From the first time he stepped into the Octagon in 1996 until his final pro MMA bout in 2011, Don Frye was a fighter’s fighter, a no nonsense competitor who always showed up to finish his opponents and to put on a show for the fans. And with wins in two UFC tournaments in the early days of the sport, the always popular “Predator” did just that, earning him a place in the UFC Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016. Here are five of his most memorable bouts:
Gary Goodridge II
Meeting for the second of three times (Frye won the first, Goodridge the third), Frye and Gary “Big Daddy” Goodridge fought it out for over 11 minutes in this bout, which ended up being only the first Frye would have to compete in to win the Ultimate Ultimate tournament title that night in Birmingham Alabama. Showing off his trademark toughness and a punishing dirty boxing game, Frye had to withstand Goodridge’s top game (and a 46-pound weight disadvantage) when the two went to the mat. But once Frye weathered that storm and reversed position, an exhausted Goodridge tapped out.
After beating Goodridge and Mark Hall, Frye still had one more obstacle to get through in order to pick up the Ultimate Ultimate title, and that was David “Tank” Abbott. That night, Abbott may have been at his best, having already finished Cal Worsham and Steve Nelmark in a combined 3:54, and when he dropped Frye with the first left he threw, it didn’t look good for “The Predator.” But Frye didn’t go away. He decided to trade with Abbott, and once the bout strayed to the mat, the bloodied Frye finished Abbott with a rear naked choke at the 1:22 mark.
With the tragic events of 9/11 still on the minds of millions around the world, Don Frye entered the PRIDE ring on September 24, 2001 to face Gilbert Yvel, and for the first time, the end result (a Frye win via disqualification) really didn’t matter. What did matter was that Frye, the quintessential American, showed the country’s fighting spirit, particularly during an unforgettable ring entrance that tugged on even the toughest heartstrings.
It was a fight that probably should have happened in the Octagon in the mid-90’s, but better late than never, as early UFC pioneers Don Frye and Ken Shamrock finally met in PRIDE in 2002. And the fight lived up to the hype, as Frye won a hard-fought decision in a bout that may have been the first to put PRIDE on the mainstream radar in the United States.
“Subtlety will not be apparent in this fight,” commentator Stephen Quadros said before the Don Frye vs Yoshihiro Takayama fight, and he couldn’t have been more spot on, as the fighters met and immediately threw bombs, with the sequence of the two holding on while delivering right hand after right hand in hockey fight fashion remaining one of the most memorable moments of the PRIDE era. How memorable? The Japanese crowd known for being eerily polite and quiet erupted for this one. Oh yeah, and Frye won via first-round TKO.