Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Randy Couture Seminar with the Fox Valley Grappling Club

UFC Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture was in Wisconsin this past weekend to help support the Menasha High School wrestling team and provide an MMA seminar. The Fox Valley Grappling Club’s Ken Popelka, who is also the coach of Menasha’s wrestling team, organized the seminar. Popelka, an accomplished and decorated wrestler himself, was teammates with Couture on the All-Army wrestling team from 1985 to 1988.

The seminar which was originally scheduled to take place on Saturday but was delayed a day, because Randy’s wife, Kim, was making her professional MMA debut on Friday in Las Vegas against Kim Rose and was injured. In the bout, Kim Couture suffered a broken jaw in two places, as well as a broken nose during the first exchange of the fight. Despite the injuries, she showed her warrior spirit and continued to fight for all three rounds before losing a unanimous decision. Doctors then had to wire her jaw shut, which Randy said would last for about five weeks or so. Because of the injuries, Randy Couture was forced to cancel the seminar on Saturday but promised to do it the following day. Despite the rescheduling the turnout looked pretty decent although I’m aware a number of participants were forced to miss it due to scheduling conflicts. All told there were more than 30 participants and many more in the bleachers to watch the seminar.

The seminar, which was oriented towards MMA, focused primarily on wrestling techniques that Randy himself uses in fights. He stated that there were less than 500 practitioners of freestyle and Greco wrestling in the United States and the techniques were very useful in MMA.

Couture began the seminar with pummeling drills, which led into duck-unders. Next up was slide-bys into double leg takedowns. He discussed the advantages of moves like slide-bys in MMA. The move he said was, “High percentage with low risk.” In other words, these types of moves did not leave a fighter susceptible to getting guillotined like single and double leg takedowns from folk-style wrestling often do. Couture discussed tie-ups and then transitioned into high crotch single leg takedowns from tie-ups. Couture then discussed cage tactics and how to use the fence to your advantage for takedowns and control. When the seminar was complete he opened up the floor for questions and demonstrated moves that participants asked about.

Randy Couture and Ken Popelka were very hands on and did a lot of one on one after the demonstrations. They also provided the participants a lot of time to practice the moves and get them down before moving onward in the seminar. The seminar lasted the full three hours and Randy went out of his way to talk to as many people as possible including the observers. After the seminar he signed autographs and took photos with every single person in a line that stretched across the entire gym. He even found time and granted Wisconsin Combat Sports an interview.

In the biggest interview of my MMA journalistic career, my recorder stopped part way into the interview so I will have to recapitulate what I discussed with the Champion. I asked Randy about his new book that coming out next month. He stated that his new book is called Becoming the Natural, and it is an autobiography about his life. It will be released on July 22 and it covers his life from birth through his decision to leave the UFC. I also talked to Randy about WAMMA (World Alliance of Mixed Martial Arts) and his participation in that organization. In a nutshell, he is part of an advisory committee that is trying to establish healthcare coverage for fighters. He also feels strongly for the need to establish an independent ranking system to determine the best fighters in the world. Lastly, we talked about the Affliction card. He said he is going to be there at ringside to watch the fights and thinks that the card is great. He is hoping Affliction is successful because he feels there is a need to have another major organization for fighters to fight in other than the UFC. Lastly, I asked for an update into his legal status and if he becomes a free man will he someday fight for Affliction? He stated that he hopes to be free and clear from the UFC in October if everything goes according to plan and that if he does fight again, HDNet Fights would be involved in some way because they have been helping him with his legal battle.

Wisconsin Combat Sports would like to thank Bill Krieg, Ken Popelka, and everyone from the Fox Valley Grappling Club for inviting us to the seminar. It isn’t often that we have a legendary fighter and wrestler the caliber of Randy Couture in Wisconsin to do seminars and help support local wrestling programs like Menasha’s. I would like to also like to thank Randy Couture on behalf of the Wisconsin combat sports community and everyone that attended the seminar.

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