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UFC 102:

Randy Couture inks six-fight deal with UFC

The Natural” plans on closing his career with organization

Image

Associated Press

Antonio Nogueira, left, slips a punch thrown by Randy Couture in their fight at UFC 102 mixed martial arts match on Saturday Aug. 29, 2009 at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore. Nogueira won the match by unanimous decision.

One Great Fight

In the main event of UFC 102, Antonio Nogueira defeated Randy Couture by unanimous decision. Post fight it was announced that Couture resigned with the UFC a six-fight, 28-month deal.

If there was ever a parting gift for all the Randy Couture fans who left the Rose Garden Arena with their heads down Saturday night, UFC President Dana White sure delivered it in a big way in the postfight press conference.

“He’s got a lot of fights left on his contract,” White told a reporter who asked what’s next for the 46-year-old Washington native, who before Saturday afternoon had only one fight remaining on his UFC contract.

A smiling Couture, who was sporting a big bruise under his left eye that he suffered in his unanimous-decision loss to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira only minutes earlier in the main event of UFC 102, jumped in before White could finish.

“We just signed a new contract today,” said Couture, still beaming over the six-fight, 28-month deal.

Granted while his homecoming was missing that Cinderella ending, Couture was downright pleased about the performance he put on against the only man to ever hold both the PRIDE and UFC heavyweight titles.

“I’m OK with that (losing to Nogueira). I gave it everything I had and I think the crowd appreciated that,” said Couture, who received a decibel-cracking intro and outro from the 16,088 fans who filled the 20,000-seat arena that is home to the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers.

“It’s not the end of the world. I would have liked to have had my hand raised in the end, but it just didn’t happen that way.”

But the freshly inked contract means “The Natural” can give UFC fans more than one more heart-felt effort.

“I had the opportunity to stay with the organization, that was my motivation,” said the five-time UFC champ. “Things being the way they are, this is the place to be and I intend to finish my career here in the UFC. It’s pretty simple.”

Who Couture faces next or what division he will even fight in, isn’t as easy an equation.

“I don’t care what he wants to do, he can do whatever he wants to do. He’s proven he can stay in there and hang with the heavyweights if that’s what he wants to do. And again I think he’s a beast at 205,” White said.

One likely noncandidate for Couture’s future consideration is fellow UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell.

“I don’t know if people want to see him and Chuck four times. Everybody knows how I feel about the Chuck thing,” White said with a smirk.

“Trust me, Chuck was texting me all night tonight about fighting again. When he’s done dancing, I’m sure he’s gonna be looking for me.”

Couture said he needed some time to evaluate his performance and think about what makes the most sense.

“As far as staying at heavyweight or going to light heavyweight, I’m interested in interesting fights,” he said. “There are a lot of guys in both divisions who would be interesting fights for me. We’ll see what the Grand Poobah over here wants to do.”

That would be White, who in the past has mentioned possibly a superfight with pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva. A move to the light heavyweight division could offer a handful of big-time opponents including champ Lyoto Machida.

Then again, his last two losses in the heavyweight division have come against the UFC champ in Brock Lesnar and the highly decorated Nogueira.

“There are a lot of logical opponents for him,” White said. “There’s a lot of young blood in our heavyweight division and there could be some fun fights for Randy there if that’s what he wants to do. The point is, he looked great. Even in losing, he looked good.”

In a way, Couture, who spent 13 years living in Oregon and was a wrestling coach at Oregon State, actually leaves his adopted home state feeling rather victorious — despite Saturday’s loss.

“I didn’t have any illusions I won the fight, but I knew it was a damn good fight,” Couture said.

“Going out and doing what you are trained to do is what it’s all about. Of course you’d like to win, but if you do what you trained to do, you can’t ask for more than that.”

The fans in Portland couldn't, and neither could his opponent.

"He's a true champion," Nogueira said of Couture. "He's been champ a couple times. He's one of my idols in the UFC."

Andy Samuelson can be reached at [email protected] or 702-948-7837.

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