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Former Soldier, mixed martial artist and current actor Randy Couture visited Fort Benning last week, spending time with Soldiers while in Columbus for a charity motorcycle ride.
Couture, himself a former sergeant with the 101st Airborne Division, is a five-time Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholder, with three title reigns as the UFC heavyweight champion and two as the light heavyweight champion.
Couture said he credits the time he spent in the Army from 1982 to 1988 with his success, especially the confidence he developed while competing on Army wrestling teams.
"It was a pretty formative time in my life, and I think I developed a particular discipline and mindset while wearing Army green," Couture said. "It was there that I learned I could compete at an international level and really developed the mindset and the confidence to go out and win. That got me through three or four years of college at Oklahoma State and on into mixed martial arts and winning world championships as a fighter. It all started with the Army uniform."
He has also appeared in numerous films, perhaps most notably The Expendables franchise, in which Couture starred alongside action stars such as Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis.
"It's a surreal moment to work with guys like that," he said. "I grew up watching movies like Rambo and Conan the Barbarian and Die Hard, so to be suiting up and playing in movies with some of those guys is pretty remarkable. They're great guys and hard-working guys. They demonstrate why they've been at the top of their profession for 30-plus years because they're very diligent. They have mindset where they know where they want to be and what they need to do to be successful. I can relate to that."
The first two Expendables films opened No. 1 at the domestic box office, with the third entry in the series set to be released on August 15.
Despite the fame he has found through mixed martial arts and acting, Couture said he feels strange when Soldiers treat him like a star.
"It's always weird for me to have people treat me differently or to get starstruck," he said. "I'm just a regular guy. I've been blessed to be able to accomplish some goals and do some things in combatives sports, and I'm now getting a chance to be in movies and act, which is not something I ever saw myself doing. I'm just having fun.
"I was fortunate enough during the time that I was in the service that the only thing going on was the Cold War. ... I never had to put it on the line. I did all the training, I wore the uniform, I understand that commitment and that discipline, but I never had to go there. I appreciate the sentiment, but it's what they're doing that's really important. They're the ones doing the tough job."
Couture's visit and motorcycle ride was all part of the efforts made by the Xtreme Couture GI Foundation, a nonprofit Couture founded to raise money and awareness for wounded Soldiers.
"It's been great to meet some of the guys coming back from the war who have made some pretty significant sacrifices," Couture said. "We want to help those guys if we can. There are so many who come back and so many who fall through the cracks. We've managed over the course of our seven years to raise about $500,000."