Photo via Don Frye's Official Website
The first few years of the UFC were like the wild west of mixed martial arts (MMA).
It was nearly lawless, dangerous, and looked down upon by some of those in power.
You even had the typical archtypes you would see in any number of Old West towns.
Royce Gracie was the unsuspecting gunslinger. He didn't look like much but he was the quickest draw you'd ever seen. Ken Shamrock was the the cosmetic opposite. Hulking and intimidating, you immediately knew he wasn't one to be messed with.
Of course, Tank Abbott played the role of the outlaw. Scruffy and tough as nails, he left a trail of bodies in his wake.
But it wasn't until UFC 8: "David vs. Goliath" that our favorite MMA boomtown got its sheriff.
On the eve of the celebration of the United States' birth, I'll take a look back at the debut of Don Frye, one of the best damn Americans to ever grace the sport.
Let's have some fun.
A collegiate wrestler with a couple of pro boxing bouts under his belt, Frye's first experience with the UFC was when he helped train his old friend Dan Severn.
The experience must have permeated with the fighter because it was only a few months later that he stepped into the cage himself.
"The Predator" seemed like a smaller version of his training partner Severn.They were both mustached wrestlers but where as "The Beast" clung to his grappling pedigree -- producing some snoozers in the process -- Frye had that boxing experience he could rely on.
It ended up making him one of the most dangerous fighters in the early era of the sport.
His debut event was billed as "David vs. Goliath" and every first round match-up in the tournament featured that juxtaposition of size.
Frye's first opponent weighed in at 410 pounds. The two exchanged stiff jabs but "The Predator" pushed forward with three more jabs that backed Thomas Ramirez up.
A right hook landed cleanly against the Goliath's jaw and he crumpled to the mat. The first David had won -- and Frye earned his first MMA victory.
On the other side of the bracket, another debuting fighter -- a Goliath -- earned his first victory by slamming nearly a dozen elbows into his opponent's head. Yes, Gary Goodridge seemed to be on a collision course with "The Predator."
But first Frye had to get past Sam Adkins in the semi-finals.
Adkins took the center of the Octagon while "The Predator" circled around the outside. But Frye quickly shot out -- using his years of wrestling experience -- and got his opponent to the mat.
From there, he swarmed Adkins and unleashed a flurry of punches. Unanswered blow after unanswered blow first opened up a massive cut and then forced the referee to stop the bout.
Two wins. One minute. "The Predator" was ready for the finals.
He would face off against against Goodridge who won his semi-final match-up against a young fighter from The Lion's Den -- training camp to Ken and Frank Shamrock.
David versus Goliath. "The Predator" versus "Big Daddy." Frye versus Goodridge.
They were the same age -- 30 -- and the Canadian brute only had two inches of height on the mustached brawler but the big difference was in weight: around 50 pounds separated the two finalists.
Frye immediately rushed towards Goodridge, trying to land punches but instead forces him against the cage. "Big Daddy" used his strength advantage to shove his opponent off and get behind him.
"The Predator" threw an elbow that barely missed and a few punches before Goodridge lifted him high into the air and toss him back down to Earth like the debuting wrestler was a child's toy.
The giant Canadian followed up with a kick to the head that nearly decapitated Frye but luckily for the Tom Sellack-lookalike, the strike only grazed him.
Never one to back down or give up -- look at his fight with Ken Shamrock for proof of that -- Frye was soon grinding his opponent against the cage again. He immediately delivering punishing blows to the body before unleashing a series of uppercuts.
One and then two. The third forced "Big Daddy's" mouthpiece out from its home and onto the mat. A fourth staggered the former arm wrestling champ and he circled away, wobbling towards the center of the Octagon before forcing Frye's back against the cage.
Pushing all of his weight onto his smaller opponent, Goodridge grabbed "The Predator's" legs and tried to slam him down but Frye held onto the top of the cage -- still legal at this point -- to avoid the brutal takedown.
He eventually did end up on his back with Goodridge stacked up on top of him but ever wily, the former Arizona State wrestler grabbed "Big Daddy's" ankles and flattened him onto the mat.
From there, Frye is all over his opponent. On top, landing punches and keeping constant pressure until Goodridge -- the Goliath -- taps out to "The Predator" -- the David.
Frye was the ultimate victor that night and would go onto the finals of two more UFC tournaments -- losing to Mark Coleman at UFC 10 and beating Tank Abbott at Ultimate Ultimate '96.
He took a five year break from major MMA competition then to earn big bucks as a top villain in the world of Japanese professional wrestling before signing with Pride FC in 2001.
His run there was as memorable as his tenure stateside.
He was eye gouged by Gilbert Yvel, had his leg irreversibly damaged by Ken Shamrock, and stood toe-to-toe with Yoshihiro Takayama in quite literally the most fun fight of all time.
Frye -- like Wanderlei Silva -- is beloved because he always come to fight. He always come to put on a show for the fans.
He's basically a big, dumb, tough guy.
And we love him for it.