Thursday, September 04, 2014

Australia's Submission Radio does YET ANOTHER tremendous interview, this time with UFC Hall of Famer Dan Severn, who reflected on 40 years on the mats and in the cage. Severn, who retired just last year, began by noting that although he is best known for an MMA career that started in 1994, at that point, he was already “well past his prime” as a wrestler.

The combination of Submission Radio and “The Beast” proved to be truly compelling; do yourself a favor, and listen to it.

The interview naturally covered the issue at the forefront of the hardcore fanbase's relevant concerns – who has the better mustache, himself or Don Frye? The issue has been blogged about before, and the ever modest Severn gave Frye the nod.

“I will have to bow to Don,” said Severn. “His moustache is younger, it's bolder then what mine is, and when you throw on that cowboy hat along with it and you hear the gravel that comes from that man's voice, obviously I have to tap out to Don Frye.”

The next question is who in the UFC needs to grow a mustache?

“Well I’d say only because it would probably get a lot more visibility, I would say that Dana White if he was to grow a moustache,” replied Severn. “Because he’s on all types of Twitter and things of that nature and I think he’d get the exposure.”

The early days of mixed martial arts were notoriously likened to human cockfighting, but Severn was actually offered a human cockfighting contest.

“I’d be getting this pager and they'd say when it goes off, call the number,” began Severn. “There will be a ticket waiting for you, you’ll fly to a designated area, you’ll be picked up, you’ll be taken out to a designated area and you’ll be part of tonight’s festivities of entertainment. Now that was back in the No Holds Barred era. Now one of them – and I’ll elaborate more on this one – was being held in Mexico. And this organization wanted to be tougher than what the current UFC was.

“They wanted no rules whatsoever. So eye gouging and biting would be allowed and the competition was going to be taking place in an actual cock fighting pit. They wanted to start off with roosters, progress to dogs and in the main event have human beings, all in the same pit, spilling blood in all three categories. And you could wear Levi jeans and cowboy boots on top of that. Now I declined that opportunity because I kept thinking, if I should somehow win this match will I make it out of this arena, or out of this country before, you know the promoter might wanna take me out back and you’ll find my body in an alley way somewhere? So I did decline that one.”

Severn's entry into the sport was almost accidental.

“I did not know that this sport even existed (when) the first two events took place,” he said. “You have to realize, PPV at that time was only hitting major cities. So a friend of mine out of Detroit Michigan happened to watch like the first two events and he copied them on an old VHS tape and he brought it to me and he showed it to me and he said 'you ought to think about doing this'. Now again, here I am seeing two men in the cage and I’m seeing people getting soccer kicked in the face, and I’m watching this craziness and I’m thinking, you know I go, these are not skills I possess, but then when he said 'well hey, look at this skinny little guy doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu' – of course he was referring to Royce Gracie – and as I’m watching – because I’d never really been exposed to Jiu Jitsu at that point – I thought, well that kinda looks like amateur wrestling to me. And then I thought to myself 'well gosh, in order for someone to punch me or kick me, they’ve got be within either arms reach or within legs reach'. And I kept thinking 'I could easily either move back out of range, or I could move in before they ever got any real velocity on any of these kicks'. And that little theory has served me well for basically two decades of staying out of range, and later on being able to actually analyze opponents when more and more things became available via the internet.”

“When I was first given the nod that I was in the very first UFC, I was basically a last minute fill in. Someone had got hurt, dropped out, for whatever reasons I don’t remember, but I was a last minute replacement. And I’d always lived a rather busy lifestyle, I had a number of commitments, I went and fulfilled my commitments. I trained five days, an hour and a half a day, and I walked into the world of No Holds Barred. Now you gotta realize there weren’t cages abundant like there are today. There’s probably not a city that you couldn’t go into today and you could probably find a cage somewhere in someone's gym or whatever, that someone was training Mixed Martial Arts in. But back then there was only one cage, it was owned by the UFC. So I went to where I started my professional wrestling training. I went over to Lima, Ohio and I did my training inside of a professional wrestling ring. So I had the instructor and I had two other professional wrestling protégés and between the three of them they had one pair of boxing gloves, of which when one work out partner would get tired he used to trade up the gloves to the next guy and next guy. I just stayed in there the entire time and they were trying to kick, punch, grapple, submit, anything that they could do, and basically I was just trying to stay out of harm's way, clinch, take down, use my wrestling skills, and all I did was slap on an amateur wrestling move, turn it a little bit illegal, make them squeal or squawk.”

“When I walked into my very first No Holds Barred event, I did not train a single submission, legitimate submission. I just did some barbaric things that I just created, and number two, I never trained a single strike. So even in the UFC when they asked me 'well what is your discipline?' I simply said 'I’m an American Wrestler', and they kind looked at me like 'what’s that gonna do for you?' And I simply said 'watch me'.”

