion and the WWE's youngest champion ever, won't have the luxury of time as he continues his rapid MMA matriculation. Lesnar will fight Mir, UFC's interim heavyweight champion, in a unification rematch sometime this year.
Mir (12-3) scored the upset of 2008 when he dropped Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira on multiple occasions at UFC 92 in December before stopping the resilient Brazilian for the first time with a flurry in the second round.
"I think it's the best we've ever seen Frank," Couture said. "He looked composed, relaxed and confident going in. He executed his game plan and did a terrific job. I was very impressed."
Mir's unexpected victory clears a path for Couture to face fallen former Pride heavyweight champion Nogueira, a bout Couture originally turned down amid a contract dispute with UFC in early 2008.
"I'd fight Nogueira," Couture said. "I had other reasons to turn down that fight last year, but that was a whole different situation. He's a tremendous fighter. I've watched him for years. I saw Danny [Henderson] fight him in the KOK [Ring's "King of Kings" tournament in 1999]. I was heading to fight him myself in the KOK that next year."
Talk of Couture's next assignment began soon after his loss to Lesnar in November, and the popular fighter's participation on the UFC's debut card in Cologne, Germany, on June 13 seemed inevitable thanks to his familiarity of the language and culture. Not only did Couture major in German in college, he served more than four years for the U.S. Army in Germany.
Word even leaked that UFC had interest in pairing Couture with Chuck Liddell for a fourth time at UFC 99.
"Nobody's talked to me about any fight in Germany," Couture said. "I've asked [UFC president] Dana [White] because of all these rumors that have been going around. He said, 'It's just rumors.'"
With a second career in acting gaining steam, Couture will be hard-pressed to commit to another fight before the summer. He has accepted a lead role in Sylvester Stallone's next film, "The Expendables," which is scheduled to begin shooting in March for nine weeks in Brazil and Shreveport, La. Stallone will direct and star alongside Couture, Jet Li and Jason Statham.
Lesnar and Mir likely will clash in the interim, while Couture remains undecided about that bout's outcome.
"I think that kind of depends on Lesnar and how much he's learned and is able to keep the fight where he wants to keep it and uses his advantage, which is his size, strength, and length," Couture said. "That's the question. That's why everyone wants to see the fight again. Can Mir take him down and catch him in another submission? It's hard to say. I can't make a choice right now."
Loretta Hunt is a contributor to Sherdog.com.