The opportunity came with a catch, however. Ryan’s dad Randy was retired from competition but still worked for the UFC and Fox as personality and television commentator until he jumped ship last spring and signed with rival promotion Bellator.
The business move infuriated UFC president Dana White, who has had many spats with the elder Couture over the years, and he made clear to the media that Randy was now persona non grata with him and the UFC. That’s about the time that Ryan got a direct call from White.
The president told Ryan that he had a future in the UFC, but that the fighter’s father and coach, Randy, was never to be allowed in his corner during a bout. The moment was bittersweet for Ryan.
On the one hand it was certainly Couture’s career goal to fight in the UFC – the major leagues of mixed martial arts – but on the other hand, he would miss hearing the familiar voice of his father and coach in his corner on fight nights.
After all, Couture had moved from his home in Oregon to Las Vegas a few years ago and quit his banking job to live near his dad and work and train in Randy’s gym. Ryan had even been in his dad’s corner during UFC fights in the past.
“His voice is the voice I’m used to listening for,” Ryan told Cagewriter.
Nevertheless, Ryan didn’t hesitate to take his shot at fighting in the UFC and his dad supported the decision. Randy would still help his son as much as he could leading up to fights but on fight night, Ryan would simply have to rely on his other excellent coaches.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer made it clear to me around that time when I asked that it was the state commission that decided who was licensed for fighter corners and not promotions. Randy Couture, of course, had been a fighter and corner man in good standing in Nevada for years, so it was unlikely that the UFC could actually stop Randy from cornering his son if push came to shove.
Even so, Ryan said that he didn’t want to rock the boat in the UFC just as he was getting started in the organization, especially since the president himself had involved himself so personally and bluntly in the situation. Two fights later, Ryan has gone 0-2 in the UFC and was recently released by the promotion.
The 31-year-old says that his only regrets are not performing to his potential in his UFC fights and that he doesn’t regret not resisting White’s pressure to ban his father from cornering him.
“I don’t regret the approach we took. I still don’t feel a need to be on anyone’s [expletive] list,” Ryan says with a chuckle. “Besides, with dad’s schedule and how often he has to be out of town, even the country, there’s no guarantee he would have been able to make my fights anyway. So, it might have been a fight for no reason.”
Couture didn’t personally get another call from White to share the bad news of his release but Ryan says he wasn’t surprised at being cut.
“My manager got a call from Joe Silva who told him that they liked me and the way I did things but that they have a lot of guys right now and they just don’t have anything for me right now and that I should go build myself back up with some more wins,” Ryan said.
“That’s what I expected after losing two fights in a row.”
Ryan is intent on getting back on the winning track and proving to the world that he can beat the best in the world. “I’m disappointed in myself for not performing as well as I could have. I know I can do better,” Couture said.
The younger Couture doesn’t yet know where he’ll be fighting next. Mid-level promotions like Bellator and the World Series of Fighting pay pretty well but their contracts may be difficult to get out of should the UFC ever become interested in Ryan again.
“I don’t know what direction we will go yet. I just started getting back to training. We’ll discuss things at some point and see what opportunities are out there, whether it is the bigger shows like Bellator or the World Series of Fighting – and I don’t know if they have an interest in me – or regional shows,” Ryan said.
“I’m as motivated as I ever was. Fighting is what I love to do.”