What do you do when you’re a fighter running out the string? You’re off the rosters of the big promotions – and likely for good – but you know how to do one thing, and working as a greeter at Walmart holds no serious commercial appeal.
If you’re Jeff Monson or Travis Fulton, you sign on with Fight Time Promotions and fight in a beer-and-a-movie-theater bout in Pompano Beach, Fla.
The Oct. 23 event features Monson and Fulton, both mainstays in MMA and fighters who certainly approach legendary status. Not necessarily for their performances, mind you, but for their dedication to the sport and their unwillingness to let the dream die.
Of that pair, the most interesting is certainly Fulton, a guy who has 254 MMA fights to his credit. You read that right, Fulton has entered the cage, in wars from Ekaterinburg, Russia to Tokyo to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 254 times against fighters of all stripe and ability.
“The Ironman” (and has there ever been a more appropriate nickname for any fighter in history?) has faced Ricco Rodriguez (twice), Travis Wiuff, Dan Severn (twice), Vladimir Matyushenko, Jeremy Horn, Renato Sobral, Forrest Griffin, Chris Tuchscherer, Mike Whitehead, Wes Sims and Ben Rothwell. He’s spent more time on the road than a long-haul trucker. He lost his first fight (on July 26, 1996) and his most recent fight (in May of this year to Ricco Rodriguez).
Over the course of his “career,” Fulton has been branded as a racist (and he’s provided his critics with a full rack of meat to back up that assertion), told he’s a maniac, and been roundly thrashed by some of the best in game.
“We’ve all got a shot at something in life,” Fulton said last year. “At 32, it’s kind of hard for me to find a new racket, and in this sport, I have kind of established name, so I just need to go for it.”
And go for it he does. He plays softball six nights a week and raises his kids in his hometown of Cedar Falls, Iowa, and on certain nights, packs his gear and heads out of town to go toe-to-toe with any fighter lined up to take him on. In an interview a few years back, Fulton talked about his career and the perception that he is, in the common parlance, just a “tomato can,” a guy willing to take a small check to get his ass beat into buttermilk.
“The thing that sucks is that I dont get any credit for the guys that I’ve beaten,” Fulton said. “Pretty much every major victory that Ive had has been dismissed as a fluke. I beat Joe Riggs when he was 220 and ripped in 48 seconds, I beat Heath Herring… I have draws with Jeremy Horn, Dan Severn, Ikuhisa Minowa, Sanae Kikuta. I was ripped off in a win against Matt Lindland. He tapped out to an arm bar, and then said that he didn’t.”
Fulton’s list of “what if” moments doesn’t end there.
“I’ve given Rich Franklin, Forrest Griffin, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, Matt Lindland, Vladimir Matyushenko, Travis Wiuff, Ben Rothwell, and Ian Freeman tough ass, ten-minute plus fights,” he said. ”
For him, fighting is more than just a paycheck, and his love of the sport extends to those inside the cage as well.
“There was one time when I was stuck in California for about 12 hours. I called one of my buddies; he said there’s a gym down the road, owned by Vladimir Matyushenko. And I never met this guy before,” Monson told Anton Gurevich. “When I came over, he was like ‘Hey, Jeff Monson.’ He took me to his house, took me to eat. I slept on his couch for a little bit. We hang out, and then he took me to the airport. And I never met this guy before.”
Monson keeps fighting because, well, he only knows one way.
“It’s the common solidarity between the fighters, which comes from the fact that we all respect the sport. That happened to me couple of times in Brazil,” Monson said. “Pedro Rizzo did this for me, he took care of me, and I never met him before. Then I ended up fighting him later. It’s just the way it is, you can fight someone, and then training with him the other way. It’s so cool. It’s a strange phenomenon.”
And it doesn’t come any stranger than a card featuring Jeff Monson and Travis Fulton as the headline event.