Major League Baseball has Cooperstown. The National Football League has Canton. MMA has FIGHT! Magazine. Ok, ok, so we’re not quite as prestigious as Cooperstown, but great mixed martial artists needed a place where they could be lauded with the recognition they deserve, appreciated by fans around the world, and honored for their accomplishments…and that’s why we created the FIGHT! Magazine Hall of Fame.
The process for inclusion into the Hall is simple: if you kickass, come on in. Actually, it’s a little more complex. Voting is based upon a fighter’s accomplishments, fighting ability, contributions to the evolution of MMA, impact on MMA, and record. To create our list of nominees, we polled a select group of MMA journalists from around the world. Once our catalog of candidates was generated, journalists were asked to vote up to six times. Nominees needed to receive approval from at least 75% of the voting body.
When the votes were tallied for the 2010 Class, four names reigned supreme. Congratulations to Don Frye, Dan Severn, Mark Coleman, and Frank Shamrock, living legends and members of the 2nd Annual FIGHT! Magazine Hall of Fame.
UFC 8 TOURNAMENT WINNER
ULTIMATE ULTIMATE 96 TOURNAMENT WINNER
UFC 10 TOURNAMENT RUNNER-UP
When the Ultimate Fighting Championship was still the Wild West, Don Frye was one of its toughest outlaws.
Frye was the most well-rounded fighter to step into the cage in the early UFCs. The Arizona State University All-American wrestler brought professional boxing and judo experience into the Octagon in 1996 after his friend, Dan Severn, introduced him to no-holds-barred action. His debut—an eight second KO—served as a precursor of what Frye would accomplish. Aggression paid dividends and Frye went on to win the UFC 8 Tournament by defeating three men in 3:10 seconds—less time than today’s standard five-minute round.
The impressive charge into extreme fighting continued into the finals of the UFC 10 eight-man tournament where Frye demonstrated heart and grit in a losing effort to Mark Coleman. With his rugged reputation soaring, Frye rebounded at Ultimate Ultimate ‘96 by submitting no-holds-barred icon David “Tank” Abbott in the finals after 82 seconds of fireworks. It was his third appearance in the UFC’s eight-man, one-night tournament finals and his second win.
Frye competed only once in the next four years and remerged in the PRIDE Fighting Championship in Japan. He debuted two weeks after the tragedies of September 11, 2001, representing the United States proudly by walking to the ring with an American flag. Across from legend Ken Shamrock in 2002, Frye soldiered through a 20-minute epic clash of rival pioneers. “The Predator” survived vicious leg holds without tapping to earn a split decision, adding to one of the sport’s hardest highlight reels. Frye then managed the rarest encore, proving more durable and determined in his next fight—a toe-to-toe hockey style slugfest with Yoshihiro Takayama. It was a six-minute sprint to a man’s breaking point, and Frye punished Takayama all the way to the finish line, stopping the Japanese warrior with punches to secure his international superstardom. The Japanese dubbed Frye otoku-juku, “The Man of Men,” for his strength, tenacity, and samurai spirit. That characterized Frye’s career for the next seven years as much as it fueled his legendary ascent through the sport in his first six years. In fighting, there’s tough…and there’s Don Frye tough.
UFC 5 TOURNAMENT WINNER
ULTIMATE ULTIMATE ‘95 TOURNAMENT WINNER
UFC SUPERFIGHT WINNER
Dan Severn held no belts in Eastern martial arts the first time he stepped into the Octagon. But on Dec. 16, 1994, “The Beast” had something that no UFC fighter other than Royce Gracie could boast—real, verifiable competitive grappling experience at the international level.
Built like a lumberjack with a mustache to match, Severn earned four All-American honors in wrestling during his career at Arizona State University and fell just short of making the Olympic team in 1980, 1984, and 1988. He entered UFC 4 to see how wrestling would stack up against Gracie Jiu Jitsu and used violent suplexes and top control to make it to the final match,where he was submitted by Royce Gracie after 15 grueling minutes.
Severn was a fixture in the Octagon for the next year and a half, winning the aptly titled UFC 5: Return of the Beast, losing a UFC 6 Superfight to Ken Shamrock, winning Ultimate Ultimate ‘95, and defeating Shamrock at their UFC 9 Superfight rematch. With two UFC tournament titles and one superfight belt around his waist, Severn began to branch out, taking Vale Tudo fights in Japan and Brazil and competing for MMA promotions in the U.S. that popped up in the wake of the UFC. Over the last 14 years, Severn has competed for nearly every noteworthy mixed martial arts promotion, including PRIDE, Vale Tudo Japan, Superbrawl, International Fighting Championship, Extreme Challenge, King of the Cage, World Extreme Cagefighting, Maximum Fighting Championship, Gladiator Challenge, and Rings.
