UFC 2 happened in March 1994. It was a 16 man tournament, meaning the winner would have to fight 4 times. It was won by Royce Gracie again, submitting Patrick Smith in the final.
When you have been watching things as long as I have been watching mma, you get the benefit of, hindsight, I guess. How things looked back then ain’t really how they were. I guess being older and more mature helps as well. I want to talk about an example of that.
One of the most memorable and talked about parts of UFC 2 apart from Pat Smith caving in the face of an actual ninja,was a man named Fred Ettish. When Frank Hamaker had to withdraw due to injury and they needed an opponent for Johnny Rhodes, Fred Ettish got the chance to fight. Like Royce Gracie, Ettish decided to wear a gi, but this was not a Jiu Jitsu gi it was a karate gi. Fred was a very traditional karate guy, very unassuming to look at wasn’t very tall nor built like your typical fighter.
When the fight started Ettish took up the stance of a karate fighter, left hand extended right hand poised. Rhodes quickly struck with two right hands sending Ettish to the canvas and opening a bad cut above his eye. From there Fred went into defensive mode and when Rhodes came down to attack went into fetal position. Rhodes pounded the helpless Ettish until he gave up his back and got choked out.
For some reason after the fight Ettish became an object of ridicule and abuse, Fetal Fred was born.
Now when you look back, look at facts, older and wiser you realize that Fred Ettish was as brave as you get and I admire the man so much for what he did then and what he’s done since.
Im not going to say it’s easy to be an mma fighter, of course not, it’s one of the more difficult things a human being can do…….but these days if you want to do it there is a route, a path to follow. You go to a gym, take some classes maybe and if you have the desire and affinity, ask them to arrange an amateur fight. Point is by the time you step in a ring or cage you have trained and prepared specifically for what you are about to do, there should be no real surprises. Actual sparring in an actual cage or ring. In the Fred Ettish era there were no such luxury(unless you were a Gracie). No weight limits, no idea who your opponent was or what he could do.
Also to add to the story, Fred thought and was told that there was basically no way he would be fighting that night and he was back stage helping out, getting fighters to the curtain area. He got asked to fight literally 10 minutes before he stepped in the cage, he then had to gather his team, warm up and stretch and get mentally ready for…..well he didn’t really know.
But he stepped up, they all did in the early days. Walked into bear pit blind. That’s why for me it doesn’t matter if they won or lost badly, the fact that they stepped into a cage with a man they knew nothing about and a referee who wasn’t allowed to stop it. What fucking balls!!
Now after his loss Fred could have done what a lot of traditional martial artists did, came up with excuses, blamed the rules(I know right). To his credit he didn’t, he did what a real martial artist is supposed to do. He took the beating and he learned, recognised that his own training was lacking so he set about fixing it. He evolved, studied grappling and Muay Thai and more. Trained with Miletich and became affiliated with that camp. Credit to the man though, he didn’t abandon he traditional background either and still studies and teaches Karate to this day.
As a nice ending to his MMA career, Fred had another fight in 2009, aged 52 against a much younger opponent. He won by knockout.
Fred Ettish I salute you.