Don Frye Reflects On Going From Horseshoer And Firefighter To UFC Pioneer: ‘I Needed Something To Do’

MMA pioneer Don Frye sits down with Joe Rogan and discusses how he discovered the UFC

Don Frye Joe Rogan
Photos via Instagram @donthepredatorfrye

In the early days of mixed martial arts, Don Frye was one of the first fighters to truly be successful. However he explained to Joe Rogan that this was not ever really his intention.

Frye was fairly successful as far as early UFC fighters are concerned, winning multiple UFC tournaments before ultimately retiring with a record of 20-9.This run also saw him making moves in PRIDE, among other early MMA promotions.

However UFC 8 was not the first experience Don had with combat sports, as he explained in a recent episode of the JRE. Here he detailed how he started off with wrestling in high school, before having a handful of boxing matches, even competing under two different names.

“I did boxing, I had 8 fights and I think I was 2-6 or 2-5-1, I don’t know. I fought my first two as Don Frye and I won those, and then I had an argument with my trainer and we split. So then I fought under JR Frye,” he explained.

“I think I changed my name because of contractual reasons.”

How Don Frye Made It To The UFC

From there, Don Frye says that he bounced around a few different towns, learning how to shoe horses. He also took on the role of a firefighter, going through a six month training process.

After moving back to Arizona with his wife, he was struggling to make ends meet between horseshoeing and reserve firefighting. He also worked at a psych ward, restraining patients, which he says did not work out after he broke someone’s arm.

“They did a break out where like 20 or 30 of them ran off and we had to herd them back in. A couple of them acted out, and one of the guys had been restrained from behind and had his arms pinned, the kid started slamming his head into (the restrainer’s) face. So I just walked up and head locked him, and he landed and snapped his arm. Kind of put a damper on things,” Frye said.

As time passed, Don decided that he wanted to pick up Judo. He explained that he just needed an outlet as a twenty-something year old man, and he thought that learning Judo would be perfect for that.

“I started doing Judo because I needed something to do. You know, you’re 22, 24 years old, you used to be a college athlete, you still walk around with an erection. So I started doing Judo and advanced really quickly with that,” Don Frye said.

“In ’92 I got on with the Bisbee Fire (Department) and we were sitting there watching something on TV, and saw a clip of Dan (Severn)… Then we saw Dan fight. So I called him up and said ‘F—k it’s Don Frye, you remember me?’ He says ‘Yeah, what are you doing Don?’ I said ‘Playing fireman, playing horseshoer. This UFC stuff, can you get me in on it?’ And he says yeah.

“So he ended up getting me some fights, probably about 5 or 6 fights around the country. The checks are still in the mail,” Frye added before confirming to Joe that this was before he fought in the UFC. “It was warehouse fighting, not MMA. It was NHB (no holds barred).”

It is certainly a good thing that Don Frye was able to make it to the UFC, as he was one of the real pioneers of the sport. His participation had a massive impact on the UFC, making him quite deserving of his Hall of Fame position.

Published on June 23, 2021 at 9:49 am
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