Tony Reid – If you could choose one fight from your career that every MMA fan should see which one would you choose and why?
Dan Severn – “I don’t know if I could choose just one fight but I can choose one event and that would be the very first Ultimate Ultimate, back in ‘96. This was the No Holds Barred Era, as opposed to the Mixed Martial Arts Era. Mixed Martial Arts has about 30 different rules, its predecessor, No Holds Barred had 2 rules and those were: 1. Do not bite your opponent and 2. Do not stick you fingers in his eyes. End of the rules. No weight classes, no time periods, no gloves. It was an 8-man tournament, so you had to face and defeat 3 men in less than a 2 hour Pay Per View. A little bit different than what the fans see today. So with that established, with the Ultimate Ultimate they brought back a number of tournament champions and or runner-ups. They put up the largest monetary purse at the time and out of a two hour pay per view, facing three different people, I was inside of the Octagon just over one hour at mile high elevations, with the event being held in Denver. That is a story of preparation, mental and physical, as well as knowing there were only two rules you had to abide by.”
Tony Reid – How did you initially get involved in NHB/MMA?
Dan Severn – “Ironically, it’s a strange situation as how I ever got involved in the pugilistic arts whatsoever. Had everything gone the way I was anticipating I would have retired from athletics back in 1984. That was during my amateur wrestling career. I was hoping to cap off my career with an Olympic Gold Medal. That did not happen, I was an Olympic alternate and I had to sit in the stands and watch the gentleman ahead of me win the gold medal. Everybody that he faced I had pinned in less than 1 minute. So that was tough for me and that’s what catapulted me onto my next adventure in my career. I have a chapter in a book that is entitled “Hate: It can consume you and it can destroy you or it can propel you to heights you never imagined.” I took the latter of the two.”
Tony Reid – What is the most memorable moment you can recall from all of your years in the gym training?
Dan Severn – “There are a lot of funny things that have happened. All my guys know that I have a great sense of humor. I’m going to bust their balls and they can bust mine in return and we are going to have a good time while we are putting in a lot of hard work. It makes the atmosphere a lot more comfortable. When I teach a lot of my seminars, most people really don’t know me, they saw a competitor and that is all they have ever seen of me and they are scared of me. They think I’m going to wig out and start suplexing them on their head or head butting them. Well, no that was in competition and other than that, I’m good to go. I am nicknamed “The Beast”, that is going to create certain images and its not like I made up my nickname, it was bestowed upon me by legendary football player Jim Brown. He was one of the play by play commentators for the first half a dozen (UFC) events. I wear glasses for business and he said at a press conference, “You are like Clark Kent/Superman but based on your actions you are more like an animal, you’re more like a Beast”. That name has stuck ever since.”
Tony Reid – What is the one moment you remember most clearly of your time spent in the Octagon?
Dan Severn – “I faced Oleg Taktarov on two separate occasions. The first time I faced him all I heard was he was a Sambo competitor from Russia and that he was undefeated over the past decade. I had been to Russia seven or eight times so I already knew the Russian mentality and what I was going to have to do over the course of this match. At one point we were all balled up on the ground, scrambling for position, and he was trying to position himself for an armbar. This was a point in time when you could grab the cage and use it as a part of your arsenal. The way that he positioned himself he rotated around and his head was by my knee and in the position I was in he couldn’t really move in any direction and I couldn’t relinquish my position otherwise he might be successful in getting that armbar. So basically I saw where my knee was at and where his head was at and thought “I’m gonna drop a knee on his head”. I dropped the first one, I’m a 260lb man and with some gravitational force going down on his head there and nothing really happened. After the second one his head really opened up. After only a couple of knees I’m looking up at the referee, Big John McCarthy, like “Why is this match continuing?” the man is trapped, he can’t move and I could rain down with knees and punish him and split him open that much more. Over the course of that match I stopped three different times, only to be told to continue. So much blood poured from his head that his eye sockets filled with blood. He couldn’t see my knees coming in. Eventually they stopped the match. I have this standard type of demeanor that I pose for when the match is done. It wasn’t because of what other people may think, I was so mad that the match had not been stopped and I had blood all over my hands, I had blood on my head, on my face and chest. I had to yell because no one could hear me, there was so much other noise, I looked at my left hand and my right hand and I said “You people came here for blood…Well you got it!” I raised my hands up to the crowd and someone captured that photo and that has been my trademark ever since. Later that night, at that time, they always held an after fight party where you could come to a little meet and greet and things of that nature. During the course of this meet and greet, Oleg comes toward me and I’m thinking “I don’t know this guy; this could get ugly real quick.” As he approached me, I can see he has about three or four different patches of stitches…across his head, on the side of his head, on his eyebrow and even on the back of his head. As he approached me I said “Oleg, I apologize, I did not mean to hurt you.” Truly, that’s how I felt. I’m not out there to hurt anybody. He looked at me and said “It is no problem. They should not have stopped the match. I had an armbar on you and I was waiting for you to get tired.” I did not say anything to him but in my mind I was thinking “You’re waiting for me to get tired?” At one point in time he turned his head sideways to let the blood run out of the corner of his eye and the side of his nose, exposing his temple to me. It even crossed my mind right then and there “drop a knee now!” on the thinnest part of his skull. I might have broken something, I might have crushed something, I might have killed a man but that’s not what I’m about. I thought “You should get down on your hands and knees and thank God it was me you went against. Someone else might have taken that opportunity…I won’t.” I just walked away.”
