Dan “The Beast” Severn is a member of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s Hall of Fame and as UFC 100 approaches this weekend, he can offer a unique perspective on how the UFC has changed over the years.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com recently had the opportunity to catch up with “The Beast” in the days leading up the landmark UFC event this Saturday evening to gather the legend’s thoughts on MMA past and present.
“I remember the first time I ever saw the UFC,” said the 55-year-old Severn, who is still actively competing in MMA. “I thought, ‘Wow, you can do this in the U.S.?’. I knew it had what it took to captivate the audience, but I wasn’t sure whether it would be able to survive politically. I didn’t know whether it would make it to UFC 100 because of all of the politics and the lack of rules, but I knew entertainment-wise it was right on the mark.
“I’m a big believer that athletes are intelligent enough that if you give them a certain set of rules, they’re going to use them to their advantage. Putting rules in place helped make the sport better and made the competitors more well-rounded.”
Along with more well-rounded athletes and rules changes, Severn said the explosion of the Internet has helped the UFC, and mixed martial arts in general, to become more and more popular.
“The sport is much more accepted and in the mainstream now,” said Severn. “Before, you had to be internet savvy and there wasn’t as much marketing. The original owners of the UFC promoted the violent aspect of the sport, like pro wrestling, as I think that came back to haunt them. A lot of education had to take place and there are still a lot of politicians in positions of power who don’t know a lot about the sport of MMA.”
Even though Severn already is a member of the UFC’s Hall of Fame, he said the UFC should do more to recognize the people that put the UFC on the map.
“It’s hard to have a Hall of Fame and not have politics, but there are some things the UFC can do,” said Severn. “I’m not saying he should be in the Hall of Fame, but the UFC should honor somebody like Keith Hackney. It wouldn’t have to be a big deal. They could just bring him out, show some of his highlights while he was walking to the cage, and let people see what he did. Marco Ruas is another guy.
“The UFC should just do different little things to show appreciation to those who laid the foundation for today’s guys. It would be good if they’d do that for more of those guys who fought in the earlier events.”
Severn first fought in the UFC at UFC 4 back in 1994, when he choked out Anthony Macias and Marcus Bossett before losing to Royce Gracie in his third fight of the evening. He later won a tournament title at UFC 5 in April 1995 and was the champion of the Ultimate Ultimate 1995 tournament as well.
He fought 10 times in the Octagon with a record of 6-4, owning wins over Ken Shamrock, Oleg Taktarov and Tank Abbott along the way. His final appearance for the UFC came at UFC 27 in September 2000, when he lost to Pedro Rizzo via strikes.
Severn was inducted into the UFC’s Hall of Fame at UFC 52 in April 2005, but he’s stayed busy since then, fighting 26 times in the last four-plus years. His career record stands at 88-16-4 and even though he’s more than 50 years old, he’s won 11 of his last 13 fights. Of those 88 wins, an impressive 53 have come by submission.
Severn’s last fight was a unanimous decision victory over Steve Eakins at a Gladiator Challenge event in May and he’s scheduled to be back in action July 25 at a King of the Cage event in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. However, he is realistic about his place in the current MMA world.
“The reality is that I’m not the same wardog that I was,” said Severn. “I do my research when I’m offered an opponent and I prepare the best I can. Am I going against the cream of the crop? No, but is there anybody who faces the opposition I do at my age? No, there’s not.”
Among the names on Severn’s list of people he’d like to fight before he retires is Mark Coleman, Royce Gracie and Shamrock.
“I know I’m not going to fight much longer, but there are still some fights that I’d like to make happen,“ said Severn. “I want to have no regrets when I get done fighting. I went to Afghanistan with Mark last December and we talked a lot on that trip. He’d like to do the fight, but he’s under contract to the UFC, so that’s not possible right now. I’d also like to face (Gracie) and (Shamrock). I feel like there’s some unfinished business with them as well.”
The idea of Severn facing Shamrock or Gracie might make some purist fans cringe, but the concept of an MMA Masters division for competitors over 40 is something that has been talked about before. Severn said he foresees a Masters division becoming a reality sooner rather than later.
“I do think there’s going to be a Masters division,” said Severn. “There’s a lot of guys retiring that still have that itch to compete and seeing them against each other is better than seeing a 40-something guy against a 20-year-old guy.”
Along with fighting, Severn – a former World Wrestling Entertainment star who still does pro wrestling occasionally – also runs the Michigan Sports Camp in Coldwater, Mich. The gym is unique in that it offers classes for not just mixed martial arts, but amateur and pro wrestling, muay thai, ju-jitsu and pro boxing as well.
“People can come and train whatever we have teachers for,” Severn said. “There are five gyms in this area, but they don’t affect us because they all cater to a different clientele than we do.
“I’m on the mats five or six days a week doing different things. When I started the gym in 1995, I had about 30 guys who came in and wanted to do no holds barred fighting. They were all gone by the end of the second month because they couldn’t keep up with me. People will ask me if a certain person is training with me and I tell them that there’s a difference between taking a class from me and training with me. If I train you, I’m going to break you mentally and physically so I know what you can do.”
The Michigan Sports Camp currently has between 25 and 35 amateur and pro MMA fighters training under Severn currently. One notable alumnus of the camp is former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans, who had some amateur and early pro fights under Severn’s banner.
“I run classes at the camp, but I also participate in the classes, too,” said Severn. “I don’t train very much to get ready for a fight because I’m always on the mat in one way or another. If people knew how little I trained for as many fights as I’ve had, they’d be shocked.
“I’ve been fighting since 1994 and I’ve had two training camps, one for 32 days and one for 35 days. Other than that, I just teach. Anybody else that can do that, have as much success as I’ve had and be chemical-free, can’t be found.”
For more information on Severn, check out his Web site at www.dansevern.com.