UFC 5 introduced us to the concept of the superfight in MMA, and to the idea of a fighter being more than a tournament champion. It didn't quite marry us to the idea as the first ever super fighters fought to a 36 minute draw, but it was a feeling out of the concept that martial artists could be more than black belts or tournament winners, they could be champions.
Check out my previous iterations for info on the fighters from UFC 1, 2, 3, and 4. And read on for all the details on Dan Severn, Oleg Taktarov, Larry Cureton, and the infamous Andy Anderson. There's lots to talk about, so lets get right to the fighters:
Dave Beneteau - Beneteau's Martial arts background was more tailored to an MMA career than most. A black belt in Judo, and 3-time Ontario Judo Association heavyweight champion, he coupled his traditional martial arts skills with an amateur career as a Greco Roman wrestler. He was also a training partner of Gold Medal Olympian, Mark Schultz (whom I'll talk about more in a future iteration). So all told it's of little surprise that Beneteau was able to make more of his career in MMA than many.
He would end his career at 6-5-1, and although he worked as a paramedic during his time as a fighter, he's moved on to bigger things since retiring. After leaving the sport in 2001 Beneteau became a criminal defense lawyer and now works as a corporate attorney. Recently he became a licensed MMA official in Ontario.
Asbel Cancio - When Cuban born Asbel Cancio entered the octagon it was as a Sifu of Ving Tsun Gung Fu. However, rumor has it, that he only had a few months of Wing Chun training and little, if any, preparation for a full contact competition.
His MMA career opened and closed with his loss to Dave Beneteau at UFC 5. Outside of the ring he served as a Miami Dade County corrections officer. He had some claim to fame for being on the receiving end of the fastest Canadian delivered KO in UFC history, until Joseph Sandoval took the title in 2012.
Guy Mezger - While Mezger would build an impressive career in MMA across multiple promotions, one of his most shining combat moments would come outside the cage. In December of 2011, Mezger was involved in an altercation between a man and a woman in which he stepped in only to find the man was carrying a knife. Even unarmed, Mezger proved a little too much for his assailant and gave a full account of his daring exploits.
I said, ‘Listen, the cops are called,’ and he said, ‘You called the cops?’ I was like, ‘Yeah,’ and he starts coming at me. It’s funny because he didn’t know how to fight ...
I’m like, ‘Hey buddy, settle down…calm down,’ and all this stuff. He tried to bite at me and then he tried to grab my nuts with his left hand. Then I just had enough, so I did a head-and-arm-throw. [It's] one of my better throws. We hit the concrete and it knocked him out."
"I didn’t expect him to get up. I figured [he'd do] one of two things: he’s either back off and talk shit, which I expected because he got handled pretty easy, or he’s coming. I was acting like I wasn’t really paying attention, but I was paying attention. Somehow in there he pulled a knife out, but I really didn’t see it because I really was paying attention up until then..."
"I didn’t see him pull it out," he recalled. "He came at me and I knew he was coming, so I kind of pushed him away and side-stepped. He was throwing a really kind of wild punch, which I thought was a punch — I didn’t know he had a knife in his hand — and I kind of blocked it with my left and hit him with the right and knocked him out again. When he fell down, the knife fell out of his hand and I was like, ‘Oh, shit. I got lucky. I could have got stuck.’ I didn’t even see it. When I looked at my hand I saw a little bit of blood, so I just put pressure on it. I didn’t realize how bad it was."
"I went back over to the girl and picked her up because I accidentally pushed her when I was trying to get her out of the way and the guy starts rolling over crawling towards the knife. I kicked the knife about two or three feet away and he started crawling towards it, so I had to go after him again," Mezger said with an incredulous laugh. "I swear to God, just as I punch him in the face to knock him out the third time, the cops pull up and they pull out their tasers and I’m like, ‘No good deed goes unpunished.’ I got tased for trying to help this chick out. [No], I didn’t get tased. Things got worked out. [I was] like, ‘I’m the good guy, not the bad guy.’ That was basically it." (via Cage Potato)
The attack resulted in a pretty gruesome injury. If you're brave you can check it out here.
John Dowdy - Much like Ron Van Clief, John Dowdy is one of the most decorated and most underperforming martial artists in UFC history. He started his training in 1969, learning Kook Sul Wan Hapkido while stationed in Korea in the Air Force. He would go on to collect black belts (or their equivalent) in American Jujitsu, Kempo Karate, Judo, Tae-Kwon Do, White Crane Kung Fu, White Tiger Kung Fu, Kuk Sul Won Hapkido, Hak Dari Shon Hapkido, and his own style Tiger Shark Hapkido.
