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Bellator 209’s Ryan Couture ready to ‘turn things around’ after ‘bad’ Lightweight run

Ryan Couture interview

Bellator 209: “Pitbull vs. Sanchez” takes place tomorrow (Thurs., Nov. 15, 2018) at Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv, Israel. The top of the card, which will air via tape delay on Paramount Network the following evening (Fri., Nov. 16, 2018), sees Featherweight champion “Pitbull” Patricio Freire (27-4) putting his title up against “El Matador” Emmanuel Sanchez (17-3).

Earlier in the night, Welterweights will get their time in the spotlight as Ryan Couture (11-6) takes a much-anticipated rematch with Haim Gozali (8-5). Both men are looking to get back to their winning ways, with the local favorite Gozali getting his second Bellator fight of 2018 after a loss to Jose Campos back in January. Meanwhile, at one time Couture had a nearly unblemished record of 6-1 in Strikeforce; however, like the late Dusty Rhodes once said, Couture knows a thing or two about “hard times.” Indeed, he has dropped three of his last four in Bellator, including a knockout against Saad Awad back in June.

Couture recently spoke with about a chance to recapture the magic he once had and hopefully hand Gozali a second loss in a rematch of their Bellator NYC encounter in the process.

“I think it’s a fun opportunity and I’m excited to go and see Israel. Obviously, if he wanted another crack at me then I didn’t do it well enough the first time so I’ve got to go in there and really put a stamp on this one and make him reconsider whether that was a good choice.”

There should be little doubt he put a stamp on their first encounter with a blowout third round that saw one judge award him 30-26, while the other two saw it for Couture 30-27. Gozali may feel he has the “home field advantage” for Bellator 209 though.

“I think that’ll be good motivation for him. I’m expecting him to kind of come out like gangbusters and really be aggressive. I’m gonna have to settle him down, get him backing up, and then get back into some of the groove that we fell into in the first fight, and just start to break him down. Definitely I expect him to come out a little more fired up this time.”

Gozali needs all the fire he can get at 45 years old, although as a fourth-degree black belt under Renzo Gracie, he’s not to be taken lightly. Couture is not, either, even though he’s 1-3 in his last four for Bellator, so a rematch risking the win he already got fires him up, too.

“It’s definitely a necessary step. Obviously, my run at Lightweight or near there the last couple of years has been about as bad as it could be. I’ve got to start making things right here and see what the next opportunity is — just keep taking ‘em one at a time and continuing to try to improve. Despite the outcomes I feel like I’ve grown and gotten better as a fighter and as a martial artist, so it’s just been frustrating not to be able to show that off as much.”

It’s hard to prepare for a fighter you’ve already dominated, though. I asked Couture what he’s worked on in this training camp to be even better than he was at Bellator 180.

“I think we just have a little better idea of what his arsenal looks like, particularly on the ground, so (we’re) trying to make sure we’re prepared for what he’s likely to throw at me and then continue to sharpen up my game — make myself more dangerous in those positions too. You know, looking at things that maybe I could’ve done slightly better despite the fact they worked well enough the first time around. We’re just trying to be that much more effective in every position so that hopefully we can get him out of there inside the distance this time.”

If there’s one glaring hole in Couture’s resume it’s his stand-up game. He’s been knocked out in half of his losses — three of six overall and two out of his last four fights. What does he have to say about his striking after being dropped by Patricky Freire and Saad Awad?

“Yeah, I mean I think you look at both of those guys resumes, they knockout a good percentage of the people they get in there with. Obviously, striking is probably the weakest area of my game and as such it’s always a focus, I’m always trying to get better there. I think those knockouts say more about just how truly powerful both of those guys are than they do about me not putting enough time in on my striking.”

Even though Couture is very focused on not letting down his fans or Xtreme Couture teammates, he does admit that it’s exciting to be going to Tel Aviv for this fight.

“I can’t play tourist too much before the fight, but we’re going stick around (for) a couple days after. I would love to get to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea if possible, but I’m just going to kind of take it as it comes and figure out what time will allow. First and foremost (I’ve) gotta get out there and win this fight.”

When the fighting is done, Couture will stop to marvel at what life has presented to him.

“I think it’s an amazing opportunity and I never cease to be amazed by the people and places I get to see and encounter throughout my years in this sport. I’m excited about it. It’s somewhere I may never have gotten around to planning a vacation to if not for this fight so I feel like that’s just a huge opportunity and yet another cool thing to have come my way by virtue of being involved in this sport.”

Until that time Haim Gozali is on the docket for a seconds time at Bellator 209 in Israel.

Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Pitbull vs. Sanchez” resides here at all week long.

To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.