Truly one of the most amazing legends to pioneer the great sport of mixed martial arts, Don Frye is as unique as he is bad ass. Never one to pull a punch and always shooting from the hip he may be one of the most unpredictable icons the sport has ever known.
That goes both in and out of the cage and he wouldn't have it any other way.
Always a true patriot and proud American Frye was kind enough to take some time away from unloading four tons of alfalfa on his ranch to talk to Hurtsbad.com about the fight game and more importantly the Veteran’s Day holiday.
The staff at Hurtsbad knew Don was the man for the job of addressing our nation’s veterans after hearing his tribute to the armed forces during a recent Shark Fights events on September 11th.
This is what he said during the tribute. “Liberty and freedom is not free, nor cheap, nor easy. It is paid for by the blood sweat and tears of young men and women. What we owe our armed forces can never be repaid. All we can offer is a simple thank you.”
When asked to follow that statement up Frye shared this perspective with Hurtsbad.
“If it wasn't for the men and women in uniform we would all be speaking Chinese or Russian right now. You can’t say enough to thank them, everyone who died for it or is walking around crippled for it. You're just speechless because there is nothing you can say to give back to them that equals what they have sacrificed for us.”
Well said by a man who is by far and away one of the greatest patriots you could ever meet. Not only a great patriot but an amazing athlete with a history in the fight game that is unrivaled in many ways Don shared his take reflecting back at his days competing in the Pride Fighting Championships.
He and the staff at Hurtsbad agreed that something has been missing since that organization was dissolved.
“They were always great, they treated all the fighters first class. I enjoyed fighting over there a lot better, I think the rules are better. No elbows, because when you have the elbows it’s easy for a guy to get somebody down and hit them with an elbow and cause a cut.”
“A lot of these people that's their game plan. They want to finish a fight, not on technique or ability, but on a fluke like a cut. That's real simple to end a fight that way.”
Frye went on to add, “Also the yellow cards, those yellow cards are brilliant because there is no stalling. You watch and listen to the fans here in the U.S., they're pretty god damn impatient. They have every right to be when they are paying their hard earned money.”
“They expect these guys to get in there and tear it up. Sometimes you get these guys in there who are worried about their hair and being on T.V., they're not interested in fighting. They're not in there to win, they’re in there to not lose. There is a hell of a difference.”
Those are definitely strong arguments within the sport today. There truly are different breeds of fighter. Sadly there are far more of the lay and pray variety rising as the Wanderlei Silvas of the game are a dying breed.
Speaking of legendary warriors of the game, Don is without a doubt one of the true fore fathers of the UFC. In his UFC career Frye went 10-1 winning three titles. In comparison Mark Coleman a UFC Hall of Famer went 6-3 in his early UFC career also earning three titles. Coleman is 7-5 overall for the UFC.
Many fight fans and analysts alike are flabbergasted if not outright appalled that Frye’s name has not graced a UFC Hall of Fame trophy. Comparing his career to Coleman one has to imagine the logic is rooted in “the new math”. While both are impressive in their own respect, it’s truly a shame that politics have prevented Frye’s UFC legacy to be overshadowed.
When asked to share his take Don was surprisingly humble. “You know, I don't really give that any consideration. That's none of my business and it’s not my decision. It’s in greater hands than mine lets just put it that way.”
While he will not share his deepest thoughts on his candidacy for the UFC HOF, one subject Don didn't shy away from at all was his take on the UFC heavyweight division. While the staff at Hurtsbad don't share his views it was quite a journey listening to his perspective on some of of the division’s top stars.
Don started with one of the icons of today’s world of MMA. “We have all had to watch Brock Lesnar fart around. That guy is an embarrassment.”
He was clear to say he thinks Lesnar has been brought along with kid gloves. “God damn, you get to hand pick his opponents for him for awhile then someone who is half way decent athlete comes along and hits him once and he pisses his pants and runs. If he wasn't in a cage he would still be running.”
Frye was of course referring to UFC HW Champ Cain Velasquez as that “half way decent athlete”. But make no mistake even though they both hailed from the ASU wrestling program Don is not a fan of the champ.
“I’d never seen him fight until he fought that jackass Brock. He doesn't impress me, you could have sent a cheerleader in there to slap Brock around he’s so afraid of getting hit.”
