While the Shamrocks and Gracies feud over who is the “First Family of MMA” like the Hatfields & McCoys, many MMA fans will point to the Couture clan as equally deserving of that honor. Ironically enough, as a household which is known for its quiet humility, they’d probably be the last ones to lay claim to it.
But amid a capacity crowd of near 2,500 at Sunday night’s Tuff-N-Uff amateur MMA event at the Orleans Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas, NV, Ryan Couture, son of Randy “The Natural” Couture, took the family name one step farther down that path. Facing Art Martinez of Team Fubar in a lightweight bout, the younger Couture scored a second-round submission win.
“I really enjoyed myself out there. . . I got to work my standing a little bit. I got to show I’m pretty slick on the ground too. I’m happy with the way it went,” Couture said after the match.
In the first round, Martinez had no problem pushing the attack on Couture, firing with hard punch combinations. Couture tried to keep the distance with low kicks before the fight went to the ground. From there, Couture worked for both a triangle choke and armbar, surviving a short slam by Martinez.
“I thought I’d get the tap with the triangle, but he was tough,” he began to explain. “I kept debating back and forth between the arm or the triangle – I think if I’d have gone with one or the other, I would have got the tap. But you live and learn.”
Round two opened up with a flying knee from Martinez, who followed up with a takedown attempt. Couture was able to mount Martinez’, sinking his hooks in and claiming a submission victory by rear naked choke at the 29-second mark.
Couture’s Tuff-N-Uff win takes him to 2-0 as an amateur, as his debut match took place late last year at an amateur event in Bellingham, WA.
Carrying such a family name and deciding to compete in MMA, it’s inevitable that a certain parade of media buzz and hoopla would follow. But this isn’t the first time that father and son have faced this scenario, as Ryan dealt with the same pressure during his high school wrestling career of following in the footsteps of his highly-decorated father. As such, it should come as no surprise that the family has treated Ryan’s foray into MMA with the same discretion and humility.
“[Wrestling] was too hard of a sport to get in and feel pressure from me, especially with the accomplishments and things that I’ve always achieved, so I always stayed out of it. If he was gonna wrestle, it had to be because he wanted to. If he came to me with anything, I was always there, but I stayed away from coaching. I wanted him to have the same passion and fun that I had, and didn’t want to be a distraction for him. And I feel the same way about fighting,” said the elder Couture.
As for Ryan, he notes that although his own MMA aspirations and accomplishments will inevitably reflect on the family name, he’s perfectly comfortable with creating his own legacy.
“I’m doing this 100% because it’s something I’m passionate about, and that I enjoy,” said Couture. “Hopefully I’ll have my own legacy some day to look back on. Obviously that’s going to be part of my dad’s legacy, and I’m proud of that too. I’m 100% proud of everything he’s accomplished. I can only hope to do a fraction of as much as he’s done for this sport. Really, I don’t spend too much time thinking about that, because I’m doing this for me. It’s something that feels right.”
If anything, Ryan’s sense of self-awareness may be the trait he’s inherited the most from his father. Throughout his career, Randy, while being a world-class wrestler and six-time UFC champion, has continued to demonstrate an easygoing, assured confidence under even the most personal of public headlines. As such, it should come as no surprise that even as comparisons between father and son come up, Ryan considers them more of a coincidence than a pre-ordained destiny.
“I definitely inherited a lot of personality traits from him.I see it all the time. Some of that has led to a similar world view. I think we both think in similar terms. But I feel like I’ve come to all these conclusions on my own. I haven’t spent a ton of time sitting down and talking about it with him. It’s all just kinda happened naturally,” he explained.
That “Natural” progression began almost three years ago when Ryan was working as a bank teller in Bellingham, WA and training in MMA on a part-time basis. He moved down to Las Vegas in late-2007, taking a job in the front office of Xtreme Couture and dedicating more time to training. In November 2008, Ryan fought his first amateur MMA bout, winning by submission about two minutes into the first round.
“It was a hobby up there and it had to take a backseat to my day job… I’d wanted to compete at some point, but I wasn’t dead serious about it at that point.”
None of this is to say that the Coutures aren’t having fun with making MMA the family business. Randy’s wife Kim, herself a fighter who debuted under a barrage of media attention, noted that having both Ryan and Randy’s daughter, Aimee, at the gym has been a blessing both personally and professionally.
“The whole family dynamic, with Aimee working at the gym… Ryan’s one of my best training partners. It’s fun because we go at each other pretty good. It’s cool, because we have Randy over there cheering for both of us,” she commented.
As for father and son training together, Kim noted “The first time they ever sparred, the whole gym was peeking out of the corner of their eye. [Everyone] were sparring too, but nobody was really throwing punches, because they were just watching Randy and Ryan.”
For the night, Xtreme Couture went 3-1, as teammates Nick Fekete (heavyweight) and Kenny Marazolla (middleweight) also notched wins. Marazolla, who spends his time between Xtreme Couture and Warrior Training, scored a first round knockout over Ernesto Martinez, while the debuting Fekete went to a unanimous decision against Shawn Fyre.
Tuff-N-Uff amateur MMA action returns to the Orleans Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas on March 27.