Randy Couture, at the age of 45, returned to the Octagon on November 15, 2008. He'd been sidelined for over a year while embroiled in a legal battle with his employer, the UFC. They made up, he returned, and took on the monstrous athletic phenomenon that is Brock Lesnar. Sure Lesnar was inexperienced, but he'd shown a great deal of improvement in his previous victory over Heath Herring, and many thought he'd give the aging Couture fits, or beat him outright.
As we know, he did beat Couture outright. A glancing blow just behind Captain America's Cauliflowered left ear ended the contest. The fight lasted eight minutes and seven seconds. Not a great deal of time, but inspiration is unimpressed with time. It doesn't need much to take hold.
Randy Couture's effort in the Octagon was nothing short of miraculous. Giving up some 60 pounds, 14 years, and goodness knows how much strength and power, he fought Brock Lesnar and fought him well. As I sat and watched the fight unfold, I couldn't help but shake my head in amazement. Of course many of us predicted that Randy's experience would carry the day. He'd find a way to handle Brock and leave the Octagon with belt in hand. But seeing him actually in there, trading blows and grappling with Lesnar, was surreal. As each second ticked off the clock, the importance of the result diminished, and the importance of the process of combat increased.
This is all coming from the perspective of a 35 year-old former athlete. A man who feels old and broke down from countless competitions and hours upon hours in the gym. As the fight unfolded, Randy Couture became more than an amazing athlete, more than a man standing against time, more than Captain America, he became an inspiration. Here's a guy ten years my elder, in arguably the toughest sport of them all, fighting a 275 pound behemoth!
Other athletes sometimes compete while in their 40s. Jamie Moyer is hanging in there as the oldest baseball player, he turned 46 three days after UFC 91. George Blanda played in the NFL until he was 48. And a handful of basketball players are pushing Couture's age. But none of them had to deal with what Couture dealt with on November 15th.
Randy Couture inspired me, and I bet he inspired many others. He went through the grueling training sessions. He kept going despite sore muscles and aching bones. He demonstrated a tremendous competitive spirit, and he won me over.
Randy reached through the TV screen, slammed me in the chest, and screamed, "Get off your lazy butt! You're young with a lot of miles left in the tank!" And he's right, so I'm heading to the gym. I'm not going to fight for a UFC belt, but I am going to challenge myself to work like Randy Couture. How about you?