UFC 6: The fighter redux

A quick rummage through the basement of MMA history to look back on the fighters of UFC 6.

Last time out, I took a good look at the abominable UFC 5 and the fighters therein. It was an event that saw Asbel Cancio come and go, a guest appearance from John Dowdy, the introduction of Oleg Taktarov, and reappearances from Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, and Dan Severn. Fun on paper, bad in real life.

UFC 6, though, is all kinds of fun, both on paper and off. We get to see two of my favorite early fighters, Tank Abbott and Paul Varelans make their first UFC appearances, as well as the return of Dave Beneteau, Anthony Macias, and a real superfight between Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn. But enough with the preamble, let's get to the fighters:

Joel Sutton - Sutton was a black belt under Dean Economos in his system of 8 step Praying Mantis Kung Fu out of Buffalo, NY. A fellow student claimed the Economos taught him Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as well, but that seems less than likely considering Sutton's career and the scramble by many martial arts schools to pick up and "teach" BJJ at the time.

He competed in the UFC twice, winning both times, but his second bout, won by a cut opened via headbutts and gouging, saw an end to his invitations back to the promotion. He went on to compete in several Vale Tudo events in Brazil, but never found the success of his UFC fights. As an interesting side note, he competed in Pancrase Alive 5 in May of 1997, an invitation he got after he and his gym, Kung Fu USA, played host to Pancrase vet and future champion Yoshiki Takahashi.

Jack McGlaughlin - An Aikido black belt trained under Soke Kevin "Huunjin" Cullen out of U.S.A. Aikido, he had a shortlived MMA career between 1995 and 1996. McGlaughlin fought almost exclusively for notable promotions, going 1-4 while competing in the UFC, IFC, and Pancrase.

After the end of his fighting career he ran martial arts classes at his local YMCA in Piqua, Ohio where he helped steer young martial artists towards an MMA career.

Anthony Macias - One of the major black marks on Anthony Macias' career is the belief that he took part in one of the UFC's few fixed fights. It was against Oleg Taktarov at UFC 6. Macias came in with Andy Anderson, whom Bruce Beck explained was helping with his ground game (I can't imagine how). Macias and Anderson were both based out of Texas, as notably were Guy Mezger and Oleg Taktarov at the time. I say this is notable because, in fact, Taktarov and Macias had the same manager, and that manager (Buddy Albin) was in Taktarov's corner. Macias dove in at the start of the fight, and was submitted by a guillotine chock in 9 seconds. It was a poor performance for any fighter, especially one whose expertise, Muay Thai, didn't involve takedowns. Macias didn't just look unhappy after his loss, he looked ashamed to be there, and for as inexperienced as the commentary team at the time was, even they had an idea that the fix was on.

John McCarthy talked about it in his book Let's Get it on!:

"During the semifinal match between Oleg Taktarov and Anthony Macias, I believe I saw my first fixed fight in the UFC. Both fighters had the same manager, Buddy Albin, so I think it was decided backstage that Macias would throw the match so Oleg could advance to the finals and face Tank [Abbott] as fresh as possible. The fight went a little too smoothly for my tastes when Macias shot in and nearly fell into the guillotine choke, which he tapped out to in twelve seconds." (from page 194)

Interesting to note here as well, Macias told Jeff Blatnik, pre-fight, that if he didn't beat Taktarov that "he's history, his career is over." Macias would go on to fight 39 more times before retiring only two years ago.

Due to technical difficulties the intended video can't be shown. Check out this one instead which I unfortunately can't embed.

He-Man Ali Gipson - Gipson can rightly be called a jack of all trades, master of none. As a pro MMA fighter, he compiled a record of 1-2, leaving the sport after UFC 6 only to return 13 years later. He also had a pro boxing record of 2-2 (1 NC) and claims status as a K-1 kickboxer, lifetime wrestler, and long-time Jiu Jitsu practitioner, although I can't find any evidence of the latter combat careers.

He trained often with MMA filmmaker Bobby Razak, and was not only the subject of one of Razak's pieces, but was supposed to be one of the principal subjects of his fighter reality series Underground Kings highlighting the struggles of MMA fighters.

