UFC 3: The fighter redux

A rundown of the competitors that took part in the UFC's third single night tournament.

If UFC 2 was the pinnacle of martial arts tournament competition, UFC 3 was a definite low point. The UFC had gotten lucky, despite largely flying by the seat of its pants in terms of production; it had managed to put on two events that came together almost entirely without incident. They would not get so lucky in their third iteration.

For those keeping track this is the fourth installment in my MMA redux series. Last time I went over the remaining UFC 2 fighters, including Fred Ettish, Alberto Cerro Leon, and Remco Pardoel, and you can check it out here. There's plenty to talk about though, so I wont waste time.

On to the fighters of UFC 3:

Keith Hackney - Hackney was a Tae Kwon Do and Kenpo Karate black belt, who also claimed to have trained in Tang Soo Do and boxed. His black belt came under Tom Saviano's White Tiger Kenpo system. His MMA career is notable for his defeats of the massive Emmanuel Yarborough (whom I'll get to later) and his groin shot induced TKO of the infamous Joe Son. While he did compete several times in MMA, he never fought outside of the UFC. And although he won his opening round fight at UFC 3, he would also be the event's first casualty, bowing out of the competition with a hand injury suffered from punching Yarborough in the head.

In 1999, he opened his own martial arts academy, Hackney’s Combat Academy in Roselle Illinois, a catchall martial arts school that is still producing MMA and Muay Thai fighters at the regional level. He also owns and operates his own heating and air conditioning business and has been involved in a number of other martial arts ventures.

Emmanuel Yarborough - There are two things that are immediately notable about Emmanuel Yarborough. The first was that he was not in actual fact a sumo wrestler. The second was that despite never competing as a professional sumo wrestler, he is one of the most notable Sumos in the world. Sumo, as a combat martial art, requires membership in a very regulated fraternity of athletes. Its society is the backbone of its athletic organization. Yarborough describes in his own words, why he never entered it:

If you're a pro sumo wrestler, that's a way of life. You're sumo 24 hours a day: you live, train, do everything at the stable. You get to go out from time to time, but you have to get permission from the Oyakata, who is the stable master.

When you become older and more established, then you're allowed to move off, but you still have to listen to the Oyakata. And they can beat you during practice, too. If you do something wrong, they'll take a stick and whup your ass with it.

Ever Consider the Pro Route?

Nah. There's a regimen when you start: You have to go through a hazing period where you're treated less than human. You've got to wash guys and get smacked around. It's tough. (quotes via Bleacher Report)

UFC 3 would be his only UFC appearance, but he would fight in MMA again, defeating Tatsuaki Nakano (via smother) and losing to Daiju Takase in his final MMA bout at Pride 3.

Apart from fighting and Sumo, Yarborough was a well decorated collegiate wrestler, achieving D2 All American status in 1983, and D1 All American in 1986. He was the 1995 Amateur Sumo Champion and holds the Guinness world record for heaviest athlete. He's even had a brief film career, appearing in the HBO drama Oz and a Motorola commercial.

Christophe Leininger - Often incorrectly listed as Christophe Leninger, Leininger is known primarily for his Judo accomplishments. He was a US national Judo Champion in 1988 and 1992, as well as a Silver Medalist at the Judo Pan Am Games in Havana, Cuba in 1992. His MMA career is somewhat inglorious and wasn't helped by making his debut against Ken Shamrock.

He retired in 2001, after a loss to Edwin Dewees, with a 3-4 record. While he never found success at the highest level as an MMA fighter, he's since gone on to earn his Jiu Jitsu black belt and become a martial arts and MMA trainer based in San Luis Obispo. He is the head instructor at San Luis Judo Jiu Jitsu.

Ken Shamrock - As I've said before, Shamrock's legacy is largely and problematically tied to his Pancrase and pro-wrestling careers. Obviously pro-wrestling is entirely worked, but many early Japanese MMA organizations used the pro-wrestling structure to carry newer fighters in matches and occasionally even run complete works. Here's what Shamrock had to say about his experience in Pancrase and its differences from the early UFC.

On worked fights:

It's hard to say. You don't always know what's going on their behind the scenes. I know you go out there and do your best to win, but a lot of times guys came in there and didn't have any experience whatsoever. You didn't want to go out there and just destroy them. You want to go out there and maybe give some encouragement to try harder next time.

