Q&A with Couture Biographer Loretta Hunt
By Scoop Malinowski
Author Loretta Hunt who helped mixed martial arts legend Randy Couture pen his Simon & Schuster biography “Becoming The Natural” took time out of the busy promotional tour to answer questions about the book which, we hear, will debut on the New York Times Best Seller list starting Sunday, at a very respectable #33 in what is said to be a very busy season.
QA with Loretta Hunt, Co-author of Randy Couture’s new autobiography
Q: First of all it’s an excellent autobiography, very well done. Very enjoyable and gripping read from start to finish. Can you tell us how the process began and take us through how the idea of doing the bio with Randy came about, whose idea it was, and his reaction to it, in the beginning and during the interviewing process?
A: First of all, thank you for the kind words. The book came about in an interesting way. Originally, Randy approached me about writing a companion book to a movie script that had been written based on his life. This was in Jan. 2005, a week before “The Ultimate Fighter” debuted on Spike TV. Over time, the pieces seemed to fall into place to make this book his official memoirs. Randy signed with an agency that had a literary dept. I wrote a 30-page book proposal and they sent it out and publishers started bidding on it. It was like many things in Randy’s life – great timing and a little bit of luck. The book sold less than three weeks after he returned to fighting at UFC 68 against Tim Sylvia.
Q: Randy is kind of a shy soft-spoken man yet he really opened up and told his entire life story, no stones seem to have been left unturned. Were you surprised how candid he was about his personal life?
A: Some things I was surprised that he revealed. Some things I had to push him a little to open up about. I knew Randy had something to say though; he had a goal for this book way beyond making money. He wanted to tell his story and inspire people, maybe even have a cathartic experience getting some things off his chest. He took this process very seriously from start to finish, so I knew he was going to reveal tidbits of his life he’d be reluctant to. That being said, I knew Randy picked me for a reason. I believe he opens up more to females, which is touched upon in book, and we had a trust between each other for sure.
Q: How long did it take to gather all the info from Randy? When and where did you do the interviews?
We did interviews everywhere! At his home in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, on the set of TV shows or movies he had parts in. I traveled anywhere I could and tried to make sure I was there for the important moments in his life to observe them. We met in Starbucks too – that was our first official meeting, in a Starbuck inside a supermarket in California. We spoke on the phone a lot, especially as his career geared up, which seemed to be the whole time. I began the book proposal, which is basically an outline for the book, in 2006. I guess we did over 30 interviews in the end and I went back to some of our earlier interviews in his career that I’d done with him as a reporter. Those were particularly interesting for both him and me when we re-hashed them, but it was important to jar his memory and revisit how he felt in those moments. Overall, the process took over a year and a half ofgathering info, but we wrote the book itself in eight months.
Q: You said earlier, To write a book is “very scary” – can you elaborate?
A: This was my first book, so I was new to the process. I wasn’t new to Randy – I’d seen half his career live – and I wasn’t new to the sport and interviewing fighters after eight years in the game. But, the book is like your baby. You take care of it, nurture it, protect it from the world for months and then you have to let it go on its own. I’m writing the pages with Randy and they seem good to me, but I wonder how others will respond to them. You never really know until you let the baby leave your arms to walk out on its own.
Q: Do you remember your very first impressions on seeing Randy compete live in the early days of UFC? Also your initial impressions of when you first interviewed him? When and where was that. Did you always have an idea he would become the sporting icon he has?
I met Randy Couture with his second wife Tricia in 2001 at a hotel during UFC 32. I’d seen him fight first at UFC 28 against Kevin Randleman and noted how the fans waited over an hour for him to leave the cage just to get a picture with him. Sitting down with him, I was new to MMA reporting in general – Randy said I was a wide-eyed girl, which I certainly was. I felt an immediate connection, though Randy has the ability to connect with almost anybody I believe. Randy was kind, considerate, thoughtful, with that soft voice of his that draws you in. At that point, sitting down with Randy in 2001, I already believed he was an icon in the sport with what he’d accomplished. His ability to re-create himself many times over as a champion was a priviledge to watch though.