Hapkido includes a number of joint locks and throwing techniques, but much like Tae-Kwon Do is mostly focused on pressure point strikes and kicking attacks. It was a transport of traditional Japanese Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu after World War 2 and adapted to include elements of traditional Korean Martial arts.
Dowdy made two appearances in MMA competition. The first at UFC 5, losing by TKO to Guy Mezger, and the second in 2007, losing to Coy Ocain by Armbar. He currently owns and operates Tiger Shark Hapkido in Burlington, North Carolina.
Jon Hess - Jon Hess was trained under Jerry Peterson in S.C.A.R.S. but would leave the system along with Lew Hicks, to co-found S.A.F.T.A. (Scientific Agressive Fighting Technologies of America). To understand S.A.F.T.A. it helps to know a little bit about S.C.A.R.S. (Special Combat Aggressive Reactionary System), the fighting system used by Navy Seals until 1998 when many of the programs were cut. S.C.A.R.S. itself is an offshoot of San Soo Kung Fu, displayed previously by Thaddeus Luster. Essentially, it's a martial art without the art, entirely focused on gouging, vital organ strikes, and general "dirty" fighting. You can check out a demo video of it here.
Hess' S.A.F.T.A. training led to very specific success in the UFC, but a broader failure. Racking up several thousand dollars in fines for eye gouging, Hess was the most heavily fined of the early UFC combatants. After winning his opening round bout he was forced out of the tournament with a broken hand. He was never asked back to the UFC. He called out Royce shortly after UFC 5, but nothing surfaced from the challenge. When an opportunity to compete again finally surfaced, he jumped at it. This would result in facing a young Vitor Belfort at SuperBrawl 2 to predictable results.
Around 2007 Hess tried to mount a career comeback. He worked as a corner man for several Team Quest fighters, while working himself into fighting shape. A series of foot and ankle injuries halted those attempts, though, and he has not made a return to competitive MMA.
Andy Anderson - Herbert P. "Andy" Anderson was another of the more infamous figures in UFC history. Anderson was something of an early mystery to avid fans. You can see him in the crowd at UFC's 2, 3, and 4. Suddenly, at UFC 5, there he is. He's in the cage, with a 5th degree black belt in Tae-Kwon Do and a record of 86-0 in bare knuckle matches. Impressive on it's own, but considering all 86 wins were by knockout, he is clearly poised to be one of the greatest MMA fighters in history...
In reality Anderson got his spot in UFC 5 by supplying the ring girls from his "Totally Nude Steak House" in Gregg County Texas. In his UFC promo pitch Anderson claimed that if he won his UFC fights he'd be donating his purse to a charity for the blind. But much like claims that Joe Son and Kimo were traveling ministers, it's a proposition made dubious by the reality that Anderson was a member of the Aryan Brotherhood and would go on to receive 30 years in prison as the leader of a meth manufacturing and distribution business.
For those wondering, his steakhouse closed it's doors shortly after his UFC appearance due to wide spread claims of moral turpitude. You can grab a peek at it's infamous sign here though.
Almost immediately after the club opened last May, citizens and parents have waged a ``war against indecency,'' picketing the establishment and videotaping customers entering and leaving.
Bruce Edge, one of the founders of Longview's Citizens Against Pornography in Texas and the Pine Tree school district vice president, said if the club indeed shuts down, it's none too soon.
``It's long overdue. ... These businesses prey on our youth and our economic development. That hurts the community,'' Edge said. (via AP News Archive)
Todd Medina - Medina was one of several Gracie training partners and students to enter the UFC in its early years. He studied under Carlson Gracie, eventually earning his black belt. His early career was notable for the number of fights he took against top competition at the time. He ended up with very little to show for his hard work, going 5-9-1 between 1995 and 2006, but found a rhythm on the regional circuit closing out his career with a 6 fight win streak.
He is currently the owner and head trainer of Todd Medina's Fight School in Costa Mesa, California, where he trains fighters in his own "freestyle" system. He also started his own MMA promotion, Strike Fighting Championships which closed its doors in 2010.
Larry Cureton - One of the more decorated kickboxers in early UFC competition, Cureton entered cage at the age of 35 with a 7th degree black belt in Go-Kai Ju Karate training under Ron Jeter. He got his nickname "Thunderfoot" from the sound his kicks made hitting the heavy bag in the basement of the Jersey City Church where he often worked out.
As a kickboxer he had a record of 28-7 and won championship titles under the WPKO, PKF, FFKA, and USKBA. He started his career in point Karate competition before moving on to boxing and kickboxing. While his success in kickboxing was reasonable, he was less than stellar as a boxer, going 2-5 between 1985 and 1998.