Today UFC VP for Talent Relations Joe Silva scours the planet to make the fairest matchups possible. At UFC 4, match ups were done by numbered ping pong balls.

“So back in the No Holds Barred era there wasn’t even weigh ins, because there was no weight classes,” related Severn. “They basically had a press conference. So you’d be sitting up at the head table, myself with several other people, participants, and they took out an old bingo game machine that has all the balls inside of it, and each of these eight balls in there had a name on it. So when they would rotate it a few times they'd pulled out the first ball and basically set up an eight man tournament bracket.

“You found out who your opponent was the night before. So 24 hours later, you're climbing in the cage. So you're sizing up your opponent right then and there, because you did not know who was gonna be on one of the eight individuals.”

One of the opponent's Severn drew was fellow UFC Hall of Famer Royce Gracie, and Severn hinted he let Gracie win.

“When I tell people I was more torn with my conscience then ever with an opponent, most people will probably never understand that,” said the former pro wrestler. “You know, during the course of that match I'm actually looking at – I’m a big believer that the eyes are a windows into a person's soul – I’m staring right through his soul and he's looking over at his Dad outside the cage wall there, and I could read exactly what’s going through his mind. He's saying 'Dad I’m hanging in here, but if you were to throw in that towel I wouldn’t hold it against you', and then I went from Royce’s eyes, I looked over to Helio outside the cage wall, Helio is looking at me, he's got the towel in his hands, he brings the towel up, crosses his arms and then just shakes his head 'no'. And I’m thinking to myself, you old bastard, you’d let me kill your kid out here for Gracie Jiu Jitsu wouldn’t ya? Well nobody knows that Dan Severn is out here tonight, so I’ll just simply say, did I tap out because someone beat me, or did I tap out because I refused to do what I had to do to another human being? I’m the only person that can answer that question. All I’ll simply say is, from UFC number 4 to UFC number 5, I took 32 days out of my life and I trained to become a No Holds Barred fighter, and I destroyed the field.”

“Well yeah I mean it really brought it to light. Once again, I probably have not really thought about it much, only if it comes up in an interview or something like that does it ever come back up”

“The UFC invited me out to Las Vegas for the 20 year anniversary show and I was out there with Mark Coleman, Art Jimmerson and Royce Gracie and myself, the four people that they brought back. And as we’re sitting there, all four of us are on stage, we each have microphones, and there’s probably a couple of thousand people in this little arena and they have two microphones that are set up and people are lined up behind each microphone just to be able to ask a question or two and just kinda keep it going. And we did this, I’m not sure for an hour? Maybe a couple of hours? But the questions that were being asked, it was like there was this reverence to Royce the entire time. And as I’m sitting there I kept thinking to myself, how would this all be so different had I done what I’m capable of doing? How would today be different? But at the same token, I can live with my conscience and I know what I did. And some people say 'well that’s sour grapes'. No it’s not.”

“I called out three individuals, I called them out directly. I called out Mark Coleman, Ken Shamrock and Royce Grace. If I could have had the last three matches of my career, it would have been those three right in that order, and you know, basically all three did agree to do matches, but then different things just kinda came up.”

Although there are now a large number of fighters publicly calling for an end to PED abuse in the sport, Severn was the first. At the time he was too polite to name names, but everyone knew he meant Mark Coleman.

“To start a career at the age I did, with the success ratio that I had; and the fact is, I can claim lifetime chemical free status,” said Severn. “You find another heavyweight that can claim that. It does not walk this planet. I know most of these groups and organizations. I probably know most of their suppliers, only because I’m also involved in the gym industry for quite a few years and I’ve been around steroids, growth hormones all my entire life, I just never bothered to cross the line to go into it. Cause I’ve had some groups approach me and say 'Dan Severn on your natural physical shape and size, we can take your 260 pound frame and we could probably put you up to about three and a quarter, ripped at about 6% body fat, you’d have 25 to 30 percent more power.'

“And to me it’s like, bottom line is there Denis and Kacper, I take a great deal of pride in the fact that I have achieved all my success on my own ability. I didn’t have to take a shot, I didn’t have to take a pill, I just simply walked out there and I got the job done.”

“Today, If you wanted to make Frankenstein, you really could make Frankenstein. You could take a seven foot tall basketball frame of a body, and put them on the right chemicals, and put them through the right type of training, you could build a freak-a-saurus that weighs probably three to four hundred pounds and will destroy anything that climbs into the cage with it. But did it win on its own ability? No.”

Severn also answered the last question that the hardcore fanbase wants to know – did he like the Tom Lawlor walkout?

Note: Lawlor as Severn made #6 on the UG list of greatest mustaches:

“I saw it after the fact. I thought that was funny,” said Severn. “To me impersonation is kind of like a way of honoring or paying homage, so I took it all in the right context. I thought it was great”

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