Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Couture Claims Fight With CroCop Was Almost Set For UFC 122

MMANEWS.COM Staff Writer

After successfully defending the sport of MMA in the promotionally themed “UFC vs. boxing” co-main event in Boston on Saturday night, Randy Couture stopped by the ESPN television set for an appearance on their special “MMA Live” broadcast.

“Captain America” discussed his game plan for his near-flawless victory over boxing legend James Toney at UFC 118. Couture shared a lot of the same insight into his preparation and execution of what we saw in the cage at the TD Garden as he did during the UFC 118 post-fight press conference immediately after the big event. Where “The Natural” raised some eyebrows during his “MMA Live” appearance is when the discussion shifted to his plans for the future in the UFC. After facing the obligatory “how much longer can you do this?” age-related questions, Couture spoke about how he takes things one fight at a time, noting that the UFC continues to keep things interesting for him, consistently giving him the motivation to keep things going. In what seems like a note worth mentioning, Couture spoke at one point during the interview about how he was talking to the UFC about a potential fight against Croation kickboxing and MMA legend Mirko “CroCop” Filipovic.

Couture claimed the proposed fight was looking likely for the UFC event in November in Germany (UFC 122) prior to the offer for a James Toney fight that came out of nowhere, as well as the situation surrounding Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira's injury, which lead to CroCop filling in at UFC 119 for what will be the main event of the next pay-per view, a heavyweight battle against former champion Frank Mir. The CroCop-Mir bout remains official for UFC 119 in Indianapolis, and UFC 122 received a new main event this weekend in the form of a middleweight title eliminator between Vitor Belfort and Yushin Okami, but the fact remains, Couture's mention of a fight with CroCop raises a few questions.

First, with the exception of skipping the weight-cutting process to enable a unique match against Toney possible, Couture has made it pretty clear that he is a light heavyweight fighter. If that's the case, why was he entertaining a heavyweight contest with a fighter not even ranked in the top ten of the division. Couture's only non-main event fight in nearly ten years, outside of a single mandatory “bounce-back” fight against Mike Van Arsdale in 2005 (which he took simply to set up a title rematch against Chuck Liddell, which went on to be his very next fight) came against Toney on Saturday in Boston. So why would Couture seriously consider a return to heavyweight for a fight against a non-top ten opponent?

This is strictly speculation, but wouldn't that mean a fight with CroCop is just something that Couture happens to consider interesting enough, for whatever reason, that he would either move his career back to heavyweight focus or put his light heavyweight aspirations on hold for a personal-interest fight? Of course the possibility of Couture simply helping UFC out of a scheduling bind could have prompted the discussions, but if it is really a fight Couture has some kind of personal interest in for some reason, does this mean it's still a possibility in the future? If he specifically wants a CroCop fight, and he's not in any title picture coming up in the immediate future (which he isn't), UFC would need to keep things remaining interesting for Couture, so the fight could always come back around.

Any MMA fans during the peak of the UFC vs. PRIDE days will remember Couture and CroCop each having a lengthy run as one of the top two or three guys in their respective heavyweight divisions, which were much more fragmented than things are in the current era. This makes a Couture vs. CroCop fight, were it to ever happen, somewhat of another UFC vs. PRIDE dream fight, as many fans certainly pondered “what would happen” (without already knowing the answer like most did for “MMA or boxing?” at UFC 118) if UFC's Couture could somehow be matched up with PRIDE's CroCop.

Circumstances are obviously very different for each guy these days, as both have dropped substantially from their spot near the top. However, both guys are also in the midst of putting together some key wins that could make room for a potential return to the top of the pack. Unfortunately, both are looking to do so in different divisions. Couture can always fight heavyweight if he wants, as he proved at UFC 118, and fans have always speculated on what a light heavyweight CroCop would be like, but it seems most likely that the Couture vs. CroCop UFC fight will be added to the fun-facts list filed under “interesting fights that almost happened.”