MMA Legend sees similarities between his sport and lacrosse
Ultimate Fighting Championship icon Randy Couture attends his first professional lacrosse game as partnership with Edmonton Rush continues
By Matthew Iwanyk for NLL.com
As the Edmonton Rush were getting set to host the Boston Blazers, they also were playing host to one of the greatest athletes in his respective sport, Randy Couture.
Back in December of 2009 the Edmonton Rush entered into a very unique partnership. The Rush announces that the Rush had reached an agreement with UFC Hall of Famer Randy “The Natural” Couture.
Part of the partnership was the fact that Randy Couture is attending this weekend’s game against the Blazers. He also was able to participate in the Rush shootaround, which happened on Saturday afternoon.
Couture, who had never seen a lacrosse game live, was excited to get on the turf.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Couture, during a media event in Edmonton on Friday. “Actually getting on the field, getting a sense of the guys, the game and what the stick feels like. I’ve never held a lacrosse stick before. I’m sure I will suck but it will be a lot of fun.”
Couture is not feeling any pressure as he picks up the stick for the first time. “I think it will be fun. I will probably miss a lot, drop a lot, but it will be a good time,” says the UFC legend that doesn’t expect to take part in any potential pre-game scraps. “I don’t know about that (taking part in a fight), but maybe I will end up doing some pummeling.” In Couture’s latest bout, at UFC 109, Couture also wore a Rush logo on his shorts.
Another part of the partnership, Randy Couture hosted four Rush players at his training camp, Xtreme Couture. Xtreme Couture is the Las Vegas-based home training ground for Couture as he prepare for his next bouts, as well as the training facility for many other UFC fighters, including former UFC Light Heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin.
Rush players Jimmy Quinlan, Brodie Merrill, Ryan McNish and Chris McElroy were welcomed to Xtreme Couture during training camp. There they were treated to intense mixed martial arts training for a week. For the players like Ryan McNish, the experience was exciting.
“For me, I am an UFC fan. Getting the chance to train with his camp, his kickboxing coach, his boxing coach, it was absolutely unbelievable,” said McNish. “At the end of the day we are training with Randy Couture.”
“For the players this was unlike any other training they have experienced heading into the season. Instead of do the traditional lacrosse exercises, the four Rush players were treated to the same workouts that Mixed Martial Arts fighters do in their training.
“It was definitely eye opening to say the least. Those guys train so hard,” McNish said of his time at Xtreme Couture in Vegas. “As professional lacrosse players we do a lot of running and we train hard. The biggest thing, obviously, physical we got in really good shape, but seeing how tough those guys go and push through those barriers, those guys train hard.”
The training was quite intense, but all was beneficial to any athlete, not just lacrosse players, according the legend Randy Couture.
“There was a core strength and conditioning program that we used for mixed martial arts that is good for any sport,” said Couture, but he also recognizes some similarities between lacrosse and mixed martial arts that his training helps. “There is a lot of physical contact in lacrosse, especially close in quarters fighting, the clench work, some of the wrestling and using the hand eye coordination from boxing all translated into good lacrosse.”
Even though mixed martial arts and lacrosse are different sports, Couture sees one key similarity between the two. The mental aspect to lacrosse and mixed martial arts is something the two sports share.
“There is a particular intensity and some mental skills that I think we share (lacrosse and mixed martial arts) and can help each other,” Couture feels.
This training experience was just as much about learning another sport then just training for the National Lacrosse League season. The training features lots of sweat, pain and hard work. The word quit is never uttered, nor would it be allowed.
“I don’t think I’ve ever trained that hard, and I’ve spent 10 years in the military. Those guys are phenomenal athletes and I got nothing but respect for them. You have the best trainers in the world pushing you as hard as they can and you are training with some of the best athletes in the world,” McNish said of the mixed martial arts athletes.
McNish continued, “These [fighters] they just go, go, go. There is no quit, no stop. When we first got to Extreme Couture in Las Vegas, when you go into the bathroom there is a great big sign above the urinal, ‘If you bleed or puke, clean it up. Gloves under the sink.’ That is just the mentality down there. At the end of every workout, you are pretty much just lying on the floor making sweat angels.”
The players who trained with Couture all came back in excellent shape and a sense of improvement in their lacrosse game.
“I definitely find my foot speed, I’ve lost some weight,” McNish said of some improvements he has noticed in his game.
“We sent four players down prior to the season, and when they came back, they came back in outstanding condition,” said Rush President Gord Sawyer. “For our players to have the chance to train down there, it is a big plus in our quest for the Champion’s Cup.”
Sawyer says that this partnership was an idea though up from owner Bruce Urban.
“He noticed there was a lot of top level MMA fighters going a training at Randy Couture’s facility and though it would be a good idea to send some of our players down there and see if it made sense and it absolutely did,” Sawyer said of why Urban though of this partnership. “The players love it. The attitude the exhumed from being down there was outstanding. It was a lifetime experience for them.”
Joining forces with Randy Couture was also easy for the Rush to finalize considering what Couture wanted to accomplish with his training center, and what benefits their team will get out of this.
“Everything good that is in MMA, I think Randy has. Most importantly it is the strength and conditioning aspect of Randy Couture being involved in our team,” says Sawyer. “Xtreme Couture Conditioning Company conditions a great deal of the most successful athletes in the world. They wanted to enter into the team sports business and we were able to be one of the first people to get involved with Randy.”
The Rush hope to continue their agreement with Couture beyond the 2010 season, and try to get even more players to train with the UFC legend.
“We have an option with Randy to move forward next year. We are going to talk about a second year deal. Moving forward we will be sending players down there this summer to train,” says Rush President Sawyer.
The biggest hope the Edmonton Rush and Randy Couture partnership will bring to the Rush is the chance at getting in excellent fitness shape compared to other teams in the NLL.
As Sawyer says, he hopes this partnership will “take [our team] to the next level of conditioning in the NLL.”
XCAP is a proud sponsor of the Edmonton Rush.