In April 2011, Dan Severn became just the second fighter in MMA history to earn his 100th professional victory, following workaholic journeyman Travis Fulton. The simple fact that Severn was still an active cage-fighter 17 years after his UFC debut was surprising enough — let alone that he was still competing at least four times a year while in his 50s, and regularly whooping dudes half his age.
Joining the “100 Club” turned out to be the last great achievement in Severn’s marathon combat sports career, which is marked by a pair of All-American honors as a wrestler at Arizona State University, an induction into ASU’s wrestling Hall of Fame, two eight-man tournament sweeps in the UFC (at UFC 5 and Ultimate Ultimate 1995), a UFC Superfight Championship title, and an induction into the UFC Hall of Fame. On Monday, Dan “The Beast” Severn announced his official retirement from MMA at the age of 54, leaving an astounding career record of 101-19-7. Here’s his statement, taken from dansevern.com:
“Another Chapter, Comes to a Close”
The number one goal that I set for myself in 2012 was to be finished with my Mix Martial Arts Competition career. I was attempting to do my own self-directed retirement tour in the last couple of years reaching out to only three people…Mark Coleman, Ken Shamrock, and Royce Gracie. I spoke to two of them directly (Mark, and Ken), and through representative (MGR) for Royce. It seems as though these matches will not take place for whatever reasons and my life now goes on to the next chapter.
I will still be involved with MMA working with various companies to support the industry, and help to take it on to the next level in roles such as: Play by play color commentator, Commissioner, Goodwill Ambassador, doing appearances, etc, etc., just no longer the competitor. The MMA workshops and seminars will continue. I have a lot of fun with them and enjoy the interaction with the young competitors as they are just commencing their careers especially when they learn a new technique, or a competition tactic, and seeing the excitement in their eyes, and hearing it in their voice.
2013 will be my final year in Professional Wrestling as a performer. So Promoters be warned. If you have been thinking about utilizing my skills as a performer, contact me and we’ll make it happen in this upcoming year. I will continue just like in MMA to be involved in it, teaching it, running shows, doing appearances and such, just no longer the entertainer.
Severn added that he’ll also be spending more time on combat training seminars and public speaking, and plans to write a memoir filled with stories from his life. He concludes:
“I have had a life with much success but not without its cost. That cost was family time. The past couple of years I have tried to spend more time with family, and will continue to do so. It has been difficult to juggle so many different parts of my career, but that is when opportunity presented itself…such as my MMA career beginning at the age of 37, and now ending at age 54. Father time is telling me, it is time to let go. I have learned over time that the only constant factor is change. It will happen, and there is nothing we can do to stop it, so smile, hold on, and embrace it for all that it has to offer and hopefully you too will have the ride of your life!!!! Happy New Year!!!!!”
Dan Severn’s reign as a dominant force in the UFC lasted just a year and a half, but his name remains immediately recognizable to MMA fans. To this day, whenever a UFC fighter lands consecutive suplexes during a match, the Severn/Macias comparisons are inevitable. Here’s how we described Dan in our “Eras of MMA” series back in June 2009:
“Standing 6’2”, weighing a stout 250 pounds, and sporting a ferocious mustache, Dan Severn was the UFC’s original big scary wrestler — the forefather of all the Brock Lesnars and Ryan Baders of the world. [Ed. note: Man, 2009 was a different time, huh.] Though his first attempt to win a UFC tournament got derailed by a Royce Gracie triangle choke at UFC 4, the two-time All-American wrestler returned four months later to sweep the eight-man bracket at UFC 5. Severn went on to win the Ultimate Ultimate 1995 tourney, avenged an earlier loss to Ken Shamrock at UFC 9, and fought 100 more times after that...
The Beast proved that you didn’t need to be a jiu-jitsu master to own people on the ground. His gameplan was simple but effective: 1) Take your opponent down. 2) Wrap your arm around his neck. 3) Get your hand raised by Big John. Strikers were immediately taken out of their element, and other grapplers were simply unable to deal with his size and power. Finally, America had its own Ultimate Fighting hero.
Severn’s success in the UFC paved the way for other hulking heavyweight wrestlers like Mark Kerr and Mark Coleman — who defeated Severn at UFC 12 — to enter the UFC and have their own dominant runs, rudely interrupting the early dominance of Gracie jiu-jitsu.
Though Severn’s time at the top of the heap was over by 1997, he never stopped competing. But unlike other MMA pioneers who continued fighting after their prime, Severn never embarrassed himself in the process. He wasn’t a punch-drunk shell of his former self, taking beatings just to pay the rent. He traveled the world winning far more often than he lost, scoring victories over notable names like Paul Buentello, the aforementioned Travis Fulton (three times!), Wes Sims, Forrest Griffin, Justin Eilers, and Colin Robinson.
Following his 100th victory, Severn suffered a pair of knockout losses to Ryan Fortin and Lee Beane. It was the first time that Severn had been KO’d in back-to-back fights, and signaled that the end was growing near for his competitive career. (This was another unfortunate red flag.) As he explained to us in his first Ask Dan column last November, training had become less of a priority due to family obligations:
“I can’t regret taking the [Beane] fight but it didn’t happen at the best time in my career. What the fans see is one aspect but they don’t have a clue as to what I endured for 3 ½ to 4 months before the fight in terms of taking care of my father. Prior to my last fight, my siblings and I were providing home hospice-type care for my father and since I have the most flexible schedule, I was the primary caregiver during the normal working day times. On weekends I would leave late Friday and would be back late Sunday to resume my duties. And I would not change that for the world.”
If you never knew him personally, it’s easy to think of Severn in terms of caricature — the roaring, black-shorted bear-man from Coldwater, Michigan. For me, those Ask Dan columns revealed so much about Dan’s personality and character, and I recommend perusing them if you never got a chance to do so. They show Dan as a thoughtful historian of the sport with a sharp sense of humor and a genuine regard for humanity. Unlike so many other athletes who get into MMA, Severn’s goal was to inflict as little damage as possible in his fights; he had a hard time bringing himself to throw strikes in his early career, as he didn’t want to cause his opponents any unnecessary pain.
That’s the kind of man he was. Despite Eddie Goldman’s claim to the title, Dan Severn was the true “conscience of MMA.” Say goodbye to one of the good guys.