...

I can't really talk about those things because of agreements and things that were set down by the organization. I can't really comment on that. I went into the UFC trying to be the best. I wanted people to recognize me as the best and I did accomplish that. Set my mind to do it and I did the same thing in Pancrase. I wanted to be the best there and I did that also.

On rule variations:

In the UFC it was closed fist, bareknuckle. And no rules. It was a huge difference from Pancrase where you could grab a rope and escape and start over again standing up. But you lost points when you did that. You lost five points and the fights over. That's a whole lot of chances to escape out of a submission hold. It was a lot more strategic and you had to be a lot more skilled in your submission game. The UFC was less skilled, but a lot more dangerous than Pancrase. (quotes via UGO interview)

Shamrock would leave MMA altogether in the mid 90s for a pro-wrestling career in America, but ended up quitting the squared circle business after only a couple years, as the schedule became too demanding. Injuries began to pile up, and the long road tours were keeping him from his family too often. He returned to MMA at Pride in 2000, largely a standup fighter as knee injuries had robbed him of much of his shooting ability. He found some limited success early in his return with wins over Alexander Otsuka and Sam Adkins, but he never recaptured the consistent winning ways that marked his early fights.

Harold Howard - Harold Howard has a special place in MMA history. In his youth he was a bouncer for the Black Hawk Motor Inn. In MMA he was known for his front flipping prowess. But outside of the cage he was an Iki Shin Do (under John Anderson), Jujutsu (under Steve Reynolds), Goju-ryu (under Yogi Israel), and Shito-ryo (under Monty Guest) black belt, as well as the 1984 Sport Jujutsu champion, and a three time Canadian heavyweight Karate champion. By the mid-80s, he was a reasonably well known Karate instructor and competitor in Canada.

His MMA career was almost entirely centered around the UFC and stretched from 1994 to 1996. Prior to UFC 3, and despite his long history in martial arts, he states that he had no full contact fighting experience. An automobile accident in 1997 left him too injured to continue competing, and turned a longtime dependency on painkillers into a full blown addiction. Post fighting he went on to teach martial arts and owned a roofing business in Niagra Falls, Ontario, Canada. However, in 2009 his life took a dramatic downhill turn.

Howard was sentenced to five years in prison following a crime spree in which he attacked family members with a hammer, attempted to break into the home of his ex-wife, and crashed his car into the Fallsview Casino. Police suspect that it was his longtime addiction to painkillers that finally pushed him over the edge. However, his family recounted an increasing paranoia that ended with his 2009 court appearance where he told prosecutors that there was a plot to end his life and that he had been injected with a strange, immobilizing liquid.

Roland Payne - While Orlando Wiet is the first true Muay Thai competitor in UFC history, Roland Payne may be the first purist Muay Thai practitioner (rather than competitive kick boxer) to ever make his way into the UFC. He is credited with a 3rd degree black belt in the discipline, although it's a discipline that largely eschews the belt structure.

While he only fought once in MMA, a loss to Harold Howard, he is now a head instructor at an MMA gym in Charlotte, North Carolina. Harold Howard had this to say about Roland Payne, although I can't find anything that backs up his claims:


"We got an idea [of Payne] just talking to the guys we mixed around [with], but as far as a full-contact career, he was the most experienced guy there," Howard said. "He had been in more full-contract venues than any of us. Before that, I’d never fought full-contact; I was a point fighter, but it was not a full-contact venue."

Royce Gracie - A little remembered sidenote in Royce Gracie's fighting exploits was an attempt to start his own MMA promotion 'Fightfest.' The inaugural event took place shortly after his K-1 Dynamite fight against Hideo Tokoro in 2005, and would feature a concert from the band Skid Row. Gracie had planned to run 8-10 shows each year with the promotion. And while it only lasted two years, it did manage to run 16 shows, but never made the jump from the regional MMA scene.

He talked about the project in an interview with MMA Fighting.

...the latest project is FIGHTFEST. Our first show is in Evansville, IN on December 9 so I am very excited about that.

We are putting together an MMA event and adding some entertainment aspect to it. We have an 80's band Skid Row that will be playing at the event for about 45min or so, just to mix it up a little bit, make it a little more entertaining and also get some good fights in. We have Butterbean on the card, we have also been talking to a lot of really good up and coming fighters as well as some seasoned fighters about doing the show. By the end of this week we should have the card done and will have it released. I am very excited about it. I want it to grow and be a show that both the fans and also the fighters like to be a part of.