David Abbott - Forever known as "Tank" Abbott, David Abbott was probably MMA's first real wrestle boxer, not that he was especially proficient in either of them, but he was just skilled enough in both to compete. The fact that he knew how to mix between the two early in his career made him a surprising success and his attitude made him a fan favorite. He was a National Junior All American at the University of California in Long Beach, which Mike Riordan points out, means little as California JuCos do not wrestle at the national level, only state. UFC commentators claimed he was a college grad, which seems surprising, but he actually had a degree in history.

Billed initially as D.L. Abbott, he claims that he got the nickname Tank from UFC producers, based on the character Tank Murdock from Every Which Way But Loose. His discipline of "Pit Fighting" was also a last minute tag because UFC promoters felt uncomfortable introducing him as a street fighter.

Other than an infamous loss to Scott Ferrozo, which the two would later revisit on their own terms, Abbott only lost to the best during his heyday. He didn't actually beat many top fighters at the time, but fought Oleg Taktarov, Dan Severn, Don Frye, Vitor Belfort, Maurice Smith, and Pedro Rizzo, in an era when they were all names to be reckoned with. He retired for 5 years following his loss to Rizzo at UFC Brazil, but made an ill advised comeback in 2003 registering 2 wins over his next 9 fights. He retired again in 2009, but fought Ruben Villareal at KOTC: Fighting Legends just this year.

Whatever his wins, losses, or appearances around the MMA world have been, Abbott has consistently been one of the most colorful athletes to ever make his name in the sport. He was a UFC staple for years, so I'll cover many of his numerous, glorious and inglorious stories further on. Suffice to say for now, he was one of the most remarkable figures in MMA's early history.

John Matua - One of the biggest fighters to ever compete in the UFC (hard to believe at only 6'2), John Matua entered the octagon a black belt in the Hawaiian martial art of bone breaking, Kapu Ku'ialua. In the strange interconnected world of martial arts he is actually a distant cousin of the famous Sumo wrestler Akebono, who was mentored by UFC 1 competitor Teila Tuli.

Matua also has the distinction of a secondary brush with MMA history as his manager for UFC 6 Greg Patschull, was one of the claimed creators of the octagon. Patschull was a pro-wrestling promoter, known also as Kazja, who put on an event in 1993 called "Cage of Rage" which used an eight-sided cage design. Billed as no-rules fighting, Art Davie and Royce Gracie attended the event, but supposedly left once they realized it was all worked. Neither of them would ever admit recalling the cage design.

Outside of the ring, Matua was the bouncer at a club called Cowboy Boogie in Anaheim, California. He claimed to have entered the UFC to raise funds for his brother who had been shot and paralyzed trying to stop an attempted rape. Rumor has it that he's still a bouncer in Orange County, California.

Paul Varelans - Varelans was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, and was a successful high school wrestler before making his way to California and San Jose State University to play football. He left the University in 1991, and only a few years later would make his first MMA appearance at UFC 6. His Martial Arts background was listed as "trap fighting." Described as the art of baiting your opponent and then trapping them, it could more reliably be explained as the art of clinch fighting. While I don't doubt that Varelans had some level of martial arts training (beyond his wrestling career) trap fighting sounds like something the UFC made up to give him more legitimacy. It was something they did often as their events slowly skewed towards muscled brawlers and away from black belts.

Cal Worsham makes brief mention of the suspect nature of Varelan's skills in Erich Krauss' book Brawl:

While Tank made his way backstage after his first fight, corrections officer and Tae Kwon Do practitioner Cal Worsham was on deck to take on Paul "the Polar Bear" Varelans, a street fighter claiming proficiency in the unknown style of "trap fighting." "I'm standing in the tunnel," remembers Worsham, "getting ready to go out because I'm the second fight. Tank and Matua start, I look up, and I watch tank beat this guy into a seizure in eighteen seconds. Then I look behind me, and just a few yards away is Paul, standing there staring at my crew. I began thinking, 'What did I get into?' And then big old Tank walks by me and says, 'Kick that big pussy's ass!' I said, 'Sure thing, Mr. Tank, anything for you.'"

After his fighting career ended Varelans took a job as a bouncer in the Kit Kat Club, a strip club in Sunnyvale, California. After the club closed several years ago, he returned to Fairbanks, Alaska, where he is rumored to be working as an MMA official among other odd jobs.

