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UFC:

Age nothing but a number for former champs

Couture, Nogueira ready to get back in Octagon after last bouts

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Steve Marcus

UFC heavyweight champion Randy “The Natural” Couture gives a thumbs up at a news conference in the lobby of the MGM Grand Thursday, November 13, 2008.

Beyond the Sun

He’s not dead yet, or even over the hill by his own judgement, but Randy Couture just can’t seem to dodge those age questions.

The 46-year-old UFC legend could only laugh out loud when he was asked for the millionth time when he would be calling it quits from a sport he practically created, at least the public image of the modern day UFC, along with fellow mixed martial arts icon Chuck Liddell.

“Geez, I've never been asked an age question before. Holy cow," Couture joked with reporters during a teleconference Tuesday for his upcoming Aug. 29 showdown with fellow MMA legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in Portland, Ore.

"You know I don't worry about it. You set benchmarks for yourself in the training environment and I think when you stop reaching those benchmarks there ... I haven't slowed down. I'm realistic in the fact that I know at some point I will. I'm paying attention to that. I think I'll know when the right time to step out is and I'll be ready to move on, move forward. I've got lots of other things going on, so I'm not too concerned about it and I don't think that time has come yet."

Nogueira doesn’t either.

While the man called “Minotauro” is 13 years younger than Couture, the former PRIDE heavyweight champion is equally experienced, having competed in the sport for a decade.

“I'm 33 years old and I have a lot to do in my career still, at least a couple more years ... I'm still young, I'm still healthy. I still feel my body wants to fight, I'm very competitive, I love this sport,” said Nogueira, who sports a 31-5-1 career mark.

As influential as both fighters are in world of MMA, they’re also both equally searching for a big win that can propel them down their next career path.

Couture lost the heavyweight title to current champ Brock Lesnar due to a second-round TKO at UFC 91 back in November. Nogueira lost the interim heavyweight belt when he was dominated by Las Vegas’ Frank Mir during the UFC’s end-of-the-year show “The Ultimate 2008” in December.

“Bad fights happen, you know? As a fighter you got to be 100 percent,” Nogueira said. “In my last fight, I had a knee injury days before the fight. (It’s) no excuse, but I couldn’t be in shape because my knee was out. It was a very bad time for me to fight. I couldn’t move at all and that day Frank caught me with a good left hand three times. He made the fight.”

But neither fighter is putting much stock in those recent results.

“I feel like I have to perform way better than the last match,” Nogueira said. “I have to work more because the fight is serious and my opponent is very good.”

Couture — who is making a homecoming of sorts, returning to Oregon where he lived for 13 years where he coached wrestling at Oregon State — is counting on the “best Minotauro we’ve ever seen” and a maybe a few fans on his side.

"That's where fighting began for me. I left my position at Oregon State to pursue fighting full time, learned a lot along the way," Couture said. "I think the state of Oregon is a very unique place.

"It's first of all a great wrestling state and I think it's turning into a wonderful place for fighting and developing fighters there. I think there's a particular mentality there, I don't know if it's the rain or what but the indoor sports, wrestling especially, have always flourished there and I think mixed martial arts is going to flourish there as well.... It's an honour for me to be back in front of a lot of family and friends in the state of Oregon and Portland next week.”

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