("Alright, one more. Then I seriously have to take off, you guys." PicProps: Las Vegas Sun)
Assuming you posses the ability to express normal human emotions – meaning everyone reading this except psychopaths, certain brain injury patients and Nicholas Cage – you should’ve felt a bit torn this weekend when rumors started to trickle out that Randy Couture has “verbally agreed” to fight Lyoto Machida, possibly at UFC 129 in Toronto.
First reaction: Pretty cool fight, right? The consummate game-planner versus the man who, despite recent back-to-back losses, remains the light heavyweight division’s most intriguing puzzle. It sort of makes sense for both guys too, I mean, as much as paying a 47-year-old man money to get punched in the head can ever make sense. For Machida, it would be a nice win for a guy who sorely needs to prove he still belongs among the 205-pound elite. For Couture, well, he said he wanted interesting challenges and opponents don’t get much more interesting than Machida.
Second reaction: Hold up. Should we really be excited about this? Like, aren’t we just enabling the old man now? And at what point do we all become complicit in Randy Couture’s demise?
Let’s just bright-side it for a second here and say Couture has a chance to beat “The Dragon” because, well, he does. Machida hasn’t looked great in recent appearances. He was at first underwhelming, then totally overwhelmed in consecutive showings against “Shogun” Rua and absolutely laid an egg against "Rampage" Jackson at UFC 123. It’s not totally out of the realm of possibility that Couture could grind this baby out with some cage-clinching, copious thigh-kneeing and a couple timely takedowns. But, fuck man, what then?
A win over Machida would give Couture four consecutive UFC victories. His last loss at light heavy would still be a KO by Chuck Liddell in 2006. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the UFC would take that all that information, weave it into one of its notoriously revisionist promotional campaigns and try to book Couture into a big money fight with somebody like Rampage or Jon Jones or – maybe the ultimate shoot-the-moon deal – a final title shot against Shogun Rua. God knows, that can’t end well.
If Couture is unable walk away from the sport right now, when he’s got two impending movie roles lined-up, just tried to retire on his Twitter a few weeks ago and we’ve all sort of looked at each other and shrugged, agreeing this makes for a nice time for him to depart with some class, what’s he going to do when he becomes a relevant contender at 205 again? You think the UFC isn’t creaming its jeans right now just thinking about the PPV dollars it could make by pimping “Couture’s last amazing run at a UFC title”? It’d be like the perfect storm of greed, hubris and temptation.
And that, kids, is the real problem with Randy Couture fighting Lyoto Machida. The real problem is that this probably isn’t just a way for him to neatly tuck a final fighting appearance in between movie roles and a couple of months before he turns 48. The problem is – unless he gets terrifyingly knocked out by Machida, which none of us wants to see in the first place – this fight just leads to another fight and another fight until somewhere, sometime Couture really does get terrifyingly knocked out on PPV at some terrifyingly advanced age.
Until he’s ready (or allowed) to fully, totally, officially retire for good there’s always going to be somebody like Machida floating around. Somebody to raise his graying eyebrows and make him think, “I got one more in me.” We all know where that leads. It leads to Matt Hughes getting KOed by BJ Penn in 21 seconds. It leads to Matt Serra getting pounded into a Frankenstein by Chris Lytle. Nobody wants to see that happen to Couture, but it will, unless he walks away soon.
Hence, us feeling torn. We’re fans after all and we want to watch Randy Couture fight cool fights. But at some point we all have to take a long look in the mirror – unless you’re Nicholas Cage, in which case looking in a mirror is probably far too horrifying – and realize the sooner we let the old man go, the better we’ll all feel about ourselves. Again, unless you made “Ghostrider” and “The Wicker Man,” in which case there is no hope for you in this world or the next.