Cal Worsham - Worsham was an ex-marine and already a back belt instructor at Jack Corrie's Fulsom Tae Kwon Do when he entered the UFC. He was also the no. 1 ranked black belt by the International Tae Kwon Do Council. Despite his martial arts success it was a good thing he had his military training to fall back on. His Tae Kwon Do accolades were almost entirely in point fighting competitions, a notoriously poor transitive skill set for MMA. And although fighters weren't known for their careful preperation at the time he entered UFC 6 at a disadvantage on only nine days notice after another competitor dropped out.

Along with his fighting career, which lasted 22 fights, the last of them in 2012, Worsham was also a corrections officer (a position he was applying for as of his MMA debut) and has spent time in various behind the scenes roles in MMA. Most recently, he was the striking coach for Art Davies XARM, combat arm wrestling promotion and worked as a co-promoter and matchmaker for Gladiator Challenge.

Worsham also has the rare distinction of being one of, if not the only fighter to fight professionally in the same event as his son, Hunter Worsham, at Gladiator Challenge 67, back in 2007.

Pat Smith - As we are introducing Tank Abbott, and I've already talked about Pat Smith several times, I'd like to take this opportunity to talk about both of them and one of their earliest and most infamous encounters. Although the reasons behind it were unclear, apparently Abbot went on the record to say that Art Davie prodded Pat Smith into throwing a few kicks in the direction of Tank's father backstage at UFC 6. Reportedly future UFC competitor, and friend of Abbott, Paul Herrera stepped in to try and difuse the situation, and got hit for his trouble. The scuffle would end, for the moment, without any further altercation, but it set off a series of unfortunate events.

Later that night, Herrera and fellow wrestling buddy (and also future UFC fighter) Eddie Ruiz apparently decided to go out drinking and/or looking for trouble. It's said that they ended up getting into a scuffle with Smith and his friends after trying to pick up Smith's sister while out at a bar. Tank, for his part, was supposedly passed out after a long night of fighting; Abbot made it all the way to the finals at UFC 6. The next morning, Herrera, Ruiz, and Abbott all went looking for Smith and his compatriots, and most unfortunately for Smith, found him alone in an elevator where they proceeded to beat him unconscious until future UFC champ Maurice Smith stopped them and Art Davie took Pat to the hospital.

Some claim that Tank hit Pat first; others claim that it was only Herrera who did any actual fighting. Whatever the truth, here's what Tank had to say about it:

Sherdog.com: Ok, rumor number two. Patrick Smith in an elevator in Denver or Wyoming. There are ten million different rumors. Was it you, or was it Paul Herrera.?

Tank Abbott: Paul Herrera.

Sherdog.com: Paul did it?

Tank Abbott: Yeah, Pat Smith had his hands up and wanted to fight. Paul nailed him with a perfect, straight right. Pat fell to his back. Paul mounted him and started delivering the spanking he deserved.

Sherdog.com: Have you always had a thing with Smith? It seems like you always want to fight him.

Tank Abbott: No, when I fought in UFC 6, Pat Smith and everyone else was trying to get me off of my game, because they are stupid. They thought they were real fighters. They found out that when a real fighter gets in there that they get scared. (via Sherdog)

Rudyard Moncayo - Rudyard Moncayo is a Kempo Karate black belt from Guayaquil, Ecuador. He was billed as a Todo Dare champion with a 78-0 record in full contact Karate. He also supposedly had a Judo black belt and a purple belt in BJJ (which he started training in at age 15). Really, he was a muscle bound product of Todd Medina's fight gym in Long Beach, California, and a California Interscholastic Wrestling Champion.

He had three MMA appearances between 1995 and '96 losing all of them. However, shortly before his MMA career, and in the years since retiring he has been a stuntman working in Hollywood. He got his start in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers TV show, and most recently appeared in the Fast Five and Tekken. He's also appeared in Live Free or Die Hard, The Fast and the Furious, Godzilla, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Also, unless I'm reading this incorrectly he's also has a hypnotherapy license.

Oleg Taktarov - As one of the early UFC super camps, it should come as no surprise that Oleg Taktarov ended up in the Lion's Den. What's interesting, though, is just how he was involved, and the fights it spawned. Taktarov was training with Guy Mezger in Mezger's own facilities when he met Ken. Ken was looking for a training partner for his upcoming match with Royce Gracie, and Oleg was one of the sport's premiere grapplers at the time. Taktarov spent two months training at the Lion's den, which to his own recollection included full-contact sparring without any protective gear including mouthpieces. They would start the day weight training and running before spending the afternoon sparring. Taktarov would work with eight fighters in sequence and says he always saved Frank Shamrock for last because he was the toughest fight.

