Ryan Couture’s name wasn’t a burden or a benefit at his previous profession.
The son of UFC legend Randy Couture worked at a bank in Bellingham, Wash., home of Western Washington University where he graduated with a mathematics degree.
“I started as a teller and then went into operations,” Couture told FOXSports.com ahead of his bout next at Saturday’s UFC on Fuel TV 9. “I was on my way to getting my own branch, but I didn’t love it.”
This was in 2008 at age 25, a late start even for somebody who had been around mixed martial arts most of his life. He turned pro two years later and is currently one of the sport’s thriving lightweights as he’s set to take on Ross Pearson in the UFC on Fuel TV 9 co-main event.
Couture said he knows many UFC fans think he’s where he is purely because of his last name. Those benefits, according to some posts he read online, include his last victory — a split decision over K.J. Noons in the Strikeforce finale in January.
“When people are online talking trash, you just have to take it with a grain of salt,” Couture said. “They are just trying to get a rise out of you. I just try to let my work speak for itself.”
That hasn’t been a problem recently. He enters UFC on Fuel TV 9 on a four-fight winning streak. His one loss in seven career pro fights came nearly two years ago against Matt Ricehouse in a split decision.
All the fights so far in his career have been in Strikeforce, an organization purchased by the UFC’s parent company, Zuffa. The merger meant Couture became one of the many fighters brought into the UFC earlier this year, although UFC president Dana White gave Couture an opportunity to head elsewhere.
“You signed a deal with us to fight in the UFC,” White said he told Ryan Couture. “I want you to be here if you want to be here. But understand this: Me and your dad are not good. Me and your dad are never going to be good . . . as I walk this (expletive) planet.”
White and Randy Couture, a six-time UFC champion, have feuded in the past. This most recent disagreement came when Couture signed with a UFC rival, Bellator, to be part of a reality show.
“It never crossed my mind not to pursue this opportunity in UFC,” Ryan Couture said. “I have been going to UFC events and have been a fan of the promotion for a long time. I want to be with the very best and have a chance to go up against the top guys in the world. There wasn’t even a moment when I thought about passing up this opportunity.”
White said Randy Couture “couldn’t buy a ticket to this (expletive) event,” let alone corner his son. Two other members from the Xtreme Couture gym, Tim Lane and Frank Trigg, will take Randy Couture’s place.
“It’s disappointing,” Ryan Couture said. “I love him there, if nothing else for the wealth of experience he can draw from. He’s seen everything before and is a great coach. Beyond that, he’s encouraged me throughout my career. And being around him my whole life, his voice is the one that I recognize most when people are yelling instructions at me.”
Couture said he was never pushed into the sport, although once he made the decision to leave the banking industry he had a strong backer in his father.
“He saw that I came to the decision on my own,” Couture said. “He never wanted me to feel pressured. He was there for the whole process. He wanted to make sure I enjoyed it first before I got more serious about training.”
While Couture hasn’t challenged for a title as of yet, the decision to leave the bank already appears to be the right call. He avoided the tumult that came with the 2008 financial crisis that saw his bank, Washington Mutual, get taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
“For years, this was just something I did to stay in shape,” Couture said. “It was a hobby. Then I really began training. The more I did, the more I looked forward it. I wanted to get back to the gym right after I left.”