Couture came out of that event victorious, taking a unanimous decision to snap a two-fight skid. One year later, however, Couture’s return to the Bellator cage ended the same way those two prior bouts did: with a first-round loss.
On Nov. 16 at Bellator 209, Couture looks to bounce back from that loss and an overall 1-3 recent record. At 36, Couture believes he’s still getting better, he’s still good at what he does, and he still enjoys it.
But is the thought of “fighting for my career” still there?
“It’s kind of always there in the back of your mind, especially. I’m in my mid-30s, and it’s not too many years I’ll be able to do this,” Couture told MMAjunkie. “So it’s always going to have to have that small thought in the back of my mind, like, ‘OK, when am I going to know it’s time to move on?’
“So, it’s there, but it doesn’t dominate my thinking. I’ve still got to stay focused on the task at hand, and the biggest thing is the opponent right in front of me.”
That happens to be Haim Gozali (23-9 MMA, 8-5 BMMA), who Couture (11-6 MMA, 3-3 BMMA) meets in the co-headlining bout of Bellator’s return to Israel, at Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv. The main card airs on Paramount via tape delay and streams on DAZN.
Here’s the bit of bad news for Couture: He’s the one venturing into enemy territory against Israel’s own Gozali. The trip will not only involve making the adjustments to deal with the long flight and jet-lag, but also the possibility of facing an “extra fired-up” opponent competing in front of his home fans.
The good news, though? Couture has the best type of proof that he can beat Gozali: He’s beaten him before. Gozali was, incidentally, the guy Couture defeated at that Bellator 180 bout. And while he is, of course, expecting his opponent to have made adjustments, it’s not like 18 months is enough time for either man to “reinvent the wheel.”
“Obviously, (I) have some confidence coming into the matchup knowing that I saw most certainly what he had to offer last time and I was able to handle it,” Couture said. “It’s been kind of a fun process trying to figure out what sort of adjustments he’ll likely make and going back, looking at the first fight and seeing, if it was me, what I would be trying to do different.
“And trying to be prepared for what tricks he might try and throw at us this time to try to change the outcome in his favor. But I feel like we’re well prepared, and there’s not going to be anything he can throw at me that we won’t be ready for.”
Like the first time, the rematch is at welterweight. And while there’s been some relief in not having that added concern hanging over his head, Couture still feels “undersized and underpowered” amid the 170-pounders. Bellator 209 was an opportunity, and Couture took it, but he’s not calling the division home.
Lightweight is where the vast majority of Couture’s fights took place. That includes all of his Strikeforce and UFC meetings, as well as most of his Bellator encounters. The exceptions are the two meetings with Gozali and the bout in between, with Sad Awaad, which happened under a catchweight limit of 160 pounds.
That didn’t really go as expected for Couture. With 30 seconds left in the first round, the ref stepped in to stop the onslaught that Awad had kicked off with a huge right hand.
Awad’s power wasn’t exactly news, and Couture says he was well aware that falling prey to it was a risk he assumed by taking on the fight. Still, losing is “never fun,” especially in that particular manner.
“Getting TKO’d is always frustrating, and it’s sort of embarrassing,” Couture said. “I definitely lost a little sleep looking back at mistakes I made and things I could have done different. It’s tough not to dwell on that stuff. But, at the end of the day, you’ve just got to move forward and try to learn from it and keep getting better.”
Despite the outcome, Couture said he’d still felt improvements made in the camp for Awad, and his focus was on keeping them going. And, ultimately, there’s only so much that mulling over the past can do when it comes to helping him prepare for the future. Still, Couture admits, there’s more to why this was a “particularly tough” one.
“I feel like I took yet another step away from that title shot that I’ve been hoping to earn for years now,” Couture said. “And (I’m) getting to that point and that age when I question whether I have enough time to really earn that.”
He added, “Obviously, it’s something that I want, and I feel like if I walk away from the sport without ever at least getting a shot at it, I’ll feel like I’ll have left something on the table that was really important to me to accomplish. But, also trying to be realistic and thinking about how many fights I am away from that now and for what it would take to even earn that attempt and trying to balance what my goal has always been with a little more realistic outlook on how much time I’ve got left to do it. It’s conflicting. I go back and- orth depending on the day. So that’s definitely been tough and something I’m still kind of working through.”
Before figuring out his long-term future, though, Couture has more concrete goals for his present. Like, for instance, sparing the judges the trouble of determining whether he beat Gozali this time around.
“(I always want a finish), but particularly fighting the home guy on his turf, you always have that nagging concern in the back of your head of what the judging’s going to be completely fair,” Couture said. “Obviously, I know the guys are professional, but sometimes even just the energy of the crowd can kind of sway your opinion one way or the other.
“(You) never want to leave it to the judges, especially when you’re the guy who’s brought in from far away to fight the hometown hero. That and always wanting to one-up. If we’re going to do the same fight again, might as well do it better than I did it the first time.”
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Bellator 209 at forefront of Ryan Couture's mind, but thoughts on career and title hopes linger