While he would eventually leave the Lion's Den, it precipitated a deeper understanding of the sport for Taktarov. Most specifically, he learned that he had trouble competing with fighters abusing steroids.

It was hard to grapple with Ken Shamrock because he used steroids. It was especially noticeable when he couldn't make it through 12 minutes on a practice, but before the fight with me he became much stronger and at the bout made it for 30 minutes. At that time, I realized that I can't compete with guys on steroids. Over all steroids are dangerous because of slump after the end of the cycle. Coleman was on the slump when was KO'd by Pat Williams. I had the similar story with Gary Goodridge. I fought him when he was pumped by steroids and after that, he was losing to everyone. You can fight these guys, but should have a good cardio and patience. Every fighter on steroids had a short winning stream for about a season or two. But they couldn't keep up with this pace. Kevin Randleman or Vitor Belford for example, who got under influence of Mr. Olympia at that time, used all you can imagine, and as a result he lost it after a series of great performances. Vitor had a great chance to build a solid grappling foundation by training with Carlson Gracie and other BJJ specialists, he had great training partners. If he worked for couple more years without steroids, he could utilize these skills for the rest of his life. It was very hard for him to recover both mentally and physically. Great example of the athlete who never used steroids is Nogeira. Both Rickson and Royce Gracie as well. Note that all of them are long-livers athletes. (via ValeTudo.ru)

Dave Beneteau - As a currently practicing lawyer, and former union rep, Beneteau's post MMA career has been marked by his criticism of the UFC. While he hasn't gotten many opportunities to give interviews, his criticism of the UFC (and most particularly Dana White) has been loud and clear when he's gotten the opportunity. He did a notorious interview on the Canadian program Off the Record, where he appeared with Matt Serra when Serra was UFC champion. Here's some of what Beneteau had to say:

I think it is mass media. The reality series, I mean how much more mass media can you get. I think it being illegal is irrelevant. I think it's going as far as it's gonna go, and I'll tell you why. I think it's going as far as it's gonna go because you can't get any further when you got the same kinda guys doing the same talk... The tattoos, the hat's on sideways, the "yo, bro." It's trash.

...

Boxing still has class that MMA doesn't have. They have the class.

...

Generally speaking boxing athletes have much more class than your general MMA fighter.

...

My experience, in having been trained by emanuel stuart and being a student of boxing growing up, I still look to some of the boxing legends being role models. And granted there's a few in fighting. There's Randy Couture, the old school guys that are still around. They're great athletes, they're great fighters, they're champions, they're role models, but everything underneath that, trash. Right down to Dana White...

The guy who's putting it all on, who puts himself on the show. And every other word they're bleeping out because it's f-this, f-that. That's trash. You wan't that main stream?

...

Let me tell you something, as a guy who sits back and listens to it all and has seen a lot of trainers. The guy talks trash. He's in there, he's taken on the persona of these guys. And you know what, it's f-this, f-that, it's horrible. And he want's to put that main stream. One, I already think it is mainstream. But two, I think that's as far as it's going because of guys like Dana White.

Ken Shamrock - Ken Shamrock's childhood was not an easy time in his life. As Ken Wayne Kilpatrick (later Ken Wayne Nance), he was one of several brothers and sisters born into a broken home. His father deserted the family shortly after his birth, and his mother was often gone, working as a professional dancer to pay the bills. Ken, for his part, was in and out of trouble. A bully at school, he used his size and strength to rob his fellow students. By way of punishment, his stepfather beat him routinely, and eventually, at the age of 13, threw him out of the house altogether.

He didn't last in state care either. His unchecked aggression continued and after two years his parole officer drive the then 15 year old Ken to the Shamrock Boy's Home. It was founded by Bob Shamrock, specifically to house troubled teens, usually eight at a time, and was built on a structure of discipline and reward. If you didn't step out of line you could have friends over, go to movies, or maybe even box in the front yard. Bob talked about how he got started fostering kids:

"It started out with one foster kid in August. And then they wanted me to come down at Christmas to the Riverside County Court to interview another kid. So I came home on Christmas Eve with three more boys. We had only planned having one kid, but we ended up having Christmas for four kids. That's how it got started and it grew from there. It grew to where we had 18 boys at a time. It was great and I miss those days." (via Mike Wickert/knucklepit.com)

And of course it wasn't just about working and reward, but about building goals as well. For Ken, his goal was that he liked to fight. He'd played football and wrestled in high school, but he'd also won a few "tough man" competitions and was no stranger to trouble. Given that his boxing background was limited, Bob steered Ken toward one of his own childhood passions, professional wrestling.