Alongside and following his competitive fighting career Cureton has been an active firefighter with the Jersey City Fire Department. Today, he works as a personal trainer, bodyguard and motivational speaker.
Oleg Taktarov - The first Russian MMA star, Oleg Taktarov took the UFC by storm. With experience in competitive Sambo and Judo (as well as a 3rd degree Judo black belt and master of sport status in both), Taktarov was also one of the of the few early UFC fighters to enter with prior MMA experience. He studied Sambo at a local gymnasium in Sarov, Russia, which eventually led to a military career as a combat instructor working with covert operatives and KGB agents.
After his military career, he entered into a no-rules proto-MMA tournament in Latvia in 1993, called White Dragon. He won all three of his tournament fights to become the event champion, and shortly thereafter moved to Hollywood with the goal of becoming an action movie star. He took acting classes, but breaking into film was proving a fruitless task. It wouldn't be until 1997 that he'd land his first movie role. However, he did strike up an association at the time, and it was with Guy Mezger and the Lion's Den. That friendship, and a need to pay the bills brought him back to no-rules fighting and the UFC for UFC 5.
Over the course of his career he would defeat Marco Ruas and Tank Abbott (both at the height of their careers) and take Ken Shamrock to a draw. He came out of retirement in 2007 defeating John Marsh at Bodogfight: USA vs. Russia and Mark Kerr at YAMMA Pit Fighting. His MMA career brought around the larger dreams of acting and Taktarov has become one of the most successful fighters to ever make the transition most notably as Nikolai in the 2010 movie Predators. Currently, he's working on two projects, Rockland and Kowel's Voice, set for release in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
Ernie Verdicia - Verdicia entered the UFC as a Kempo Karate black belt training under Walter Jankowski. His MMA career started and ended with his fight against Oleg Taktarov that night in 1993. But as is so often the case that was not the end of his martial arts career.
Verdicia went on to earn his BJJ black belt and won a gold medal at the Pan Ams in 1999. He is now a Krav Maga instructor at Commando Krav Maga in Florida. He has also been an active paramedic throughout his martial arts career, going as far as to be nicknamed "the Fighting Paramedic." Here's what he had to say about his move to Krav Maga and how the UFC started it:
"After competing in the Ultimate Fighting Championship V, I have really noticed the difference between competition fighting and reality. CKM has been proven to be the best reality combat system in the world."
Dan Severn - As this is my second piece on Severn I wanted to focus on his pro wrestling career. It's been something that he's wandered in and out of throughout his time in MMA, and unlike Ken Shamrock (MMA's other notable pro-wrestling crossover) something he's maintained for long stretches. He was a pro-wrestler before he ever entered the UFC, and it was at a pro-wrestling show in California that he first met Art Davie after submitting his papers to compete in the next UFC tournament.
"I was in Los Angeles, on a pro wrestling show, and wrestled Hawk (of the Road Warriors tag team, one of the biggest stars in pro wrestling of the time). Art Davie came out, interviewed me, watched me in a pro wrestling match, interviewed me again, and the first thing he said was, 'Do you realize what we do is real?’" (via MMA Fighting)
It was a position, later in life that Severn would refute. Given the chance to compare his two careers he felt that the time he spent in the squared circle was his biggest challenge.
Professional wrestling is much more difficult,"
"I’ve been hurt far worse in the professional wrestling industry than I have been in all of my cage matches."
"What makes me nervous about wrestling is that I have to put my body in someone else’s hands," he says. "If that person screws up, it’s me that gets hurt."
"I say this as a broad stroke: professional wrestling is the biggest band of derelicts, ne’er-do-wells, misfits, nitwits and socially inept individuals ever. There are exceptions. But that’s the way it was when I first got involved, and it still is to this day." (from Colin Hunter via Fighters.com)
That's not to say he is without criticisms of the wrestling industry:
"Well [laughs] realistically, WWE is number one in the world hands down. But all professional wrestling companies could benefit more…they all have a creative team, coming up with storylines and things of that nature. Sometimes I feel that these…creative members, are living in a world of fantasy for so long they soon forget where does fantasy end and reality begin.
"Right now you have Brock Lesnar, who is coming in and showing the influence of MMA, who was an amateur wrestler, was a professional 'wrassler' and was a mixed martial artist and is now going back into pro-wrestling. So there will be some new elements that he’ll be bringing into it. Personally, I prefer a stronger style, the Japanese shoot style they used to do. I prefer that as opposed to the theatrics that most professional wrestling companies show." (via prowrestling.net)
Joe Charles - When I mentioned that Joe Charles was a Judoka, I somewhat undersold his credentials. In fact, he was a student under Gene LeBell. The very same Gene LeBell that is responsible for training Ronda Rousey to her current level of dominance. Eugene Robinson touched on the connection in his book Fight: everything you ever wanted to know about ass-kicking, but were afraid you'd get your ass kicked for asking.