...

My manager and a promoter that we are partnered up with are doing most of the day to day stuff as well as matchmaking, but I am involved in some aspects of fighter selection and get daily updates on the show.

You know the 80's music is something that no one wants to admit liking, but once then start playing everyone is into it. We want to not just entertain the younger crowed that is already into MMA, but attract some of the older audiences into the show and Skid Row was big in the 80's had some hit songs, so we are hoping that we will get some of the older crowed to come out to the event as well

We ideally want to put on between 8-10 events per year. We have also talked bout adding grappling tournaments as part of the Fightfest production. In the near future we are going to partner up with a very large Mixed Martial Arts organization and take Fightfest even further. This is a serious project that takes a lot of money and time so we are very serious about it.

Kimo Leopoldo - Kimo has a special place as an MMA fighter. He is quite rightly remembered as one of the toughest guys in the early days of the sport. But like so many early fighters who were willing to stick around past one or two fights, his actual record is less than impressive.

Kimo would eventually become a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt, but at the time of his UFC 1 appearance he was advertised as having a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. That was, in fact, a lie used as part of a sales pitch he and Joe Son devised in order to make the duo more sale-able to Art Davie. Later, Kimo would reveal that he and Joe Son only trained in martial arts for about a day before his UFC entrance, and even then spent most of the day reading Bible scriptures. He is known primarily for being one of the first UFC fighters to display strong ties to his religious faith. In his debut at UFC 3 he entered the cage carrying a large cross on his back.

Born on a military base in Germany, he was raised in Hawaii. After a failed run as a college football player that saw him become a national junior college All-American, he met fellow Christian Joe Son in Huntington Beach. The two gained an interest in MMA after watching tapes of UFC 1 and decided to enter the sport.

Over the course of his career Leopoldo fought many of the sports early stars, including Royce Gracie, Patrick Smith, Ken Shamrock, Kazushi Sakuraba, Dan Severn, Tank Abbott, and Ikuhisa Minowa. He also failed multiple tests for banned substances, and eventually, was arrested in 2009 for impersonating a police officer and being under the influence of a controlled substance.

Reports surfaced that he died from a heart attack, however he resurfaced later in 2009 to give a press conference announcing his desire to return to fighting. He has not competed professionally since 2006.

Felix Lee Mitchell - Despite having a relatively long career as an MMA journeyman, little is known about Mitchell. He was a student of the SSF Submission Academy in Clarksville, Tennessee studying under Ron Dayley. He entered the UFC with a background in Wing Chun Kung Fu and would make 2 more UFC tournament appearances. He fought semi-regularly between 1995 and 2001, compiling a record of 2-7.

Mitchell entered UFC 3 as an alternate after Keith Hackney injured his hand in the opening round. This meant facing Ken Shamrock, to whom he would lose by rear naked choke. It was this match that would cause Shamrock to aggravate a leg injury and see him exit the tournament as well.

Steve Jennum - Affectionately known as the "Ninja Cop," Jennum was the second fighter from Robert Bussey's Warrior International fight system to make his way to the UFC. He was a black belt instructor at one of the Nebraska arms of the Ninjitsu-esque academy. He entered into UFC 3 as the second alternate, replacing Ken Shamrock. Because of the lack of an "alternate bout" Jennum's tournament final match against Harold Howard was his only fight at UFC 3. Howard himself only fought once, as his semi-final opponent, Royce Gracie, forfeited due to exhaustion.

Jennum's tournament victory caused the UFC to not only re-insert alternate bouts into the schedule, but to expand the number of alternates from two to six. Jennum would make two more UFC appearances and eventually end his MMA career with a record of 2-3.

To the best of my knowledge, he is still an active officer with the Omaha police force. He was the victim of an attempted robbery in 2007 while off duty, when he was attacked by three men wielding knives and bottles. He was able to fend off his attackers and escape the scene. Upon his escape, he reported the crime and then returned to the location and led police to the assailants who were parked in a nearby vehicle.

That's it for the fighters of UFC 3, an event that looked great on paper, but was marred by internal issues. Watch out for the next installment, UFC 4: Enter the Beast.

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