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Learning From UFC Champion, Randy 'The Natural' Couture

By Cliff Montgomery,
Randy Couture earned the nicknames 'The Natural' and 'Captain America' by making many of his tough victories appear almost effortless and being as well-respected outside the ring as he is within it.

Standing 6' 1", The Natural's trademark Ground-and-Pound style has earned him the UFC Light-Heavyweight Championship as well as its Heavyweight Championship twice over, making Couture the first fighter to hold championship titles in two different UFC weight divisions. He is often considered "the UFC's most ingenious fighter."

"Captain America's" quest for competition and exceptional drive can be traced back to his first days on the wrestling mat when he was just 10 years old, growing up in the state of Washington.

Couture would continue to wrestle throughout high school, earning a state championship in his senior year and falling deeper in love with both the technical and competitive aspects of the sport that would someday carry him to prominence. In 1982, Couture enlisted in the United States Army, where he first became involved with both Greco-Roman wrestling and boxing.

"(There was) more emphasis on Greco when I was in the service," declares Couture, who served as the 180 lb. wrestler for the Army team. "At that time there'd been only one world champ from United States in Greco and being the person that I was, I set goals to make a mark in that style of the sport since no one had really done it."

Randy only signed up for boxing to avoid regular physical fitness drills; that's a good thing, because boxing is a skill this wrestler would need eventually...

After six years in the Army, Couture's abilities soon landed him a place on the top-notch Oklahoma State University wrestling program. During his tenure as OSU's 190-pounder, Couture was a three-time All-American and in 1990, a USA Senior Greco-Roman Champion. He was named outstanding wrestler in 1990 and won a gold medal at the Pan American Games in Havana, Cuba in 1991.

Couture would go on to win two more national Greco-Roman championships in 1993 and 1997 and qualify for the world team numerous times. His only wrestling disappointments? Just failing to make the U.S. Olympic Team in 1996 and 2000.

But Mixed Martial Arts was just around the corner, and perfectly suited to someone of Couture's aptitude and broad knowledge of various fighting forms.

So what's his secret? How does he win again and again? What's his workout regimen? How does a man over 40 remain not only in fine shape, but retain the strength and abilities of men around half his age?

First, it should be remembered that strength is the last thing to fade as a fighter ages. This is why boxers who rely primarily on speed, like Ali or Sugar Ray Leonard, find things so tough as they begin to age, while punchers like George Foreman can sometimes remain serious contenders, if not champions, on into their 40s.

Also, a consistently well-kept body will simply age less quickly than a neglected one. Somewhat like an older car or motorcycle, if it is kept in fine working condition the human body is a mechanism that will run exceptionally well long after others of similar age have begun to fade.

Said Couture a few years ago, "Some of it has to do with the fact that I've led a pretty clean life and taken care of my body for the most part and some of that is just good genetics."

More than anything, Couture utilizes treadmill workouts and treadmill sprints. He sometimes works out at the Washington Institute of Sport Health in Washington State, which has a fine acceleration program. He goes through workouts designed by professional trainers to improve foot speed and strength.

But as Randy has said about his workouts, "I've learned over the years that it's not just about training hard or extra hard, you've gotta train smart. So, you know, I train very hard, but [my] time of rest is just as important as the time I spend training and trying to be smarter about it and specific with what I'm trying to accomplish."

Like all smart fighters, Couture tailors his fight to the opposing fighter. Say he's fighting a real puncher; Randy would ignore any feelings of flight -- when faced with such matches he's as much as stated that allowing oneself to be completely intimidated by an opponent is one of the surest ways of getting seriously hurt.

Besides, "there are other ways to be aggressive and take the fight to him without getting in there and exchanging blows with a puncher," Couture said in a 2003 interview.

Randy likes to exploit his opponent's weaknesses, and keeps the other man on the ground as much as possible; being a wrestler, ground-fighting is Couture's natural strength. Purposely exploiting the opponent's weaknesses and forcing the opponent to play to his strength is perhaps the major element of Couture's amazing success in the fighting arts.

Just as integral to Couture's success has been his training partners and former wrestling comrades Olympic silver medalist Matt Lindland and two-time Olympian Dan Henderson.

"You're only as good as your workout partners so it's important to have good guys in there pushing you every day," says Couture. 'The Natural' knows what he's talking about. Couture, Lindland and Henderson have united to form the Team Quest Martial Arts and Fitness Club located in Gresham, Oregon -- one of the MMA gyms consistently creating the Ultimate Fighting Champs of today.

Team Quest's website ( has all the basics you'd wish to know about Couture's club...but especially interesting to us UFC fans is Randy's personal training tips, found there on the site free of charge. Perhaps we'll follow these tips and make it to the octagon after all...

Randy's Top 10 Training Hints

1. Use a calendar to periodize your training, include your peaking phases for competitions or goal deadlines.

2. "The human body is amazing." It will adapt to a workload in 8 to 10 weeks. Use that as a guide to adjust training and keep your training moving forward.

3. Keep a training log: include workouts, diet, sleep, and anything else pertinent to your training.

4. Set daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals. Write them down and share them with someone close to you.

5. After a competition (win or lose), or at a goal deadline (accomplished or not) evaluate your program and routine. Keep what works, eliminate what didn't, and move forward.

6. Establish a warm up "ritual". Think of your best performance, what did you do to warm up? Repeat that! It's a living, evolving thing. Make changes accordingly until you can put yourself in the "zone" every time.

7. "Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Find workout and drilling partners that challenge you or you'll never improve your game!

8. Proper rest is just as important as time spent training hard. Listen to your body and let it recover.

9. Over-training is more a state of mind rather than [of] body. Altering your routine to keep it fresh helps avoid plateaus and stagnation.

10. Strive to get 1% better each day. It doesn't sound like much, but adds up in a hurry!

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