"What are you doing?" Vinicius called me aside. "We're just training now. Not fighting. Don't be like Joe Charles."
There was a difference, it seemed. Training is what you do when you're getting ready to fight. Fighting was what I was doing. I had learned it from Furey. And Furey had learned it from Karl Gotch, one of the old-time greats whose steady stock-in-trade was a sort of studied and serious sadism so significant that at one time they had called that style of wrestling, "ripping." And Joe Charles had learned it from Judo Gene LeBell (see "Gotch, LeBell, Gable: The Holy Troika of True Tough," in chapter 8) and it was just a different way of being done and it was a way that guaranteed that if you learned anything, you'd learned it because you were a tough sonuvabitch.
And if you didn't learn, you'd go home hurt.
Ken Shamrock - Mixed in with a pro-wrestling career, and truthfully, one of the more sordid parts of early MMA competition, was (or is if you're being fatalist) rampant steroid use. For years Ken was accused of being a steroid cheat, at one point he even failed a drug test for Norandrosterone, Noretiocholanolone and Stanozolol, but for years accusations were largely brushed aside as the chatter of bitter rivals. Even Frank was unabashed in criticizing his brother.
"My brother Ken did them his whole life. Why do you think that his mind is so fried? Why do you think he crumbles before the big fights? He's got no psyche. He let steroids give him a false sense of security and the moment that stuff is gone he's no longer superman. ... He's the only guy that I'll tell on, because he's always in trouble anyway." (via USA Today)
Finally, and shortly following his positive test in 2009 following a win at WarGods over Ross Clifton, Shamrock came clean about his history of use in an interview with Mike Straka.
MIKE STRAKA: "You know, there’s a cliché in fighting if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying."
KEN SHAMROCK: "That’s right."
MIKE STRAKA: "Let’s talk about it. Have you done steroids?"
KEN SHAMROCK: "Absolutely."
MIKE STRAKA: "Do you still do steroids?"
KEN SHAMROCK: "Nope."
MIKE STRAKA: "No?"
KEN SHAMROCK: "Nope."
MIKE STRAKA: "How easy is it to get steroids?"
KEN SHAMROCK: (laughs) "It’s like going to the grocery store. It’s that easy. It’s that simple.
"But when start trying to make things bigger and better, you’re going to get yourself hurt."
MIKE STRAKA: "What did the fans want, though? They want bigger and better."
KEN SHAMROCK: "They want homeruns, baby. They want people jacking them out of the park but then when they find out about it they want to stick their hand in the sand, ‘oh how bad, that was stupid, why’d you do that? You’re crazy. Don’t let them in the Hall of Fame!’ It’s like, let’s point the finger because if we don’t point the finger at somebody else, we have to point it at ourselves because… we knew. So, nobody wants to takes responsibility, but everybody wants to see it. And that’s the way it’s always going to be and it always will be. Someone is going to take the fall, period."
MIKE STRAKA: "You think steroids should be legal?"
KEN SHAMROCK: "Absolutely. Absolutely."
(via Fight Opinion)
Royce Gracie - One of the lesser addressed aspects of Royce Gracie as a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner are his lack of accolades in the sport. While Royce did compete in Jiu Jitsu competitions in his youth, his professional career has been largely devoid of tournament titles and grappling medals.
In the mid-90s Royce Gracie and Wallid Ismail entered into a war of words over whether Carlson Gracie's style of Jiu Jitsu was stronger than Helio's. Wallid was a star pupil of the Carlson school and had already defeated Renzo and Ralph Gracie in grappling competitions. After years of pestering, the two men met in a modified-event to settle the score once and for all. It was 1998, Royce hadn't fought in three years, but in the eye's of fans he'd never been defeated (his forfeit against Harold Howard largely forgotten). It ended up being a moment that Royce would rather leave forgotten, although he did try his hand at another grappling match in 2002 to similar results.
What Royce had to say about the fight:
"Ze Moraes probed several fighters to fight me. First it was Victor, then Amaury, Ze Mario, Murilo and Wallid. According to him, Wallid was the one who accepted a fight with no time limit. He told me he came to have lunch with all of them, but only appeared Wallid and then ended up with the job." (via brazilianjj.com)
What Wallid had to say about the fight:
"If he (Royce) thinks he is coming over to catch some sun, he is gravely mistaken for he is going to have a bad weather/time all the time." (via BJJ Heroes)