The last name “Couture” is synonymous with MMA the same way the last name “Gretzky” is synonymous with hockey. Randy Couture and Wayne Gretzky are pioneers of their respective sports. There are plenty more similarities. They’re both well-respected inside and outside of their sports, they both brought their sports to new heights, they’re both champions, and they both compete at the highest level during their careers. There is one big difference though and I’m not talking about Couture’s ears compared to Gretzky’s. The big difference is that Wayne doesn’t have a son currently playing hockey while Randy’s son, Ryan Couture, is under a microscope as he tries to follow in his dad’s footsteps. Ryan isn’t trying to take his dads path though, he’s trying to create his own.

“I think the only reason I was on the main card (for my first professional fight) was because of my last name. People were interested in seeing what I could do because of dad. That’s opened a lot of doors for me but it’s also open up for criticism. It’s my job to fight well and earn those spots and make Strikeforce not regret putting me on the main card. I can’t put the pressure on myself to live up to what dad has done because who can fill those shoes? Only pressure I put on myself is to perform to the level I’m capable of. If I had a good showing then win, lose, or draw I’m happy,” said the younger Couture in an interview with

Ryan made his professional MMA debut on August 13, 2010, defeating Lucas Stark in the first round via triangle choke. While his father is known for his grinding wrestling in the clinch and on the ground, fans and opponents shouldn’t expect to see the same thing from Ryan once the cage door closes.

“They wonder why I don’t fight like dad and I them that if I had the option to use 30 years of wrestling experience then things would be easier but I don’t so I had to find things that work for me.”

What works for Ryan is the art of Jiu-Jitsu. With all five of his amateur victories coming by way of submission and his first professional win coming by submission, Couture is quickly becoming known for being a wizard off his back, something never associated with his dad. In fact, in 29 professional fights, Randy only has four submission victories.

When asked how many more fights it would take Ryan to catch his dad in submission victories, Ryan laughed and said, “I’m dying to knock somebody out so I hope to do that one of these days but at the rate things have been going, I would have to say another five fights or so before I catch him.”

While his father is nicknamed “The Natural” and some have called Ryan, “Natural Light,” he says that the nickname has nothing to do with his dad and doesn’t even like being called by it. “College buddies used to joke around and call me that because I drank that beer all the time but I don’t have a nickname that I acknowledge because I think they’re silly.” If the head of Natural Light Beer is reading this though,” Ryan says, “I wouldn’t be opposed to a sponsorship and free beer between fights.”

Originally scheduled to fight November 19, 2010, Ryan was forced to pull out of his fight with a staph infection. 100% healthy now, Ryan is eager to get back into action this Friday. “It was awful to pull out (of the November fight). I was feeling great and camp was right on track. I’m 100% ready to go now.”

Lee Higgins, Couture’s opponent, holds a 2-0 record and while his last name is most commonly linked to the dog that played “Benji,” Couture doesn’t expect Higgins to just roll over. “I’ve seen footage of both his pro fights. He’s a hard-nosed guy who likes to grapple and wrestle. I know he wants to get on top of me so I can’t give up my back. I’m comfortable wherever the fight ends up though. I’m working on my strengths, trying to add new tools, and improve on the ones I have,” said Couture.

Training at Xtreme Couture, Ryan has plenty of good craftsmen to help him with his tools. “Gray Maynard, Tyson Griffin, Martin Kampmann, Jay Hieron, Mike Pyle. All these guys are good at what they do and it’s no fun getting tagged by them. Pyle is the resident ground bully. He gives me fits and just toys with me,” said Couture about his high-level training partners. In closing Ryan thanked all of his training partners at Xtreme Couture for helping him during camp.

Strikeforce Challengers 14 is headlined by a lightweight showdown between Lyle Beerbohm and Pat Healy while Couture meets Higgins in the co-main event. The event takes place this Friday, February 18, and will air live on Showtime.