By Jim Page Images: Courtesy IFL
A genuine legend in the sport of MMA, Don ‘The Predator’ Frye arrived on the scene in style way back at UFC 8 where he knocked out his woefully over-matched opponent in only 8 seconds (a record which stands to this day) before quickly smashing two more out-classed opponents to claim victory in the tournament.
Cheerfully thinking back to his first experience of regulated mixed martial arts, Don said “I always liked being the bad guy; I really enjoyed that you know – I went to Puerto Rico and fought the hometown hero and they just about booed me out of the place, I really like that!”
With the sweet taste of success.still in his mouth, ‘The Predator’ confidently returned to hammer Mark Hall’s ribcage into a scarlet-coloured mess in the first round of the UFC 10 tournament. After exerting significant effort in the fight, Don was left wondering if he had the ability to continue to the final. “I was pissed, I knew that I’d wasted my time, I didn’t want to hit his head. I got cocky, I felt sorry for this little guy having to fight ‘The Great’ Don Frye… Well, that taught me to never take it easy on anybody because I shot my wad on that idiot and Coleman ended up killing me.’
In what became a recurring theme throughout this interview, Don laughed about the adversity he faced that rough night in Alabama. “I looked at what they had for alternates, and I said, ‘I can’t send them bozos out to fight Coleman, he’ll kill them much more than me,’ so we picked our gear up and headed out to the ring.”
Still chuckling, Don recalled the less-than-delicate words of encouragement he used to lift his spirits, “‘Hey Dumbass, this is what you’ve signed your name to do. If you’re going to be a man, be a man, you gave your word and that’s all there is to it, you’ve got to finish the deal - you’ve got to be a man about it, keep your goddam word and keep going!’”
Following his stint in the UFC Frye made the move to Japan to work as a ‘heel’ pro wrestler (a bad guy). After four years he decided enough was enough and returned to competition in the Pride Fighting Championships. Wearing his infamous ‘Terrorists Suck’ t-shirt in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Frye struck a chord with the audience and amassed a large following. “I wasn’t backing down from the terrorists and everybody in the arena respected that. They respected it, they admired it and that’s how I became a good guy.”
As one of the most stubborn competitors to ever enter the sport, the moustachioed hardman took part in some incredible fights for the organisation that are virtually unparalleled in terms of the excitement that he brought to the baying crowds of Japanese fans. First came his incredible test of character against the wild Dutchman, Gilbert Yvel – a man known for his loose application of the rules, who repeatedly and openly gouged Frye’s eyes. “It’s a fight, that’s the whole thing, it’s a goddam fight and shit happens in the fight. You can’t worry about it, you can’t look at the referee and you can’t whine about it, you just gotta keep going.”
Before his next fight for Pride Don took the potentially ill-advised decision of making some comments about the private life of his hot-headed rival Ken Shamrock. The pair came close to attacking each other at the press conference before the fight as things boiled over. “It was pretty much all genuine; we didn’t like each other at all,” he said. “I didn’t respect Ken and I mouthed off and he didn’t respect me. So, we were in there ready to kill each other.”
During the fight two extraordinarily tight heelhooks from Shamrock tore both of ‘The Predator’s’ Achilles tendons and a meniscus in his left knee, also breaking both of his ankles in the process. He brushed the injury off in his characteristic way: “It was only a hairline fracture, it wasn’t that damn bad.” Amazingly, Frye was able to continue (“Hell, I shot my damn mouth off, I had to!”) and knocked Shamrock down with a flurry of punches en route to the decision victory.
Bouncing back from these injuries, there were more fireworks to come as Frye took on Japanese man-mountain Yoshihiro Takayama. In one of the most memorable moments of action the sport has ever seen, the fighters locked horns in a frenzied hockey-fight scenario, clinching each other with their left arm while waling away with their right. “Anybody else would have backed down; I hit him hard, at least a dozen times and I mean hard – when you could feel it in your elbow, then through to your shoulder and it vibrated right back – and when the guy didn’t buckle. I started wondering how many more of those I could take!”
Just when he had audiences believing that he couldn’t raise the bar any higher, the Predator did just that, putting in a near super-human performance against Britain’s most famous heavyweight, the enormous James ‘The Colossus’ Thompson. Though professing to be a great admirer of his opponent, Thompson unleashed a terrifying series of unanswered blows on his hero as the referee puzzlingly stood back, as if in admiration of Frye’s ability to absorb punishment. Asked how he managed to keep his footing through the barrage, Frye laughed at what appeared to be a near-death experience. “Beats the hell out of me! He just hit me fast enough, knocked me left, knocked me right and kept me up. That’s the thing about heavyweight fighters, they’ll knock you out with one punch and wake you up with another punch. That’s what happened, he knocked me out and woke me up, it must have happened about four times. He whooped my ass real good.”
Coming back home from Japan Don turned to the International Fight League, who were in need of a coach for their Tucson Scorpions team. Unfortunately, things did not go as smoothly as hoped. “Ah hell, they fired me!” Don laughed. “They said they didn’t want me as a coach anymore because I’ve got a bad attitude and didn’t know how to behave in public!”
However, the parties were able to salvage some form of working relationship, an unexpected one at that, when the IFL asked Don to start an online advice column. “When they first asked me, I thought, ‘you guys have got to be crazy!’ Ask me for advice? It turned out to be a lot of fun! It’s all tongue-in-cheek, except for those rotten little bastards who don’t know how to raise their kids properly!”
After undergoing much needed surgery on a nagging shoulder injury, ‘The Predator’ has no plans to hang up the gloves just yet, taking a page out of former college team-mate Randy Couture’s book by competing well into his 40’s. “I just got the operation finally, after a half year to find the doctor to do it right. So a month ago, they cut open my shoulder and fixed it and now I’m ready to go, ready to fight again next year.”
Stepping back into competition over the coming months, Frye assessed his options and appeared disinterested by anything other than the toughest of challenges. “Everyone wants to fight Fedor [Emelianenko] because he’s number one, that’s the big money fight and everyone wants to be the next one to fight him – right now, he could break me like a twig but in a couple of months, I think I’d be ready to beat him.”...