When 45-year-old UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture (16-8 MMA, 13-5 UFC) steps into the cage on Saturday night against Brock Lesnar at "UFC 91: Couture vs. Lesnar," it will be the first action for "The Natural" in nearly 15 months.
Couture has faced layoffs of over a year twice before in his illustrious career -- and won his return fight both times. In a recent UFC 91 media conference call, Couture said to expect the same this time around.
"Everybody asks about ring rust and all that stuff," Couture said. "I don't think it's the same for a mixed martial artist as it is for boxing. Sparring in the gym -- the training we do -- it's just about as real as the fights. So I'm not worried about that at all."
As the head of Xtreme Couture, one of the biggest and most highly respected training camps in MMA, Couture believes his daily routines have kept him in fight-ready shape.
"I've got a great camp," Couture said. "I've been very active with all the guys, Forrest (Griffin) and a number of the other athletes that train at Xtreme Couture. I've never been one to sit around. I like to train. I like to be in the gym. They're kind of my family.
"I fought every week that I was out. I may not have had a fight in a cage, but I've got a cage right here in my gym."
Seemingly defying the odds by continuing to put on excellent performances despite his advanced age, Couture has been doubted in many of his recent bouts. The heavyweight champion insisted his age and experience is an asset, not a liability.
"I definitely think that experience and having been in a lot of those situations is an asset and is something to rely on," Couture said. "It doesn't matter what combative sport you're involved in. They are sports of experience. I've been in a lot of different situations, and those all count."
Couture will certainly be looking to rely on his cage savvy in Saturday night's main event. The massive Lesnar will enjoy a hefty size advantage.
"Obviously with a guy Brock's size and with his athletic ability and mobility, those are things you certainly consider when training and formulating a gameplan to face that opponent," Couture said. "I don't believe I've fought anybody Brock's size other than Tim (Sylvia). (Gabriel) Gonzaga is a little bit smaller.
"I fought a couple of big guys back in the day, but I don't think any of them were as big as Brock either. (But) both of my recent fights have been against guys that were pretty large. I think he's going to outweigh me by about 35 pounds, so those are things that I've trained and prepared to deal with."
Couture said the preparation process for this bout has been eerily reminiscent of his March 2007 outing against 6'8" Tim Sylvia.
"There are similarities in that it's hard to find guys that are going to simulate Brock or a guy like Tim," Couture said. "They're very unique in their skill sets and their physicality. And so there's been some déjà vu during this 10-week camp with some of the things that I had to go through week in and week out.
"But that's good. The outcome of the Sylvia fight was good. That paid off. Hopefully it's going to pay off again in this fight."
If Couture's preparation does pay off, the inevitable line of questions regarding a potential bout with WAMMA heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko will certainly surface once again. Couture said he is uninterested in speculating on that at this time.
"I'm not worried about Fedor," Couture said. "I'm not worried about any of that. I don't even want to hear any of those questions, because at this point none of that matters."
In fact, Couture is not interested in speculating at all what may be in store for him in the future. Win or lose, Couture is focused solely on the massive roadblock that currently stands in his way.
"I started out taking this one fight at a time, and I'm going to continue to do that," Couture said. "It seems to be working for me."