Q: Now that his career is over, what do you think Randy’s influence on the sport has been? How would you describe it? And how will he be remembered by the MMA / sporting public?
I’m not so sure Randy’s career as a fighter is over. I know he wants to fight again. How the whole thing plays out with the UFC, Fedor Emelianenko, etc. is still very much up in the air. I wouldn’t be surprised if Randy enters the cage (or maybe even a ring again) at least one more time. Randy’s influence on the sport has been set already though. He is, in my estimation and observation of the sport, the most inspiring athlete that MMA has ever had. It’s just something about his underdog story, the way he has conducted himself, and the way he’s overcome personal and professional challenges that has resonated with aspiring fighters and fans alike. Randy gave the sport hope in its dark hours. After all is said and done, I hope that’s the way he is remembered.
Q: How has Randy changed from when you first covered and interviewed him, to what he has become today?
Randy is much the same as when I first met him — engaging, polite and incredibly humble. He’s unaware of the impression he makes on people many times, that they adore him. His clothing has changed (no more flip flops and fight shorts), which I don’t think is a bad thing. He’s worked hard for what he’s earned, but it doesn’t change who he is on the inside. The difference with Randy today is that he is pulled in a lot more directions. He can’t sit alone anywhere without someone coming up to him to chat or take his picture. I’ve never seen Randy be rude or impatient towards anyone ever. Not all of Randy’s relationships have ended well, as he talks about in the book, so those people may have said he’s changed. Randy is still the same to me and has never treated me differently at any point in the eight years we’ve known each other. He’s just lived life a little longer, made a few mistakes, had a few more triumphs, but so have I.
Q: Everybody in MMA must be reading this book. What has been the general reaction and feedback so far? Is there anyone who did not like it? I can’t imagine anyone not liking it.
I have been overwhelmed with the positive feedback. A lot of MMA journalists have reached out to me and told me how much they’ve enjoyed it. I felt a sense of relief with this as I knew how precious Randy’s story was and I wanted to do right by it. I know some fans new to the sport will pick up Randy’s book to find out more about the sport and I wanted to share this great figure with them. I know Randy has had to deal with some mixed feedback from people mentioned in the book in his personal life, which I understand. It must be difficult to read about yourself in a book that an infinite amount of other people will see too.
Q: What is Randy’s reaction to the finished product? Is he pleased with it?
I think he is very happy about it. He’s told me and others this. I know he had a certain angst right before it came out. It takes a great vulnerability to put your life story out there for others to dissect and potentially write off. The fans on his book tour have been nothing but supportive though.
Q: Now that you have your first book complete and a success, are you contemplating any future projects to do?
I am a couple months into working on my next book, which will be the memoirs of iconic MMA referee “Big” John McCarthy. I am very excited to write this book. I respect John immensely and his book will pose a whole set of different issues I will have to work through with him. The man has the history of the UFC, and essentially the birth of MMA in America, rolling around in his head and we will get it out onto paper together. In addition, John has led a very distinguished and rich life outside the cage as a police officer and a husband and father to three incredible children. John also has a great sense of humor and is a very captivating person. I think the fans will really enjoy it.
Q: And lastly, are you happy with how it came out? Or are you a typical perfectionist 🙂 ? Once again, congratulations. You did a terrific job.
I am very happy and almost in a daze. I never thought I’d write a book or be a journalist for that matter, but now I can’t imagine myself doing anything else ever. I have learned so much from this project, about myself and the publishing industry. The editing process of a book is a whole different animal. An editor tells you what should be dropped from the book and what shouldn’t. You cling to some things with unwavering judgment and refuse for them to get dropped. You take a leap of faith with other things and drop them in the hopes it will make the book stronger as a whole. We had a fantastic editor, Ursula Cary, really shave off the fat and enhance the book’s flow. I consider our agent Margaret O’Connor the book’s third author. She kept me on track. Surprisingly, I don’t have any feelings like I missed something in this book. This is what Randy wanted to say in his own voice. That was my goal and I believe we achieved it together. I hope everyone enjoys it.