The biggest card on the horizon isn't being produced by the UFC or Strikeforce. On September 11, Shark Fights will put on their thirteenth event with a ridiculously stacked card filled to the brim with major league talent. They needed a broadcast team as stellar as the fight card - and they've put together what may potentially be the most entertaining booth in MMA history. Don Frye took time off from growing his mustache and chewing tobacco to talk with Bloody Elbow about Shark Fights, Bas Rutten, his relationship with Zuffa, and his busy year in 1996.
Jonathan Snowden: How is your back? You feeling alright these days?
Don Frye: I feel great. It's a little stiff still, but besides that....man, I tell you what, I haven't felt this good in seven years. I'm telling you, I was falling apart there for the last seven years. Now I feel like a new woman.
Jonathan Snowden: A new woman with a new job. I just got off the phone with your new broadcast partner Bas Rutten and he says he's supposed to try to control you at Shark Fights 13. How can Bas be trusted to control anyone? He's the craziest man on the planet. Or are you crazier than Bas?
Don Frye: Putting Bas Rutten in charge of anything is like putting Osama Bin Laden in charge of the nuclear arsenal. You know? Where the hell does that nutjob get off saying something like that? That guy's as goofy as they come.
Jonathan Snowden:You guys have a lot in common, but plenty of differences. Did you ever see that celebration he does where he jumps up and does a split in the air? I can't see Don Frye doing that one.
Don Frye: Shit. I'm lucky if I can bend down and tie my shoe partner. That's why I wear cowboy boots all the time.
Jonathan Snowden: You and Bas are similar in that you both go back a long time in this sport. With you it all started in 1996. San Juan, Puerto Rico. Did you ever wonder what the hell am I doing here fighting a 300 pound Puerto Rican?
Don Frye: Three hundred? He was 420! I was standing there in the middle of the ring watching him waddle through the cage door and thought 'God damn. Me and my get rich quick schemes.' Now I've done it.
Jonathan Snowden: The whole point of that tournament at UFC 8 was to prove size isn't everything when it comes to fighting. And it didn't take you long to get him on the chin.
Don Frye: I'll tell you what man, I was like the U.S. Marine Corps. Give me a battalion of them and I could whoop anybody.
Jonathan Snowden: The final bout that evening was Gary Goodridge. Had you seen the Paul Herrera fight backstage? How can you not be scared seeing that?
Don Frye: I did not see it. And I'm glad I didn't. I'd have been packing my bags just like anybody else would you know? (Laughs).
Jonathan Snowden:There was something about those early UFC's, and I'm not taking anything away from the guys today who are such great athletes, but in the early days the violence was so raw. Because it was more like an actual fight you might see on the street. Goodridge, for people who don't know, just beat the living hell out of this wrestler Paul Herrera. It looked like he killed him. It was brutal. I think I would have pissed myself.
Don Frye: It's funny. We were talking about how the fans now days, they don't go back to before UFC 50. They don't know where this stuff started. Or how it started. Or the level of the fighters. Sure, you have a much better level of athlete now, overall more athletic talent, but there were good athletes back then too. Athletes who were the type of guy to get knocked down, bloody, and broken bones and get right back up and finish the fight. That's what we had back then. A bunch of raw boned guys. Like me. I'm not that much of an athlete. I don't have an athletic bone in my body. Bas Rutten can jump and do the splits. Heck, I can barely pull my underwear up some days. But I'll give it a go all the way.
Jonathan Snowden: One other thing people may not understand is how different it was to compete multiple times on a single night. You don't really see the tournament much anymore. How does that change things? I can imagine you get your adrenaline up and then have to go back and relax, then do it all over again.
Don Frye: Oh Yeah. It's like getting drunk and suffering a hangover, then getting drunk and suffering another hangover and then getting drunk again. All in one night. You had your ups and downs. By the time you crashed physically and mentally, it was time to pull your gear on and go back out. When you hit that third fight you didn't even bother stretching out or warming up. You just pulled your t-shirt off.
More with Don Frye, including his thoughts on the UFC Hall of Fame and what might happen if he squares off with broadcast partner Bas Rutten, after the jump.
Jonathan Snowden: You fought 11 times in 1996. That number seems insane. How was your body feeling that year? That's a lot of fighting?
Don Frye: Heck, I was 30 years old. I was a baby. I was peaking. It was easy money to do that. It didn't bother me at all. Shoot, I fought three times a night back then. Now, they're lucky to get three fights all year.
Jonathan Snowden: You're one of four guys to win more than one UFC tournament. The others, Mark Coleman, Royce Gracie, and Dan Severn are all UFC Hall of Famers. Do you think we'll see you there some day?
Don Frye: No, I don't think I'll be a UFC Hall of Famer. But who knows. Royce Gracie, Dan Severn, Coleman - hell, they were all great athletes. Great fighters. Every fighter that fights in the UFC, shit, they deserve to be in there. I'd rather be in the Hall of Fame in the hearts of the fans. That's the important one right there. The thing is, if people believe you should be in there, then you're in there. No matter what. I know what the fans think, and that's what's important to me.
