Dan “The Beast” Severn was a game changer in a sport known as “No-Holds-Barred Fighting.” He stepped inside the Octagon at Ultimate Fighting Championship 4 with 10 days of striking experience and absolutely no submission training. That night, he showed the world that the UFC was more than just Royce Gracie’s personal playground. He proved wrestling was a viable background to compete in NHB fighting.

After steamrolling Anthony Macias and Marcus Bossett using nothing but his amateur wrestling prowess, Severn faced off against Gracie in the finals of the UFC 4 tournament. Although Gracie went on to secure a fight-ending triangle choke after 16 grueling minutes, Severn had won over the fans.

That night, a legend was born.

Severn went on to win the UFC 5 tournament, the Ultimate Ultimate 95 tournament and defeat Ken Shamrock for the Superfight championship. He accomplished all that within the first 11 fights of his 127-fight career.

“I have more fights than what the Internet says I do,” the UFC Hall of Fame member told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “Someday, when I’m 95, I’ll go through all my records and find out how many fights I actually had.”

Before officially retiring from active competition on Jan. 1, 2013, Severn had participated in many entertaining and grueling bouts. One from early in his career that stuck out in Severn’s mind was his first encounter with Oleg Taktarov in the semifinal match of UFC 5. Taktarov entered the UFC with a reputation for being an incredibly tough competitor, but nobody knew exactly how tough he was until he met up with Severn.

“When I faced Oleg Taktarov, I already knew the Russian mentality. You’d basically have to half-kill him,” Severn explained.

“I dropped some knees and busted up his head. Then I stopped a few different times and looked up at Big John McCarthy and asked, ‘Why is this fight still able to continue?’ Granted, Oleg was not tapping out, his corner was not throwing the towel in, so it continued on.

“At the ‘black-eye’ party after the event, I saw Oleg. He walked towards me and I saw he had stitches in three or four different areas, and I was like, ‘I don’t even know this guy. This could get pretty ugly pretty quick.’

“So I said to Oleg, ‘I feel bad for what happened. I didn’t mean for you to get hurt.’ He looked at me and said, ‘It is no problem. They should not have stopped the match. I had an armbar on you. I was waiting for you to get tired.’

“And I looked at this guy and said, ‘Waiting on me to get tired?’ I was thinking to myself, ‘I should get down on my hands and knees and thank God it was me who you went against—someone who actually has a heart and is compassionate towards their fellow competitor.’

“There was so much blood. The cut on his forehead filled up both of his eye wells with blood. If I had dropped more knees, he would have never seen them coming in. At one point in time he turned his head sideways to let the blood run out the corner of his eyes, exposing his temple. It crossed my mind right then and there that had I dropped that knee I might have crushed his skull; I might have killed him.

“I wanted to win, but I didn’t want to win that bad.”

Thankfully, the sport has made great strides to ensure fighter safety since that match happened in 1995. Along with safety, the sport has also made great strides in gaining popularity. With each passing event, MMA comes that much closer to gaining mainstream status. With Titan FC signing a national television deal with CBS Sports, there are now four major MMA promotions airing events on cable or over-the-air television, and that’s not including the random promotion receiving airtime on AXS TV. Odds are that if you want to watch some MMA, there will be a channel broadcasting it somewhere. Some have even begun to question if MMA has reached a point of oversaturation.

“I think the sport will continue to grow,” Severn stated. “I think you will see hybrid events take place where you’ll see a UFC champion versus a Bellator champion versus a King of the Cage champion versus a Gladiator Challenge champion type of tournament. It would get you the chance to see several organizations’ champions against each other.”

One of the problems many believe plagues MMA right now is that fighters are tied to a single promotion with which they have signed. UFC President Dana White, for example, has completely ruled out any sort of cross-promotion fights. Bellator tried to cross-promote with Strikeforce, but nothing ever came of it. The World Series of Fighting recently issued a “WSOF vs. Bellator” purposed pay-per-view event challenge to Bellator. Many wonder if we’ll ever actually see a day where the best fight the best, regardless of what promotion holds their contract.

“Eventually, those matches will take place,” Severn predicted. “But, now, you have promoters who like to play God over the athletes they promote. When they can learn to put away their own personal agendas…there are people who want to see these matches and there’s money to be made by all parties.

“I hate to say this, but greed will step in a great deal, control factors will step in a great deal, personality clashes—that’s all part of this equation that in the end will derail opportunities for athletes to preserve their career or for promotions to have dream matches to take place.”

For the latest of what Dan is up to, visit his website DanSevern.com and follow him on Twitter: @danbeastsevern

About The Author

Jason Lundgren

I have been an MMA reporter/opinion writer for over 10 years. I play WAY too many video games. I'm not on Twitter much, but follow me @JLundgrenSports