Daniel DeWayne Severn is a world-class combat sports specialist in every sense of the term.  He’s a professional’s professional who is one of the rare superathletes to grace the world of mixed martial arts.  And, after an eighteen-year career as a pro fighter, on Jan. 1, the 54-year-old Severn finally announced his retirement from MMA, bringing an end to an amazing 127-fight career in a sport that he helped pioneer into existence.

Dan “The Beast” Severn is known in many different combat sports circles.  He has competed in amateur wrestling, professional mixed martial arts and professional wrestling for decades.  He has had one of the longest and most storied MMA careers in history, and, after eighteen years, has finally decided to hang up his four-ouncers.

Severn has had many impacts on MMA since the beginning of his career in the UFC.  His pro MMA debut was the UFC 4 tournament, in December of 1995, where he made it to the final round, losing by submission to then-king of MMA and fellow legend Royce Gracie after submitting his first two opponents.  Severn is a UFC Hall of Famer and is the first fighter to truly bring a high-level wrestling base into the sport.  Wrestling is a fighting modality that has become one of the most important and useful in MMA.

The Beast’s wrestling background goes back to his childhood, but, most famously as an amateur, he was a NCAA Division 1 wrestler at Arizona State University, where he earned All-American honors, entry into the ASU Hall of Fame, and a spot as a U.S. Olympic alternate.  He also later served as a wrestling coach at his alma mater, as well as at Michigan State University.

When Severn finally entered into professional MMA at UFC 4, he was already 36 years old.  He entered the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) as a professional wrestler less than a year later.

From his mid-30s all the way into his mid-50s, The Beast competed in both MMA and professional wrestling pretty much side-by-side.  In MMA, he proved that wrestling and submission wrestling are very important in achieving great success.  Severn holds a somewhat disputable 101-19-7 record in pro MMA with the majority of his wins coming by submission.  The only reason it is disputable is because many events have either been left out or incorrectly recorded.  The big wrestler certainly has more than enough knockout power, but has managed to be a poster boy of fighters that are so good at one aspect of the game that they have trouble working in other methods of fighting.

In his third UFC fight, the final bout of his debut night, Severn fell victim to an all-too-familiar Royce Gracie triangle choke after dominating the Brazilian for almost fifteen minutes.  Had Severn worked more striking into that event, he may have been able to pound out Gracie while in his dominant wrestling positions, but it wasn’t in his nature to strike.

Severn began his MMA career with a 2-1 record in that one night, but by mid-1996, only a year and a half after his debut, he racked up a 9-2 record, which included three championships, in only five nights of fighting.  After his initial 11-fight stint of UFC action, Severn went on to fight for another decade and a half in dozens of other promotions, including such notable organizations as Pride, WEC, King of the Cage and IFC, in 11 different countries on five continents.  In addition to his UFC title wins, he also had a shot at UFC 12 in Feb. 1997 that he dropped to Mark Coleman.  Although, his career was still young, this would prove to be his second-to-last UFC event.

At UFC 27 in 2000, Severn fought his final battle under the UFC banner, which ended in a TKO loss to veteran Pedro Rizzo.  Although this may have been his last UFC event, it was only his 49th fight, which ended up being only the first third of his pro MMA career.  However, the level of competition he faced, for the most part, was reduced greatly after his UFC career ended.

In the fights leading to and including his last UFC fight, Severn defeated guys like Tank Abbott, Oleg Taktarov, Ken Shamrock and Paul Buentello, had draws against Kimo Leopoldo, Jeremy Horn and Pat Miletitch, and only suffered losses to Josh Barnett, Rizzo, Shamrock, Gracie and Coleman.  Even though Severn was a submission finisher in the highest regard, four of those losses were by submission, probably because his style was to take as little damage as possible before ultimately getting the fight to the ground.  The only problem is that some of these guys, like Shamrock and Gracie, came from submission-heavy training camps.

Even before Severn’s long MMA career began, he already held several honors in amateur wrestling, including thirteen AAU national titles and spots as an alternate on the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympic teams.  So, although he was a pro MMA fighter all the way, this career was founded on a strong wrestling base that continued over a decade after college.  Naturally, he was a great fit for professional wrestling, because real or fake, it still takes a certain type of athlete to excel in that world and Severn fit the bill.

In NWA, The Beast hoisted a newly-earned heavyweight championship belt twice in six years.  He was given the opportunity to appear in the WWE briefly and also competed in other organizations around the globe.  While he made his formal retirement announcement from MMA, most suspect he will not retire from pro wrestling until the end of 2013.

While Severn’s biggest impact in the world of professional MMA may have come later in life for him, it was made early in his career.  The Beast showcased the importance of a wrestling base in the sport, and yet even for years after the first UFC event, fighters felt that jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai were enough to win belts.  However, over time, fighters have come to realize that wrestling is a key skill to have and most pros now have wrestling coaches in addition to all of their other training staff.

Dan Severn is a pioneer of modern MMA and a pro’s pro.  He may have been a bigger name in his early days, but his impact will forever be felt.  The Beast will most certainly have a long and prosperous future in coaching, sponsoring, commissioning, or however he decides to use his tremendous talent.

The MMA Corner would like to thank Dan Severn for all he has done for combat sports.  We wish him a happy and healthy future in his new endeavours.

Photo: Dan Severn (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Dan Kuhl
Interview Coordinator