He only made two Octagon appearances after UFC 9, losing to Mark Colemanat UFC 12 and Pedro Rizzo UFC 27, but his contributions to the promotion were deemed sufficient to warrant Severn being inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame at UFC 52. The first pure wrestler to dominate in MMA, Severn was the trickle that turned into a flood as ASU delivered three generations of top-tier wrestlers to the cage, including Don Frye, Dan Henderson, Cain Velasquez, CB Dollaway, Ryan Bader, and Aaron Simpson.
Still fighting at the age of 52, with a record of 93-16-7 and counting, Severn is no longer the dominating force he once was, but his accomplishments still cast a long, glorious shadow over the sport.
UFC 10 & 11 TOURNAMENT WINNER
FIRST UFC HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION
PRIDE 2000 OPENWEIGHT GRAND PRIX CHAMPION
Mark Coleman is many things: an NCAA Wrestling Champion at Ohio State University, FILA World Championships silver medalist, a member of the 1992 U.S. Olympic Team, a two-time UFC tournament winner, the first UFC Heavyweight Champion, and the PRIDE 2000 Open Weight Grand Prix Champion. But the thing Coleman will be remembered for most is the way that he predictably, relentlessly, and successfully took his opponents down and smashed them with headbutts, elbows, and punches. “The Hammer” is the father of ground-and-pound.
Coleman first entered the Octagon four years after his seventh-place finish at the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona, Spain. He won his first six fights in the UFC, winning tournament titles at UFC 10 and 11 and defeating Dan Severn at UFC 12 to become the first UFC Heavyweight Champion. He would lose his next four fights, including a controversial decision to Pedro Rizzo at UFC 18, after which he would debut for Japan’s burgeoning PRIDE promotion. Coleman lost what many suspect to be a worked fight at PRIDE 5, but he went on a six-fight tear to win the 2000 Open Weight Grand Prix and become a star in Japan.
Coleman went 2-4 in PRIDE between his Grand Prix win and 2007, when the promotion was shut down following its purchase by Zuffa. But The Hammer lost to the best, including Fedor Emelianenko, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and Mirko Filipovic, and was at the center of one of MMA’s most infamous moments, the post-fight in-ring rumble between Chute Box and Coleman’s Hammer House that erupted after Shogun Rua broke his arm while bracing himself during a Coleman takedown.
Coleman returned to the UFC after the dissolution of PRIDE and was inducted in
to the UFC Hall of Fame. He fought three more times, going 1-2 as a light heavyweight, and he was released by the promotion after losing to Randy Couture at UFC 109. Coleman has vacillated between retirement and continuing to fight, but regardless of his decisions moving forward, The Hammer’s contributions to MMA have been permanently pounded into the sport.
FIRST KING OF PANCRASE CHAMPION
FIRST UFC MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPION
FIRST STRIKEFORCE MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPION
Frank Shamrock, born Frank Alicio Juarez III, in Santa Monica, California, overcame a troubled youth to become a no-holds-barred pioneer, forcing the evolution of MMA with his well-rounded skills.
A ward of the state by age 12, Frank escaped the pitfalls of poverty and violence when Bob Shamrock—later to be his legal father—took him into his home. At his dad’s urging, he trained in catch wrestling with adoptive brother Ken. Just eight days after turning 22 years old, Frank Shamrock launched his fighting career with a win over MMA icon Bas Rutten. A King of Pancrase title soon followed.
Three years into his prizefighting career, Shamrock joined the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He captured the inaugural UFC Middleweight Title (now the light heavyweight belt) in his promotional debut despite major underdog status to Kevin Jackson. Shamrock tapped the Olympic freestyle wrestling gold medalist in 14 seconds via armbar, altering expectations that wrestlers would totally dominate the sport. In his first defense, he ended Extreme Fighting Middleweight Champion Igor Zinoviev’s career in 22 seconds with a clavicle-breaking slam. Three more title defenses followed, culminating with a classic comeback victory (submission via punches) against Tito Ortiz.
The four-round scrap with Ortiz solidified Shamrock as the standard combatant in the ever-changing sport. He was well conditioned, strategic, and mentally tough. But it was his preparation with world-class athletes of various disciplines in a time when it was unheard of—even taboo—that elevated him. Shamrock shocked the fight world by retiring from the UFC in 1999, undefeated in the organization and atop his division. He never fought in the Octagon again
“The Legend” moved on to other ventures, including winning the first WEC Light Heavyweight Championship and headlining California’s first sanctioned MMA event in 2006, which broke the state’s paid attendance record of 17,465 at Strikeforce’s inaugural show. He later became the promotion’s first 185-pound titleholder.
Frank Shamrock will be remembered as a prototype for the mixed martial artist—an underdog inside and outside of the ring—that persevered to bridge eras of the sport together as one of its most defining and revered champions.