“The thing is now we've got a 240 pound world heavyweight champion so now we are going to have to suffer through another Randy Couture comeback tour. We don't want to suffer through it again but I’ll bet one thousand dollars Randy can whoop Cain’s ass. Randy can handle anybody that's 240 pounds.”
Frye concluded his assault on the UFC HW division by saying, “He handled Brock who was 280 at the time. The thing is Randy can’t throw a punch through a wet paper bag, that's why he didn't hurt Brock but he can out wrestle Cain all night long.”
Don held the fastest KO record for the UFC for over a decade with it standing at eight seconds. Todd Duffee recently broke the record setting it at seven seconds. When asked if he heard he had this to say.
“Good for him! How long was that thing around, about fourteen years? It’s about time somebody stepped up to the plate.”
He was sure to point out that it was not the fastest ever, recalling a four second KO at K-1 Five. “I remember when I was over there in Japan fighting on a card with Kid Yamamoto. The bell rang and he went flying across the ring and hit the guy with a flying knee and about knocked the guy out of the ring, it was beautiful.”
Yes it was!
Don may have a shot or two of venom for today’s stars but when asked if any of today’s fighters stood out to him he offered great praise for a few of the modern warriors competing here and now.
“Oh yeah, Mike Brown and Urijah Faber, those two boys get after it. Also Gilbert Melendez, that old boy shows up to fight. He gets in there and mugs somebody.”
Being credited as one of the true cross trained pioneers of the early years of MMA as a boxer, Judo player, and wrestler Frye appreciates the talents of a Faber or a Georges St. Pierre. It pleases him to see how far his early theories have come.
“I'm glad it's the evolution of the sport. Otherwise we would all be suffering through Keith Hackney vs. that big Sumo player. It';s supposed to evolve, lets face it if you compare the UFC to NASCAR I was one of the moonshine runners and I'm god damn proud of it.”
“That's the evolution of the sport, if you don't advance you get killed.”
His own evolution has been paved with the blood, sweat, and tears that can only come through true war with great challenges. While many would take credit on their own, Frye appreciates those who helped him find those wars that made his career as legendary as it was.
“I’ve been lucky, every one of my opponents have been tough. Great opponents make great fights. Nobody I fought was a coward just in there for a paycheck and looking for the door. So I’ve been very lucky to have great opponents every time.”
When asked who the toughest opponent was Frye recalled a list of intimidating fighters.
“That bastard Ken Shamrock, I'm still limping around from that. Tank Abbott knocked me around, I'm still dizzy from that. I had Amaury Bitette, I had Mark Colemen, Takayama. You just can’t pin down one fight.”
He added, “All I know is that Ken Shamrock and I both left something in the ring that night. And neither one of us have been the same since. I don't know if he will admit it but I’ll admit it.”
To become a legend usually an athlete is taken under the wing of a mentor who shapes and molds their talents and abilities, both physically and mentally. For Don that mentor was a man who commands respect, the legendary Judoka Steve Owen a seventh degree black belt.
Frye spoke with deep respect when asked about Owen’s influence on his career.
“Hell, I don't know if he influenced my career, he made my career. We all joke around, not to his face but behind his back, we all call him the evil Yoda. He knows how to break your arm and choke you out seven ways to Sunday.”
“The guy is just phenomenal, a true master. The guy knows more moves than you could ever think of. I would put him up there with the Gracies and Gene LeBell.”
This master planted the roots that grew a legend in the sport of MMA. But don't tell Don that he is a mixed martial artist. He finds the term to be a watered down version of a sport that he helped build.
Don prefers to see it another way. “A guy in Texas came up to me and told me ‘Frye you're not mixed martial arts, you're no holds barred’, and I said you're god damn right partner.”
After having the distinct honor of spending some time speaking with the legend known as “The Predator” this writer would have to agree 100%. In Japan they nicknamed him “Otoku Juku” meaning the man amongst men.
Frye is extremely proud of that handle, and anyone that knows anything about him knows he earned it. He walks it, he talks it, and right or wrong he lives it with pride. A true alpha male with a world class ability that set the tone for a world class sport to take flight and reach for the stars.