Ultimate Fighting Championship icon Randy Couture enters Saturday night’s UFC 102 main event against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira as one of the most influential mixed martial artists in the world.
Couture made his Octagon debut at UFC 13 in 1997 and has built a career record of 16-9 by headlining some of the most important fights in MMA history. His grittily inspiring performances in most of them made him a superstar and helped the UFC gain mainstream acceptance.
It’s only natural, then, that the UFC Hall of Famer and former heavyweight and light heavyweight champion commands similar status in the trading card arena, where he ranks as an unparalleled trailblazer, a ground-and-pound granddaddy.
Couture’s history-making presence in 2006 Topps Allen & Ginter, on the first mainstream MMA cards ever produced, proved to the collecting world that “The Natural” and his battle-tested brethren could pack as big a punch in the hobby as they do in the heat of battle.
“At the time, the inclusion of Couture was a natural fit for Allen & Ginter,” says Clay Luraschi, Topps’ Director of Product Development. “In 2006, we just wanted a great mix of athletes and thought it would be cool to add an MMA fighter. Looking back and seeing where we are now, that card has some historical significance in the hobby.”
Indeed it does.
A lot has changed in the three pivotal years since. The sport of MMA has continued to explode in terms of popularity, and Topps is now the exclusive manufacturer of the UFC, producing complete sets devoted to the organization and its biggest stars. As for Couture, the 46-year-old phenomenon has graced more than 70 additional trading cards, the most of any mixed martial artist, including 21 autographs and 36 memorabilia cards.
To date, Couture has appeared on 79 cards to be exact, including a whopping 41 that are unpriced due to scarcity. The total value of his 38 cards that are priced: $2,664.25, an average of $69.59 apiece.
Twelve of his cards are valued at $100 or higher, including the intriguing 2008 Donruss Elite Extra Edition Collegiate Patches Autographs that honors Couture’s celebrated amateur career at Oklahoma State, where he was a three-time NCAA Division I All-American.
Of course, he also has three cards priced at $200 or more – but perhaps none are as prominent as his pioneering penmanship from 2006 Allen & Ginter, which carries a current Beckett value of $225. Couture’s most valuable card, the short-printed Red Ink Autograph from 2009 Topps UFC Round 1, is valued at $350.
It’s likely that nothing Couture does Saturday night against Nogueira at UFC 102 – or during any fight for the rest of his career – will impact his collectible legacy either way.
He’s a legend already – in combat and on cards.
— Tracy Hackler