Tony Reid – You competed at UFC 9 as the first real, true, high level wrestler in MMA. Nobody had the resume you did entering the Octagon. Did that enter your mind or thought process at all, that you were representing the sport of wrestling itself?
Mark Schultz – “Not at all, however I knew wrestlers, even as old as I was (36) were in better condition, had the best takedowns, and with the training I received from my BJJ instructor Pedro Sauer (student of Rickson Gracie.) I knew what positions to fight for and stay out of. I knew he couldn’t take me down. Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing but immense respect for Gary Goodridge. Gary has more guts in his little finger than 99.999% of the people on earth.”
Tony Reid – Did the level of intensity and aggressiveness you naturally have and the level of violence you brought during your wrestling career make the transition into NHB/MMA easier or more natural?
Mark Schultz – “Wrestling and Ultimate Fighting back in UFC 9 were very similar. The conditioning was the same and conditioning is everything. MMA was the natural next step in my desire to be the best fighter in the world. Up until I met Rickson and Pedro I thought wrestling was the ultimate martial art. As a little kid I suffered from a sever lack of confidence. I started school a year too early. I entered UCLA as a 17 year old freshman. I was always one of the smallest kids in my class and got picked on a lot and my brother Dave who was 30 lbs bigger and 17 months older would retaliate against my enemies. After a while nobody messed with me but it didn’t help my lack of confidence. Then one day it struck me that if I could beat up everyone in the world I could live my life in peace.”
Tony Reid – You are an Olympic Gold Medalist, a multiple time world champion, multiple time NCAA National Champion, so what was it like stepping into the Octagon in comparison to stepping onto the wrestling mat at the highest levels of the sport?
Mark Schultz – “Compared to wrestling it wasn’t much different. There are two kinds of fear, the paralyzing kind (deer caught in headlights), and the motivational kind (deer running from forest fires). I had competed so much and faced fear so much. Throughout training I learned to control and use fear to my advantage and the levels of intensity were close. Actually I was more comfortable in the Octagon because I wasn’t constantly being yelled at and called for stalling. It’s the penalty points awarded for stalling that drives wrestlers into being the greatest conditioned athletes on earth. Back then, the only rules were no eye gouging, no biting, and no kicking if you chose to wear shoes which I did because I thought I needed the added traction on my shots to close the distance. I knew no one was going to die but I was willing to do anything to win. This match wasn’t just significant for wrestling but UFC 9 happened four months after John E. DuPont murdered my brother (and ruined my once chance to ‘go out a winner’.) This was monumentally important to me. The BYU administrators gave me their blessing to compete and I won and retired from competition with an MMA record of 1-0-0. The Jungle Fight on sherdog.com is a fake pro wrestling match and they need to delete that. For my accurate MMA record go to mixedmartialarts.com. They’re better than Sherdog because they’re more accurate.”
Tony Reid – In the early days of NHB/MMA many wrestlers had a difficult time accepting or training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu based somewhat on the notion of wrestlers not being comfortable working from their back after a lifetime of training to stay off your back. You seemed to accept it with open arms, training with legendary Rickson Gracie and then for years under Pedro Sauer. What made you be so open to working and learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
Mark Schultz – “I did not get into the sport of wrestling to win matches and tournaments. I got in to be able to beat up anyone in the world and was willing to do anything to do that. I admit it was difficult at first reversing all the brainwashing I’d done to myself to stay off my back. But it’s just like switching from collegiate to freestyle. When it comes time to compete in that style you just switch to that style. But I agree that was probably the hardest part for me to turn off. When I had my first jiu-jitsu experience against Rickson Gracie I had him pinned for like 20 minutes with a cradle and I kept thinking “Don’t you have any pride? Get off your back”. (Laughs). He couldn’t have cared less and just waited for my grip to finally give out and then he caught me with a triangle. Then we went another two minutes and he caught me with a rear naked BECAUSE I wasn’t getting him in any moves (which I was making up as we went) so I thought I’d let him get on top for a while and see what happens. Immediately when I let him reverse me I go belly down from instinct and he wove in the rear naked and opened my eyes to a completely new (and better martial art than wrestling). I must say however, wrestlers are better conditioned; they have way better takedowns and escapes from the turtle (and takedowns on concrete like back suplays are infinitely more disabling than takedowns on a mat). As soon as I found Jiu-Jitsu and was blessed with Pedro Sauer living in Provo, Utah of all places, I devoted myself to not just learning everything I could in jiu-jitsu but how I could combine wrestling and jiu-jitsu together with strikes.”
