"I've been a fan of my partner, Randy Couture for years," says the pro dancer

By Karina Smirnoff
September 15, 2014 12:00 PM
Courtesy Karina Smirnoff

Karina Smirnoff is a former Dancing with the Stars champion, having won the coveted mirror-ball trophy in season 13 with J.R. Martinez. The pro dancer is now in her 16th season on the show, and will be blogging for PEOPLE about competing with actor and retired mixed martial arts fighter Randy Couture for season 19.

Preparations for this week have been going amazingly. I’ve been a fan of my partner, Randy Couture, for years. My dog, Randy Smirnoff, is named after Randy Couture! When I saw he was my partner, I was like, “Oh my gosh, my dad will be so excited.” Randy’s his favorite fighter, too.

Being an Olympic wrestler as well as an ex-soldier, Randy has discipline and dedication that are unbeatable. For a man of Randy’s stature – he’s tall, very muscular, very built – it’s not the easiest thing to be light on the feet and to be a “twinkle toes.” He’s been working so hard and has made progress, and how much he’s done since Day One is amazing. I’m very proud of him.

Randy Couture and Karina Smirnoff
Courtesy Karina Smirnoff

We’ve had fighters on the show before – Floyd Mayweather Jr., Sugar Ray Leonard, Chuck Liddell, Victor Ortiz – and they are not known to be the dancers of the season. None of the guys was natural at it, but I feel like because Randy’s better known for being a wrestler, he has a different way of moving. He’s quite agile.

We’ve been having a lot of fun, dancing and working. He’s always smiling and he’s so charming. I’ve been having a blast. We’ve been working extremely hard, but we joke around and we laugh, and we have great chemistry and a great dynamic.

The biggest challenge is, I don’t think Randy realizes how strong he is, because if he goes full out 100 percent, I have to cling onto him like a koala bear, because if I don’t, I’ll be flying away. We need to really concentrate on being gentle.

Karina Smirnoff

The first week we’re doing the fox-trot, which is a very smooth, elegant dance. It will be a nice change to see Randy do a dance like that rather than fighting or being in movies as an action hero.

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I personally always love to tell a story within a dance. It’s not just about the moves; the moves mean something. I’ve created a whole story for Randy and he loves it. He’s a leading man who will be taking care of his woman, and I think he’s doing a fabulous job at it!

I spent some time with the cast, and this is an incredible cast. It’s a cast of characters, from Lea Thompson to Tommy Chong to Alfonso Ribeiro. I think this season will be very surprising for the viewers.

From the beginning, I treat every season as the season that I want to go all the way, because what’s the point of doing a competition if you’re not in it to win it? We can’t control what we can’t control, but the things that we can control, like the dances, the choreography, and the amount of technique, that’s up to us, and we’re going to give it our all!

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