Dan Severn (left) and referee Herb Dean | Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com
Known as “The Beast” inside the cage, Dan Severn burst on the mixed martial arts scene as a decorated amateur wrestler and fought his way to the final of the eight-man tournament. Though he ultimately succumbed to a Royce Gracie triangle choke, the Coldwater, Mich., native still had much left to do in the sport.
Severn returned six months later and ran the table at UFC 5, defeating all three of his opponents to capture the tournament crown. A black belt in judo and jiu-jitsu, he also competed at the inaugural Pride Fighting Championships and World Extreme Cagefighting events and holds victories over the likes of Forrest Griffin, Ken Shamrock, Oleg Taktarov and David “Tank” Abbott. Severn was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2005 and, at the age of 52, still fights on a regular basis.
In this exclusive interview with Sherdog.com, Severn talks about his early days in the UFC, his desire for a rematch against Gracie and why he continues to compete.
Sherdog.com: You are one of the guys who paved the road for today’s fighters. In your early performances in the Octagon, we witnessed for the first time in an organized fight that wrestling was a devastating martial art. When you look back at your first event, UFC 4, what stands out the most in your mind?
Severn: My preparation with pro wrestling protégé Al Snow and his trainees in Lima, Ohio, [comes to mind].Â The closest thing to a cage I had was a pro wrestling ring.Â We did a week-long [camp] of training.Â I never trained a single strike or submission. I was a true world-class amateur wrestler when I first walked into the cage.
Severn: Nothing big comes to mind, but I ate a lot of elbows from Anthony Macias.Â The first belly-to-back was all right, but I was more motivated to make an impression the second time around.Â
Sherdog.com: Can you explain how you felt stepping into a cage to fight in what was essentially a no-holds-barred contest -- was your adrenaline through the roof?
Severn: Based on all of my competition before that, especially international [competition], I believe I was very well prepared mentally.Â After wrestling in the country of Turkey as a teen-ager against men twice my size who looked twice my age, nothing can be crazier.
Sherdog.com: If you could have one fight back -- avenge one loss -- which fight would you choose? I’ve heard you talk about your loss to Gracie, and it
really seemed like you wanted another crack at him.
Severn: I would like another shot at Royce,Â all in the
spirit of competition.
Sherdog.com: You’re 52. You’ve done all there is to do in this sport. You’re a tournament winner, a Superfight champion, a UFC hall of famer and you have almost 120 documented professional fights to your credit in 16 years of MMA competition. Why do you continue fighting?
Severn: Ultimately, I have unfinished business.Â I would like to have another opportunity at a few competitors from my past.Â In the meantime, I am keeping fresh by actively competing.
Sherdog.com: You certainly do stay active. If you’re not fighting, you’re traveling and putting on seminars. What is it like teaching so many people martial arts?
Severn: Teaching is my gift, and I enjoy doing it.Â It’s what I have a degree in from Arizona State University.Â I have been doing it since 1972.Â
Sherdog.com: Could you tell us a little about your law enforcement training program, “Danger Zone” -- is there anything special about your system?
Severn: Simplicity, major muscle groups,Â natural reactionary skills, as opposed to fine motor skills. [It also considers] adrenaline dump and, most importantly, the lack of preparation.
Sherdog.com: Out of the current crop of MMA talent, who do enjoy watching?
Severn: Because of my crazy schedule, it is difficult to watch certain events, but when I do, I enjoy watching [Georges St. Pierre] due to his professionalism and preparation.
Sherdog.com: You fought five times in 2010 and fought for yet another title in January. Could you explain a little about that bout?
Severn: In terms of my thinking, it was another match, another stepping stone to my end goals.
Sherdog.com: Do you have anything you would like to say to our readers?
Severn: I’ve always viewed myself as a competitor, not a fighter. Life is a competition, and you must prepare yourself both mentally and physically for success. I appreciate the support I receive from everyone on a daily basis.