Jonathan Snowden: I was with a group of reporters once and asked Dana White if you were being considered for the Hall. He said he'd be afraid you would show up and punch him in the face. Would you?
Don Frye: (Laughs) You know what? I've got to give him props for that answer. That's a good answer. Dana White's turning out to be a very good politician. (Laughs). First time in my life he's made me laugh. He actually gave an answer without a curse word.
Jonathan Snowden: I'm sure he cursed in there somewhere. He probably said "Fucking Don Frye would punch me in my fucking face if he came to the fucking Hall of Fame."
Don Frye: (Laughs)
Jonathan Snowden: I'm glad the relationship between you and the UFC is better because that means I got to buy a toy of you. Here's the problem. My kids have dinosaurs and lions and stuff like that. But what toy is tough enough to battle Don Frye?
Don Frye: I don't think they've made one yet. It would need to be powered by a piece of uranium or something like that.
Jonathan Snowden: (Laughs). We were talking about Gary Goodridge earlier. You had a second run in with Goodridge. Why do you think he wore the gi? You sure took advantage. It was like a hockey fight for a bit. You must have been happy to see that gi.
Don Frye: Oh yeah. I knew I could use that gi.
Jonathan Snowden: Because you're a Judo guy?
Don Frye: Yeah, I'm a third degree blackbelt in Judo. I knew how to utilize it in my favor. It was completely advantageous to me. I think it would benefit guys in the military. In judo you're fighting a guy with a gi on, it's just like fighting a guy with a uniform on. And when you are fighting a guy wearing your uniform, you can use it to choke your opponent out too. Gary, unfortunately, didn't recognize that fact at that time. That was 15 years ago and he was relatively new to the fighting game. I don't think he had anyone around him to warn him though.
Jonathan Snowden: What is the feeling like when a mammoth individual like that has you pinned down and is trying to do you harm?
Don Frye: I was an average wrestler in college. So I was put on my back a lot. (Laughs). I could feel he didn't have his weight distributed properly. You could hear him gassing, hear him breathe. You can feel your opponents strength coming and going. It ebbs and flows. Every time I moved, he got weaker and weaker. I could feel that happening to Gary. So I wasn't worried about it. I knew every time he swung one of those big ole powerful arms of his, it took a little bit more energy out of him.
Jonathan Snowden: Knowing he was tired, were you surprised when he quit the way he did?
Don Frye:No. I thought it was going to happen a lot faster. I was surprised he hung in there as long as he did. If you go back and watch that fight, that's a classic fight.
Jonathan Snowden: That's why we're talking about it...
Don Frye: We were both scrapping it out hard. The whole time. That fight does not get the credit it is due. We were both just going at it. The whole time.
Jonathan Snowden: People talk a lot about the Ken Shamrock fight at PRIDE 19, but the Goodridge series was one of the highlights of your career. We were talking before about fans not reaching back beyond UFC 50. Do you wish they showed more of these old fights on UFC Unleashed on SPIKE?
Don Frye: (Long Pause)...I want to be as PC as I can on this one. (Laughs).
Jonathan Snowden: That doesn't sound like Don Frye to me. I don't want you to say anything bad about the UFC. I just think with other sports, they celebrate the history of it a little more.
Don Frye: Right now they're at a different level of athleticism with the sport. They might not want to go back to them caveman days.
Jonathan Snowden: Stepping into the broadcast booth with another legend...what kind of work goes in to calling these fights as a broadcaster?
Don Frye: You have to try and stay fresh the whole time. Bas has a lot more experience than me. It will be up to me to stay on top of it and not have to play catch up.
Jonathan Snowden: You had the final fight of your career with these guys. Tell me a bit about Shark Fights? The group is based out of Texas - how did a show this size come about?
Don Frye: You got Brent Medley and a couple of other old boys got together. I don't think they expected it to get this big this fast. They built the Shark Fight name and then it just exploded. Now, heck, they're the number three company in the U.S. They're the only ones putting on pay per view besides the UFC. You've got to give them that number three props.
Jonathan Snowden: Not only that, but this is actually a really good fight card, top to bottom.
Don Frye: This is an outstanding card up and down like you say. All these boys, they show up to fight. They're all good. They might have lost somewhere else, but they didn't lose like a sissy. They went out on their shield. Now we just have to revive them. They got their second wind and they're coming back to fight.
Jonathan Snowden: I'm looking forward to it. But I worry a little about you and Bas for a couple of hours together. The mayhem that might ensue could put the fights to shame.
Don Frye: We don't want to offend each other and end up in a fist fight ourselves you know?
Jonathan Snowden: Don, that could be the best fight of the night. Make sure they turn the camera around on you if that happens.
Don Frye: (Laughs). That's right. I'll just grab a chair and hit him in the head with it man. He's too damn flexible for me.
Shark Fights 13 goes down at the Amarillo Civic Center Coliseum in Texas with Keith Jardine vs. Trevor Prangley in the main event. The PPV broadcast costs $29.95.