<
>

Couture gets home fight on Strikeforce card

LAS VEGAS -- The city of Las Vegas is advertised as a destination where lives can change. It’s certainly been that for Ryan Couture.

Three years ago, Couture made the call to quit his job as a bank supervisor in Bellingham, Wash., and move to Las Vegas to train mixed martial arts full time.

The move has turned out well. On Friday, Couture (2-0) returns to the friendly confines of his old home state as a legitimate lightweight prospect. He’ll look to keep his momentum going against Matt Ricehouse (4-0) at Strikeforce Challengers 16.

Although Couture was interested in mixed martial arts during his years in Washington, had he never left the Northwest area he admits there’s no chance he’d be fighting professionally today.

“I definitely wouldn’t be fighting and I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you,” Couture told ESPN.com.

“I might have gotten around to trying an amateur fight, but I would have never gotten serious about it if I hadn’t been around the level of fighters that I am every day here in Las Vegas.”

As the son of Randy Couture, one of the most popular MMA icons of all time, Ryan says he’s received support from every crowd he’s ever fought in front of, both as an amateur and professional.

But considering Friday’s fight will take place just a 30-minute drive down the I-90 from the town he graduated high school, however, Ryan is expecting something special.

“It’s right in my mom’s backyard,” he said. “When I found out I was going to be fighting on Strikeforce Challengers cards, I knew they had done shows in that area before and I just crossed my fingers that it would pan out.

“I’m really glad it did and it sounds like it as just in the nick of time. It sounds like all these shows will be in Vegas from now on.”

The Couture name carries an added weight in the state of Washington, as Randy was instrumental in getting the sport sanctioned there, along with Matt Lindland.

In 2009, Randy returned to the state to fight Antonio Nogueira at UFC 102 in Portland. Although he lost the fight, it was considered one of the best of that year. Ryan, who was in attendance, remembers it as the “loudest show I’ve ever been to.”

The younger Couture is expecting similar support and guesses he’ll have close to 100 members of his family and friends in attendance Friday.

It would be the perfect setting for a career landmark he admits he’s actively been in search of -- his first knockout. Known mostly for his ground skills, Ryan’s been working extensively on his standup with trainer Tim Lane.

“I desperately want to knock somebody out,” Ryan said. “I want to know what that feels like. I thought I might have had it in my last fight with the knockdown but Lee (Higgins) popped back up. One of these times I’ll land that perfect combination.”