By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Randy Couture was one of the faces of UFC when it was first hitting mainstream. He has gone on to become an action movie star — most notably a recurring role in The Expendables franchise.
On Sunday, he returned to his roots, visiting Gallagher-Iba Arena and signing autographs for fans before taking in the Oklahoma State wrestling dual against Iowa.
“I haven’t been at a dual like this in a long time. I’m excited,” said Couture, who was making his second trip back to Stillwater since 1998, when he came to Stillwater as an assistant wrestling coach with Oregon State.
Couture was a three-time All-American and a two-time NCAA runnerup while at Oklahoma State. He was part of two team national titles, including his freshman season which ended a 17-year drought for OSU.
The former OSU great, who was wrestling for the U.S. Army when he got on the radar of the OSU coaching staff in the late 1980s, said his time under Oklahoma State coach John Smith helped shape his platform for a successful mixed martial arts career.
“I think I developed the confidence that I could compete with anybody in this gym right here,” Couture said. “Training downstairs in the old dungeon and wrestling out there in Gallagher.”
While Couture’s professional career is over, he has returned to coaching. But now, it’s a little different — he’s coaching his son, Ryan, in MMA.
“It’s something we started to deal with when he decided he wanted to wrestle in junior high school and actually wrestled here in Stillwater in the YMCA program from 8 and 9 years old,” Couture said. “Having him compete in a sport that I was competing in in a fairly high level, we had come up with some ways to deal with that and that just translated to the fighting when he decided he wanted to fight.
“For me, as a father, I had to take a big step back and kind of establish the ground rules. I was more than happy to help him in any way he wanted help, but it was going to have to be on his own terms because this is a very tough sport. If he was doing it, I wanted it because he had a passion for it.”
When he’s not coaching his son — who won his lightweight match on the undercard at Saturday’s Strikeforce event in Oklahoma City — the five-time World Champion Heavyweight UFC fighter finds himself in Hollywood making feature length films.
“There is some cross over. Making movies is a grind — you’re working 14 or 16 hour days some times for months on end for one project,” Couture said. “That’s akin to training and being in training camp for a fight or getting ready for the NCAA championships in wrestling. So there’s a mindset there that translates to making a movie.
“Obviously there’s a different physicality involved in movies, but it’s still a grind. I think being coachable, being in the moment — which you absolutely have to do in a combative sport — are all things I brought from athletics into playing a character.”
But the former Sergeant in the 101st Airborne Division doesn’t forget his roots. Couture works with the Wounded Warrior Project, working with injured service members returning from duty and transitioning to civilian life.
“I wore the uniform for six years. Before I came here, I was a soldier,” Couture said. “... Now, 20 years later I’m able to give back to some of those guys in a time of where who are putting it on the line. ...
“It has changed, like so many things in our society. The number of guys who are coming back wounded with the advancements in body armor are allowing guys to survive trauma that they never used to survive. The down side to that is their extremities are gone. ... So I think we have a long way to go, but I think we are doing the best we can with the numbers we are dealing with. And that’s why I wanted to get involve, in some small way, to help out some of these families trying to get back on their feet.”