With UFC 109 barreling down on fight fans, the hype surrounding the event has begun to grow. This card provides the fan the rare opportunity to see two active and current UFC Hall of Famers square off in the Octagon for the first time ever.
While the allure of this card can be elusive to some, the selling point in the eyes of the UFC is the Hall of Fame credentials of both men. And like it or not, that is a rare honor indeed. To see two Hall of Famers fight is quite unique, and it may never happen again—at least until B.J. Penn and Georges St. Pierre reach their 40's.
With all the focus on 109, a burning question has surfaced, a question that has long since needed an answer, a question that could not be answered at a better time: Why has UFC legend Don "The Predator" Frye not been inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame?
If ever there were a time to make a wrong right, if ever there were an appropriate venue and event to offer such an honor to "The Predator," that time is now. While it should have happened long ago, it is what it is. But bridges burned can never negate glory attained, and Don invented glory in a cage.
In addition to the fact that current UFC Hall of Famers are being hyped as the best thing since sliced bread, it is important to note that just last week, Spike TV and Zuffa began airing old footage of Pride Fighting Championships.
Many casual and new fans of the sport are about to have their eyes opened to a whole different breed of MMA
. Frye and his legacy as a mixed martial artist are very much a part of Pride also.
Of course, boasting Frye's years in Pride is not to say that that holds weight with his UFC Hall of Fame potential, but much of his legacy is split between the two organizations.
Not unlike current Hall of Famer Mark Coleman, their good years there didn't hurt their reputations. It is only to say that, looking back at Frye's dominance in the early years of the UFC, what we already knew was reinforced, as Frye blossomed in Pride.
When one talks about dominance in today's UFC, there are the obvious standouts. Names like GSP, Silva, and Penn get brought up. These are modern-day definitions of MMA by name alone. They have spent years honing their craft, they've studied all the moves, they know all the tricks, they are in the best shape of their lives. There are no mysteries for them.
When one talks about dominance in the early UFC, it is quite a different story, built on a entirely different landscape.
When a fighter stepped into the Octagon not that long ago, there were many questions. The unknowns were immeasurable; the questions answered in MMA today were once mysteries yet to be solved. Fighting during MMA's true infancy was a completely different world than it is today. This is when Don Frye was at his best.
Frye succeeded greatly in a time when fighting styles were truly clashing for the first time in a public forum. He stepped into a cage with nothing but his pride, confidence, and talent, and knew little of the men he would be facing. It's not like he trained for months for one guy; he fought in tournaments, he trained for anyone they could throw at him in one night.
Go ahead and marinate on this little snack for a moment: during a ten-month span in '96, Frye fought 11 times over three events, ending with a record of 10-1 and two tournament championships. His only loss came at the hands of Mark Coleman.
To compare notes, Coleman's Hall of Fame body of work consisted of very impressive numbers as well. In about two years, Coleman fought nine times, with a record of 6-3. He also emerged victorious in two tournaments. Finally, he won the first-ever UFC heavyweight title while on his run. He never defended; this was enough to earn him a seat at the UFC Hall of Fame table, well-earned on his part.
Now, no one in their right minds would question the amazing career of Mark Coleman; to do so would be disrespectful. What is being pointed out here is how amazing a run Frye actually had in the UFC. A run that was made in a time that was inherently more dangerous to compete; this was a different game back then.
Frye thrived there; it was where he was most impressive, at times when the pressure was on full throttle.
Frye and his one-inch punch—mixed with a boxing talent, a world class Judo game, a wrestling pedigree, and good old-fashioned American balls—did it his way, and did it well.
His stare-down is next to none; Otuku-Juku is what they called him in Japan, where he is a god. It means "The Man of Men." It could not be said any better.
It seems ironic now that Zuffa has launched their new Pride replay campaign on Spike TV. They are going to get a lot of attention the instant casual fans see Frye vs. Takayama. In the end, somehow, Frye is still in a roundabout way serving the UFC brand, even if he and Dana aren't on each other's Christmas lists.
What the brass at the UFC need to remember now is that—long before they bought and reshaped the brand, long before they sat in a board room and decided who was and who was not going to be considered or inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame—Don Frye was making the UFC what it was known for.
Frye made fans for life that still support the UFC today, every single month. He is owed some dignity and respect for that, and now seems like a great time to move.
This is a time when two of the best MMA has ever seen are fighting for their chance to remain at the top of a sport they once dominated. Randy and Mark are still testing themselves after all these years, and the UFC is facilitating that because of all they've done, they owe these guys. There is no one in their right mind who could honestly say Don doesn't belong in the same light.
The UFC owes Don Frye, the sport owes him. Respect is due; it's time to pay up.