Randy “The Natural” Couture says he’s retiring from mixed martial arts because he doesn’t want a serious injury to dictate the end of his career. In 14 years of action, the 47-year-old managed to stay remarkably healthy, going more than 12 months between fights just once—after undergoing elbow surgery in 2008.
Of course, that’s not to say Couture has avoided pain. He’s dealt with more cuts, bruises and nagging injuries than he can count. “I’ve pushed it a lot further than anybody is going to push it, and I just feel like I want to go out on my own terms,” he says. “I don’t want to have doctors telling me, ‘You can’t fight anymore.’”
Here are seven of the most notable injuries and ailments endured by Couture:
Head trauma Couture has suffered two career losses by knockout (both to Chuck Liddell), but his only major concussion occurred during the second Liddell fight at UFC 52 in 2005. “You lose that little piece of time,” Couture says. “One second, you’re there. The next second you’re going, ‘What the hell happened? The scenery’s changed.’”
Corneal abrasion (left eye) During a 2004 title fight, Vitor Belfort’s glove sliced Couture’s eye, 48 seconds into Round 1. It cut through his eyelid and blood poured into his socket. Surgery ensured the injury wasn’t career threatening.
Cauliflower ear (both ears) Lots of fighters and wrestlers suffer from this condition, which occurs when the ear sustains repeated damage and fills with fluid, but Couture has an extreme case of it, attributable not only to his MMA career but also to his years in collegiate and youth wrestling.
Bone spurs (left elbow) Couture fought through a gruesome training injury to face Brock Lesnar in 2008—two large bone spurs in his elbow, which he allowed to linger until undergoing surgery shortly after losing.
Broken forearm (left) Many consider Couture’s 2007 victory over Gabriel Gonzaga as one of his most memorable, in no small part because he won with a broken arm. Couture’s ulna bone snapped when he blocked a Gonzaga kick with his forearm. Couture cringed … and kept fighting.
Popped rib For one of the rare times in his career, Couture was forced to pull out of a scheduled 1998 bout with Mark Coleman when he dislocated a rib training for that year’s Greco-Roman wrestling nationals.
Severe leg contusion (left) It might sound relatively harmless, but Couture says one of his most painful memories dates to a 2001 win over Pedro Rizzo at UFC 31. “I had a swollen, black leg for three weeks after that fight and did not walk right for a while. I learned a very valuable lesson: I’ve got to learn how to kick. I’ve got to learn to check a kick. I don’t want that to happen again.”