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The Weekly Takedown: UFC legend Randy Couture shares his respect for Charles Oliveira and joy in 'MVP' movie

'He's a martial artist. His accolades are all ones that he earned. He's precise, he's technical.'

Welcome to The Weekly Takedown, Sports Illustrated's in-depth look at MMA. Every week, this column offers insight and information on the most noteworthy stories in the fight world.

Randy Couture helped lay the foundation for UFC to reach new heights as a global entity.

A UFC Hall of Famer, Couture holds this current generation of fighters to an incredibly high standard. Very few meet such lofty criteria, though there is one who Couture believes surpasses every single measure of excellence.

"That's Charles Oliveira," Couture says. "He's not about being famous or publicity stunts. That's the trend in our sport. He puts his nose down and goes out and gets the job done."

Oliveira is on an 11-fight win streak. After missing weight in May, he was stripped of the lightweight title. But that did not affect his ensuing performance, as he then proceeded to dominate Justin Gaethje at UFC 274, extending his UFC record for most finishes (19) and submissions (16). Oliveira seeks to reclaim the vacant title as he faces an incredibly daunting opponent in Islam Makhachev at next month's UFC 280 card.

"Charles isn't pulling outlandish stunts," Couture says. "That's not what our sport is about. He's a martial artist. His accolades are all ones that he earned. He's precise, he's technical. I have a lot of respect for him."

A former three-time UFC heavyweight champion, Couture has found a new passion in acting. His latest role is in "MVP," which is running in select theaters across the nation. "MVP" is a film inspired by the MVP outreach program, which stands for Merging Vets & Players. That is an entity which connects military veterans with former athletes to train and share life experiences, which also is the plot line for the movie.

"MVP," which features Sylvester Stallone as an executive producer, is built around a pro athlete struggling to find an identity after retiring. That particular role is played by Mo McRae, whose life is transformed when he connects with a homeless military veteran, played by Nate Boyer – who is also the film's director. Boyer is a retired Green Beret, as well as a former NFL player, providing a real authenticity to his work in the film, as well as a shared bond with Couture.

Couture served in the U.S. Army 101st Airborne from 1982-88. He later attended college on the G.I. Bill – where he wrestled at Oklahoma State – then became a force to be reckoned with in mixed martial arts. His ground-and-pound remains an integral part of his fighting lore, and he left a lasting impression in the UFC.

"MVP" is a perfect fit for Couture. His non-profit, the Xtreme Couture MMA Foundation, is dedicated to honoring the veterans of America's armed forces. Merging Vets & Players has a similar ethos. Founded seven years ago by Boyer and Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, its goal is to empower combats vets and retired athletes, making sure they have direction and support in their lives. The real-life stories of the women and men in MVP led to the creation of this film.

"This whole project really connected with me," Couture says. "This is grounded in truth. It's based on people who really struggled. Eight original MVPers were part of homeless shelters, so the movie really hits home.

"I understand walking away from a big piece of your identity. MVP does that in this amazing, grounded, grassroots way. So many of us rely on each other rather than a psychiatrist or psychologist."

The secret ingredient in Couture's ongoing success is his drive. That is powered by his purpose, a driving force in his life.

"My purpose has always been providing for my family," said Couture. "I wasn't going to be like my dad, who was a deadbeat and never really around. That made it easy for me. I needed to support my family, then get my degree – and I wrestled for the Oklahoma State Cowboys, then competed in the UFC. So I knew who I was when I gave up my uniform. The same was true when I retired from fighting. I knew how to transition my energy to other projects, like acting, when I had this built-in purpose."

The film promotes empathy and understanding, helping people gain an understanding of someone else's struggle.

"Getting a better understanding of that journey is fascinating," Couture says. "This isn't about just statistics. It's about giving people insight to what that struggle looks like.

"For Nate to find a way to tell this story, it's pretty awesome. The story is very powerful, and I am happy to be part of it."

Yoel Romero wants to fight competitively until the age of … 52


Yoel Romero competes next week at Bellator 285, showing off his fighting prowess in a light heavyweight bout against Melvin Manhoef.

An accomplished wrestler before beginning his MMA career in 2009, Romero plans on making up for the late start. Now 45 – and with a physique more sculpted than ever – Romero plans to fight beyond the age of 50.

"I want to fight until I'm 52," says Romero, speaking through a translator. "That would surpass Bernard Hopkins fighting until he was 51. That's the long-term goal."

Following a seven-year run in UFC, Romero (14-6 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) has found a home in Bellator. He came out even in first two bouts with the promotion, losing to Phil Davis via split decision last September before producing a TKO victory against Alex Polizzi in May. If he can deliver a victory against Manhoef (32-15-1 MMA, 4-4 BMMA), that would build significant momentum for a shot for the light heavyweight belt, against either reigning champ Vadim Nemkov or top contender Corey Anderson.

"I credit my longevity to three things," Romero says. "I'm disciplined, I'm hungry for more, and I'm blessed by God. That's something I don't take for granted."

Romero still has a lot left to prove ("I want to win the light heavyweight title in Bellator – I want to win the middleweight title, too," he added), and believes he is still operating in his prime. Whenever his peers retire, which happens far more frequently now, he carries their legacy on his broad shoulders.

"I have a big responsibility to represent fighters from my generation," Romero says. "That just fuels my competitive fire. I'm going to do whatever the new generation does just as well as they do, then put my own twist on it. I want to do it bigger and better against the younger fighters.

"I pass all my tests during training. That shows me I can still go out there and perform. If I couldn't get through my training, then it would be time to retire. That's not the case for me right now. I'm passing those tests with flying colors."

Bellator 285 represents Romero's first MMA bout in Ireland. The long distance involved, he added, provides even more incentive to win.

"I'm going to go out there and please the fans, win the fight, then go home," Romero says. "I guarantee it's going to be worth watching."

The Pick 'Em Section:

UFC Fight Night bantamweight bout: Cory Sandhagen vs. Song Yadong

  • Pick: Cory Sandhagen

UFC Fight Night middleweight bout: Chidi Njokuani vs. Gregory Rodrigues

  • Pick: Gregory Rodrigues

UFC Fight Night featherweight bout: Andre Fili vs. Bill Algeo

  • Pick: Andre Fili

UFC Fight Night middleweight bout: Joseph Pyfer vs. Alen Amedovski

  • Pick: Joseph Pyfer

UFC Fight Night heavyweight bout: Tanner Boser vs. Rodrigo Nascimento

  • Pick: Tanner Boser

Last week: 3-2

2022 record: 103-61

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