MMAWeekly has confirmed through various independent sources close to the situation that Randy “The Natural” Couture is set to announce his return from retirement. Never one to sidestep a challenge, his first opponent is to be UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia.
Couture surprisingly announced his retirement less than a year ago following a loss to UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Chuck Liddell at UFC 57. At the time, having just lost 2 out of 3 fights with Liddell, it appeared there weren’t many choice fights left for the first man to win titles in two different UFC weight classes.
Always a competitive spirit, Couture has since competed on Spike TV’s “Pros vs. Joes” and fought to a draw in a professional submission grappling match with Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. It now appears that Couture is ready for a new challenge in MMA, returning to the heavyweight division to confront Sylvia at UFC 68 on March 3rd in Ohio.
There had been negotiations to have Sylvia make his next title defense against heavyweight contender Brandon Vera. But Vera has only one fight left on his current contract and the UFC will not extend a title shot to a fighter that could wind up leaving the promotion following the fight. Apparently negotiations on an extension with Vera are at an impasse with sources revealing that Vera is asking for a rather large signing bonus that the UFC is unwilling to agree to. It is likely that Vera will end up sitting for much of the remainder of his contract, reportedly in the neighborhood of eight months, and then be given a fight in a preliminary bout to finish out his contract.
Despite taking some flack for not being as exciting as some fans would like recently, Sylvia has been on a tear winning his last six fights in a row, pushing his record to 23-2. The streak includes an impressive knockout of Tra Telligman, a decision over Assuerio Silva, a TKO of Andre Arlovski to regain the heavyweight title, and decision defenses against Arlovski and Jeff Monson.
Having just added a three-fight extension to the one fight left on his previous contract, Sylvia poses a difficult task for Couture. He is much larger than Couture, cutting weight to make the 265-pound limit of the heavyweight division and stands 6’8” tall. Couture has had difficulty with larger fighters in the past, he lost to both Josh Barnett and Ricco Rodriguez, neither of which has the size of Sylvia.
In a post-fight interview at UFC 57, MMAWeekly co-founder Ryan Bennett told Couture, “Captain America can’t retire… you’re not going anywhere.” Couture responded with a chuckle saying, “It’s gotta end sometime. I’m ready to focus on something else.” Although his focus did shift to other areas for a while, Couture never really strayed too far. And now, Captain America is ready to return.