When Randy Couture fought Lyoto Machida nearly a dozen years ago, he already had decided it would be his last fight.
Couture fought Machida at UFC 129 in April 2011 at Rogers Centre in Toronto. Their fight was part of what at the time was the largest attendance and largest live gate in UFC history.
Machida landed a front kick to Couture’s face in the second round for an all-time highlight-reel knockout. But going into the fight, Couture had won three straight on the heels of a loss to Brock Lesnar, in which he lost the heavyweight title, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. And there was a legitimate question of wether if Couture beat Machida, would he get a light heavyweight title shot?
After all, that’s what happened for Machida. It put him back in the win column and he got a shot at Jon Jones later that year. But Couture said even if he had beaten Machida, he knew his time was up.
“It was around the time I was doing a lot of self-analyzation about whether I should be grinding out another camp and continuing to train and fight in this sport at 47 years old,” Couture recently told MMA Junkie Radio. “The truth is, I don’t think anyone wanted to fight Jon Jones at that stretch. He was pretty much kicking the hell out of everyone, including Lyoto Machida, in that fight.
“I was already having long, hard conversations with myself: Was this the best thing for me? Did I need to be grinding out another camp? (I was) having an honest conversation with myself: Am I going to be the best guy in my weight class? If not, then why am I grinding out another camp and fighting?
“The honest answer to that question was, no, I probably wasn’t going to be the best guy in my weight class. So why? I ultimately decided that Lyoto camp was going to be my last – win, lose or draw. It was time to move on. That internal dialogue was already going on. Even if I had beat Lyoto, I was done. I was walking away from the sport after that fight.”
Couture, a UFC Hall of Famer, ended his career with a 19-11 overall record, including 16-8 in the UFC. He won both the heavyweight title and light heavyweight belt, which made him the first fighter to have UFC titles in two different weight classes.
His resume includes arguably the most famous trilogy in MMA history, in which he went 1-2 against Chuck Liddell, as well as wins over Vitor Belfort, Tito Ortiz and Mark Coleman.