Gregory Payan / AP
Tuesday, April 19, 2011 | 1:45 p.m.
The biggest event in UFC history will also serve as a farewell to one of the fight promotion’s biggest stars.
Randy Couture, the 47-year-old former champion who fights out of Las Vegas, announced Tuesday that he will retire following his UFC 129 bout against Lyoto Machida on April 30 in Toronto.
“Win, lose or draw, it doesn’t really factor into the equation,” Couture said. “It’s about where I’m at in my life. I’ve been doing this for a long time.”
Couture (19-10) made his mixed martial arts debut at UFC 13 in 1997. He won a heavyweight tournament title that night, which started his storied career.
Couture held titles in both the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions. He’s competed in a UFC-record 15 championship fights.
Couture is on a three-fight win streak dating back to a UFC 105 victory over Brandon Vera in November 2009.
“I am healthy as ever and feel great,” Couture said. “I absolutely have the ability to continue to compete and compete at this level. It’s part of going out on my terms. I have a whole bunch of other things I enjoy doing in my life and I don’t want to wait until I have that injury and have doctors telling me, ‘you can’t fight anymore.’”
It’s fitting that Couture’s last performance will come in front of a record 55,000 fans at the Rogers Centre. Couture is often credited as one of the fighters most responsible for mixed martial art’s unprecedented rise in popularity over the last decade.
“There are a lot of firsts here, so it’s fun for me to be a part of the whole thing,” Couture said. “It’s fun for me to be a part of a historical event. But it played no factor in the decision I made. It’s been coming for a while. I pushed it further than anyone else is going to push it.”
Couture said Machida was the perfect opponent for him to go out against. Couture has long expressed interest in a bout against Machida, who emerged as one of the brightest prospects in the history of MMA before capturing the light heavyweight title at UFC 98 against Rashad Evans.
Machida won his first 16 fights, but has lost two in a row heading into the clash against Couture.
“I feel like Randy Couture has built a history in this sport and helped build the sport to what it is today,” Machida said through a translator. “It’s an honor to be able to fight him. Out of respect, I want to give my best to Randy Couture on that night.”
Couture will not fade into oblivion after the Machida scrap. He’ll still very much be in the spotlight.
Couture said he planned to further pursue his acting career, which kicked off after he played a starring role in “The Expendables” last year. He said “The Expendables 2” would begin filming in August. He’s also planning to appear in an action film titled “Hijacked” starting in May.
And he knows rumors of a return to the octagon will swirl for the next couple of years. Couture is fine with that, but also adamant the Machida bout will be his last.
“I’m sure they are going to have ideas for other fights and will try to entice me into coming back and fighting again,” Couture said. “I anticipate all those decisions and those thoughts. We’ll see how that goes. I see myself hopefully being with the UFC and Zuffa and being involved in some other way, shape or form.”