- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Randy Couture’s career and accolades have been well documented, but perhaps not the origin of his two nicknames in the cage.
The former UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight champion was called “The Natural” or “Captain America” throughout his historic MMA career. However, Couture, who competed in MMA from 1997 to 2011, never gave himself the nicknames. They were given by figures from the MMA industry and then solidified by fans through his run in the sport.
Speaking with Burt Watson on MMA Junkie’s latest “Legend 2 Legend” episode, Couture reveled the origin of his two nicknames in the fight game.
His first nickname was born Oct. 17, 1997, at UFC 15. Couture was competing for the third time in MMA, facing a young Vitor Belfort.
Many thought Couture would lose to the Brazilian since he was 34 and Belfort was much younger and coming off the heels of winning the UFC 12 heavyweight tournament.
However, Couture surprised many and stopped Belfort a little more than eight minutes into the fight. He wore down Belfort over the course of the fight, and in a post-fight interview “The Natural” was born.
“Joe Gold was running the only real publication in MMA at that time. It was called Full Contact Fighter Magazine, and he was the editor-in-chief and owner. He wanted to do an interview after the fight and he said, ‘Hey, you adapted to his style in beating boxing. You were a natural. Is it OK if I call you that?’
“And I was like, ‘Well, hell, I’ve been called worse things.’ And he wrote that in the article that he put in Full Contact Fighter Magazine. And that just kind of stuck and it became the nickname that everyone associated me with from that fight and that article.”
On Nov. 2, 2001, Couture was set to defend his UFC heavyweight title against Brazil’s Pedro Rizzo in the main event of UFC 34 in Las Vegas. It was his second UFC title defense and the first time he competed in “The Fight Capital of the World.”
The event was the second card the UFC held following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Couture, who was an Olympic wrestling alternate representing the U.S. and a former Army sergeant, came out dressed in red, white and blue to represent his country in the octagon.
“My first fight in Las Vegas at MGM (Grand Garden Arena), this was with the new owners. Joe Rogan was on the announcing team, and back then, Joe Rogan was doing the behind-the-scenes interviews and there were other guys that were doing the actual announcing. Joe was doing the behind-the-scenes interviews backstage and got moved up when the new owners, Dana White and the Fertittas, bought it in 2001.
“I’m fighting Pedro Rizzo. It was my first time seeing my name and face on billboards and it was a huge experience. Also, that fight occurred right after 9/11 and the first show that we had after 9/11. They were still doing pyrotechnics for entrances at the show. I chose to wear a red, white and blue track suit when I walked out. And when I walked out, I saluted the crowd and Joe Rogan said, ‘That right there is Captain America. That guy is my hero.’ And that’s where it came from. It kind of stuck.”