The co-main event of Bellator 209 features Ryan Couture in a rematch of his last victory, which came against Haim Gozali, who will be on home turf for the second bout.
Ryan Couture is looking to get back on track at Bellator 209. The son of the legendary Randy Couture has dropped three of his last four after a four-fight win streak. The one win, however, came against his current opponent Haim Gozali. Their initial bout took place at Bellator NYC and Couture was victorious via a fairly one-sided decision.
The fight against Gozali was also his first at welterweight in his career. However, Couture is fully aware that 170-pounds is not for him, acknowledging the stiff competition at the weight class in an interview with Cageside Press, “I’m undersized and underpowered and there’s a lot of monsters in that weight class. But both trips up have been such cool opportunities that I couldn’t pass them up.”
Couture added that lightweight is his true home, and that even then he still isn’t very big for the division. Expect a swift move back down for Couture following the rematch. Despite being undersized in this bout, there are clear advantages to fighting up in weight.
“The weight cut was a non-issue. That’s one of the perks of being up a weight class, I’m not stressed about that at all and I can eat whatever I want. That’s been real nice. Camp’s been great. Always a solid crew here in the gym (Xtreme Couture) so no shortage of good hard work. Been lucky to have my dad home for the last two or three weeks, which is the longest stretch I’ve seen him in town all year. It’s been great having him around so consistent and right there with me these last few weeks to get me feeling sharp and to get me on track. I’m excited, I feel ready to go.”
While Randy and Ryan Couture will be the higher profile father-son due involved with Bellator 209, Haim Gozali’s son, Aviv Gozali, will be fighting on the same card. This is an experience that the Coutures were never able to share, making it a ‘what could have been’ topic for Ryan.
“It would have been amazing. There’s also the other side though of sharing coaches and dealing with the nerves of watching each other fight. That would have been an interesting challenge. If things don’t go well for his son, we’ll see how that affects him, if he brings that disappointment into the cage with him. And vice-versa. He’ll be that much more fired up if his son performs well. I think that’s an interesting wrinkle to throw at his side. No telling which way that will affect him, but it’s pretty cool that they get to do it.”
Having a Hall of Fame-caliber fighter as a father is something very few get to experience. And while having a father who reached the highest level of their profession may put pressure on the son to pursue the same path, this was not the case for Ryan Couture, who was naturally attracted to the sport growing up.
“I grew up loving martial arts movies, running around doing fake karate kicks all over the place as a little kid. So I was always interested in martial arts and obviously when he got into the sport I started following it closely to follow his career. I fell in love with it that way. But I never saw myself doing it as anything other than a hobby until I started training as an adult. I realized I had some talent for it so I at least wanted to try it out, see what it was about. I definitely never felt any pressure because being that close to the sport and having that perspective on it and his career gave me an appreciation for what went into it.”
Couture won each round on every scorecard against Gozali at Bellator NYC, even tallying one 10-8. While fights like that may not warrant a rematch, a co-main event in Israel is a hard opportunity to turn down. It’s also tough to see where Couture can improve upon against his foe.
“Just little adjustments of things. The overall gameplan doesn’t change much. I know where my strengths are and where his are. I know what scenarios to try to avoid, so I’ll be trying to sharpen those areas up and do it even better than we did the first time and hopefully come away with the finish. If he wanted another go at it, then that means I could’ve done a better job the first time. So I gotta go in there and show him why that was a bad choice.”
A big difference in the rematch, however, is the location. The first was in New York City, which is a few hours away from Couture’s home base of Las Vegas. This time around at Bellator 209, the fight will take place in Gozali’s home country of Israel.
“It throws that extra wrinkle into preparation dealing with that 24-hour travel day and the time change and all that. That’s a challenge that I didn’t have last time. I think he gets a little extra boost, a little extra fire under him from being in front of his hometown fans, friends and family. That’s always something that’s going to fire you up and make you fight harder. I gotta make sure I do the right things to acclimate to the time change and be ready for him to come out hard and start fast. As long I can deal with those two things, I think it’s a great night for me.”
In the co-main event slot, Ryan Couture is looking to make a big statement before returning to the lightweight ranks. While he was more than happy with winning on the scorecards in his first bout against Gozali, he has higher goals for Thursday’s battle.
“One way or another, I want to get him out of there. Strikes standing, strikes on the ground, get his back and get a submission. I’ll take what I can get. I think I’m capable of outfighting him anywhere. Just need to avoid a couple of his tricks that are dangerous, but I think I’m the better, more well-rounded athlete.”
Bellator 209 takes place Thursday, November 15, at the Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv, Israel. The main card will be broadcast the following day, on Paramount Network and DAZN, following prelims streamed online.