By Tony Reid
Bellator lightweight Ryan Couture will audaciously jump up a weight class in order to fight at New York’s historic Madison Square Garden on June 26.
“It is such a major event,” Couture said about Bellator 180. “They are throwing everything at this card. They are stacking it from top to bottom. To get the opportunity to compete in such a historic venue in one of the greatest cites in the world, to get to go soak up that experience, is going to be amazing.”
The longtime lightweight isn’t making a permanent jump to welterweight. Instead, Couture has simply taken the chance to compete against grappler Haim Gozali one weight class north of his usual fighting weight for the sole purpose of appearing at MSG.
“That was the fight we got offered,” Couture said. “I really, really wanted to be a part of this event. It made sense to jump up in weight temporarily for the opportunity. Looking at the style match-up, I still feel good about the fight even though I will be giving up some size and some weight. I am looking forward to the challenge and I am excited to get in there and perform.”
Gozali is a Renzo Gracie black belt with a 7-3 record (with six of those wins coming via submission). Standing at six feet two inches tall, he will be the bigger man on fight night, but Couture is well aware of the size advantage and plans on pushing the fight to areas in which he holds an advantage.
“He presents some challenges with the range that he brings into the cage and the size advantage he has on me,” Couture said. “I am carefully choosing my training partners to try to get used to moving that extra weight around and get myself in shape to carry that extra burden.
“He is very good at what he does. He is a great grappler but he isn’t super well-rounded. I am going to have to try to play to my strengths in the fight. He isn’t a big wrestler. He is not a big striker. I need to fight disciplined and try to take advantage of the areas where I will be stronger and more comfortable and work from there. I need to make sure when we go to the ground that it happens on my terms and that I am not giving him anything easy to attack. I am looking forward to getting in there and mixing it up. I have eight weeks and I will be well-prepared.”
Couture, the son of MMA legend and UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture, has been in a holding pattern of sorts, following two early stoppage losses in his last two fights. He has been waiting for the other shoe to drop and to try to right the wrongs of fights past. So, to have a fight in writing, a day set in stone and an opponent to focus on has been huge for Couture.
“It feels great,” he said. “It gave me a whole new motivation and it reinvigorated my training. It got me fired up to roll out of bed and come to the gym and get beat up again. That’s awesome. After the long layoff they made it worth the wait. It’s a great payoff to be able to be a part of much a major event.
“I can’t make those losses go away but I can make those memories hazier. I can give myself something more positive to focus on and I plan on doing that here at the end of June.”