Tony Reid – As far as the promotional aspect or a business model in general, what could MMA learn from Pro Wrestling?
Dan Severn – “A combination of things. If Vince McMahon and the WWE would have gone into mixed martial arts they would have done a very good job. They have such a great production tool and work with all these different venues and things of that nature. They still could do it if they brought a few people on board such as matchmakers, handlers etc. and they handle the production side of it.”
Tony Reid – Do you feel MMA has peaked or do you see more growth potential?
Dan Severn – “I see more growth potential. I think it will be on the rise for the next three to five years. The reason I say that is that there is not that Super Bowl or Wrestlemania style of event yet. When you can bring something together where it’s the UFC champion versus the Strikeforce champion versus the Bellator champion versus the King of the Cage champion…I mean when you can showcase an event like that, oh it will have arrived. But once again, we have to deal with egos.”
Tony Reid – You have called into question your “official” MMA record, stating that many of your early fights are not listed on your record. How many fights do you feel are not accurately recorded?
Dan Severn – “With the record listed they could be missing as many as 30 matches. I keep a pretty crazy record/schedule of travel and competition. Now, the promoters are pretty good about getting the results in. I’ve had to go back and have a couple of those changed. I had one loss listed that was actually a victory. I don’t sit there and look at that stuff. They are like “Do you have proof of these matches?” I said “Yeah it’s called a daily planner.” I have a crazy life and I have all the matches written down. They said “Well, can you provide that to us?” I said “Yeah one day when I have nothing better to do, which will be when I’m 80 or 90 years of age.” Right now I just don’t care enough to get the information. People will probably never realize, when you look at the list of accomplishments…You find another human being that has walked this planet or is currently walking this planet that has come even close to what I have done…It doesn’t exist. I’m not saying it to blow my own horn, I’m just stating it in a very matter of fact way. What I did as an amateur wrestler, what I did as a professional wrestler, what I’ve done in no holds barred and mixed martial arts and you look at the age at which I’m doing it at…And to include the fact that I’m lifetime chemical free. If you knew how little I trained at times and still went and got that result. I’m a freak of nature. You could walk into my gym and ask my athletes “How much does Dan train?” and they would almost giggle. They would say he teaches class and he drinks lots of coffee. I don’t say I train any of my athletes. Teaching a class and being trained are two different things. Teaching class is serving Kool Aid. Its good Kool Aid but every now and then I put in a hardcore practice and they say “Well what do you call that?” I say “That’s Jack Daniels.” That’s 100 proof, that’s the good stuff. They say they want more Jack Daniels and I tell them “No you don’t. Because if I did add more Jack Daniels you would be gone and I will still be here.” Most athletes do not understand the element of training. I include that as I watch the Ultimate Fighter Show. I don’t watch it to watch the fights; I watch it to see what they are doing training-wise. Some of the stuff is good and right on and other aspects they have missed the boat altogether. And other items, they haven’t even begun to think of. I have offered my services on three different occasions and they basically ignored or turned down my offer. But to me its three strikes, you’re out, I move on. I have plenty of other things to do. They have a lot of great fighters as coaches. Why don’t they bring back one of their UFC Hall of Famers as a coach?”
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