Tony Reid – You competed at UFC 9 after training partner Dave Beneteau was unable to compete after suffering an injury in training. How were you approached to fill in for him? What was your first thought about the idea of stepping into a cage to fight another man?
Mark Schultz – “When I broke Dave’s hand I took him to the doctor and told him if he couldn’t fight I’d be willing to take his place. Neither one of us expected that to happen however. There was a prefight interview the night before the fights and after the interview was complete Dave showed his hand to the fight doctor and the doc said “You can’t compete”. Everyone looked at me. I went over Bob Meyrowitz and asked what he thought of me taking Dave’s place. He said ‘Wow, that will be great. You’re a gold medalist. When you lose it’ll be even better’.” (Laughs)
Tony Reid – Most MMA fans will remember you as you were more than two decades ago from your wrestling career and short run in MMA. What do you do for a living now? Are you still involved in MMA in any capacity?
Mark Schultz – “I do wrestling, grappling, and MMA seminars around the nation. I also speak to companies, schools and groups about how to overcome adversity. A lot of people want to know about how my brother Dave’s death affected me. It was psychologically crippling for years. Dave was like my 2nd father, my best friend, brother, training partner, and sort of like my twin. There have been a lot of rumors going around the fraternity-like structure of the wrestling world that ‘Mark Schultz is a train wreck’. I don’t know who it’s coming from but I’ll find out. I know he’s rich, powerful, and is high up on the USA Wrestling ladder. I’ve applied to USA Wrestling for six different jobs and have been completely ignored. I’m being blackballed and can’t figure out why. After my brother’s murder, my health failed and was days away from amputation my left arm. My ex wife filed for divorce and I fought for six years to get custody of my three kids. The custody evaluator told the judge to give the kids to me or they’ll never see them until they’re 18. She was right. I was destroyed. USAW could have helped me instead of joining the ‘kick him when he’s down’ club.”
Tony Reid – I am currently rewatching every UFC event starting with UFC 1. Being a part of that history, what would you want me or any fan to take away from the early days of the sport?
Mark Schultz – “The lack of so many rules like there are today has changed the sport away from grapplers dominating to making strikers and grapplers more evenly matched.”
Tony Reid-Do you still follow the sport? What are your thoughts on the growth of MMA over the past few years? Do you have favorite fighters you enjoy watching today?
Mark Schultz – “There’s too many to name. But there is one guy I always root for…Chael Sonnen. I feel bad about him leaving BYU when I was the coach there but he joined the Dave Schultz Wrestling Club and we’ve been in contact quite a bit. He has a great heart.”
Tony Reid – What is your fondest memory of your time spent in the UFC? Conversely, what is your least favorite, or worst memory of your time spent there?
Mark Schultz – “The best memory is that winning UFC 9 let me go out the way I always wanted to go out. On top.”
Tony Reid – Can you share a behind the scenes story from your days in the sport that the average fan would never hear about?
Mark Schultz – “Prior to UFC 9 Big John McCarthy asked us to show him an open fist. I opened my hand like a karate chop. He said “show me a closed hand fist.” I make a fist. He said ‘No, This is a closed fist (makes a fist) and this is an open fist (he makes a fist and moves his thumb away from his index finger about 1/2 inch).’ Then he said a ruling was handed down the day of the fight in court prohibiting closed fist strikes. Then he said if you break the rules we’re going to charge you $50 per violation. Then he said “but as far as when we’re going to come after you to collect…it’ll just be ‘whenever’.” (Laughs)
Tony Reid – Is there anything we haven’t covered that you would like to discuss?
Mark Schultz – “My MMA record is 1-0-0. Sherdog has me losing in the fake pro wrestling Jungle Fight like it was a real competition. Sherdog needs to correct this. By the way Antonio Inoki was the promoter and as far as I know he’s the only promoter I’ve ever heard of that mixed fake matches with real ones. Some of the matches in the Jungle Fight were real. And I would never have agreed to do it had I known ahead of time, I would have never participated. There’s a big article on Sherdog that explains it. At least Sherdog let a writer publish an article from my side explaining what happened so I won’t go into it here but I was promised by Inoki if I did it he’d make me a pro wrestling star in Japan. After it was over he never brought me back to Japan.”