ryan-couture-7.jpg(This story appeared in today’s print edition of USA TODAY.)

Ryan Couture always knew his last name would be a blessing and a curse.

The son of UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture knew that following in his father’s fighting footsteps would mean dealing with the spotlight every step of the way.

“It’s opened a lot of doors for me, and there’s no way with so few fights that I would be in the position I’m in right now if it wasn’t for my last name, so I owe a lot to it,” Ryan Couture told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) and USA TODAY Sports.

“It’s also opened me up to some extra criticism and set the bar much higher that I have to strive to meet. But I’ve enjoyed the challenge, and I think it’s sort of lit that fire under me that I’ve needed to get to the level I’m at in the time that it’s taken.”

Couture (6-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) makes his UFC debut April 6, facing British lightweight Ross Pearson (14-6 MMA, 6-3 UFC) in the co-main event of “UFC on Fuel TV 9: Gustafsson vs. Mousasi” at Stockholm’s Ericsson Globe Arena (Fuel TV, 2 p.m. ET).

“With every fight, competing in the UFC seemed more like (it) was going to be a reality,” says Couture, who fought for Strikeforce before the UFC’s sister promotion closed shop in January. “I felt I was proving more to myself and everyone else every time out. Going from the prelims on a Strikeforce event to the co-main event of a UFC card is a major step up. It’s going to be a great fight and a hell of an experience.”

Despite his status as MMA royalty, Randy Couture and his former UFC employers haven’t always been on the best of terms. A recent dispute, stemming from Couture’s new business relationship with rival organization Bellator MMA, means dad won’t be in his son’s corner for the historic moment when Ryan becomes the first child of a UFC veteran to appear in the octagon.

“It’s a bummer things went the way they did, but I feel Dad made the decision he felt was best for him, and I respect that,” says Couture, 30. “I’m not thrilled he can’t be there, but at the end of the day, I’ve still got to fight, so I’m just making the most of it and working with what I’ve got.”

Where that will take him remains to be seen. But he insists he’s not trying to live up to anyone’s expectations but his own.

“You just have to tell people, ‘Hey, I’m not him,’” Couture says. “I never said that I was setting out to achieve what he achieved. I’ve always been pretty clear that I’m just doing stuff that I love and trying to do it the best that I can.”

For more on UFC on FUEL TV 9, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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