"He was real comfortable about who you were," Ken recalled in 2008. "And the things you did, didn’t matter to him. He just wanted to know who you wanted to be, and where you wanted to go, not what you did in the past." (via Jake Rossen/Sherdog.com)

Bob talked about his intention of giving the boys he fostered goals, as well:

"What we were trying to do was get the kids interested in sports. Now if any of them weren't interested in sport - we had a couple who were interested in art, so we sent them up to the local community college to take art lessons. And we had a couple of guys who liked music, so we'd buy them a guitar and they'd have lessons. We had a grand piano in the house because my wife and I both played the piano and sang. We took them to see different groups like Deep Purple and Cinderella. We tried to get them all interested in outside activities, and the biggest one was sports.

"That's what we did with Ken because he came to me as a fighter. We got him involved in football and wrestling. And if the kids made the team for their class, we'd get them gym membership in town. We did lots of activities to try keeping the kids busy and to provide outlets. That's the problem with a lot of kids these days: They don't have the outlets to get their energy out and their aggression down." (via knucklepit.com)

Dan Severn - It's hard to talk just a little about Dan Severn. I know at some point people more skilled than I am are going to go over his amateur credentials in great detail, and I don't want to appear as out of place talking about wrestling as I am. So, instead I thought I would take the opportunity to talk a bit about his high school credentials, as that's where it all started. Severn was a two time state champion at Bronson High School in Coldwater, Michigan and in 1976, his senior year, he was a national champion in freestyle and Greco-Roman. He was awarded the title of Outstanding High School Wrestler and ranked in the top six wrestlers in the nation.

He talked about his entry into the sport, and what drove him to excel:

I think just like any other kid when you're growing up, you try all these various types of sports. I was a baseball player, a basketball player, football player, track and field. I did three sports through high school, between football in the fall, wrestling in the winter, and track and field. Just like any other person, I was trying all different sports. I really kind of took to wrestling starting in about that junior high range. I was first exposed to wrestling in my seventh grade year. From there, I guess, it just kind of snowballed. I got my very first amateur wrestling magazine in my ninth grade year and it really opened my eyes because this magazine had all these various articles about the aspects of wrestling. It talked about the weightlifting program. It talked about the psychological aspects. It talked about goals and things of this nature. It just really opened my eyes that there was so much more to a sport than what I was aware of at the time. And I set my very first goal to become the first freshman at my high school to make the varsity team. And from there it just kind of snowballed from the next thing to the next thing. I’ve lived a life of basically setting goals. (via Jack Brown/MMA Underground)

He also spoke about the early role he took as not just a competitor but an instructor. It's a role he's maintained his whole life, both as an assistant coach at the collegiate level, and with his yearly wrestling camps.

I’ve been teaching amateur wrestling since 1972, so this is more of an extension for me. I’ve been involved with the sport of amateur wrestling since 1969 and started travelling and competing since 1972. I started teaching as a high school freshman teaching my peers. I had a wonderful wrestling coach, but he stood about 5-foot-2, weighed 350 pounds. So he was really restricted physically. He couldn’t go out and show you technique because he was built like a butterball, and I mean that in a very endearing way. I don’t mean to be mean. He recognized talent in the room. If he had the best double, he talked to the best double. If he had the best fireman’s carry, he talked to him. He said, ‘Severn you went to camp, what did you learn?’ and I said, ‘Coach, I learned cradles’ so he told me to teach cradles. … In the beginning I sucked at my teaching, but every kid will ask why. Why did my hand go here? When I could answer that question, my technique soared and my career soared." (via Cory Butzin/mlive.com)

As you can see, UFC 6 was an event steeped in interesting characters. It was one of the most exciting and spectacular of the early UFC events. The UFC was building a cast of returning fighters and they, in kind were becoming intertwined. Often training, feuding, and occasionally fighting together, outside the confines of the octagon. Next up, UFC 7: Superfight. What is it good for?, where I'll get to talk about Marco Ruas, Scott Bessac, and Mark Hall.

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