Jason DeLucia (left) had a long career in Japan. | Photo Courtesy: J. DeLucia
After a meeting with Ken Shamrock and Bob Shamrock at the event -- Bob was scouting for Pancrase talent -- DeLucia was offered the chance to fight in Japan.
“[Bob] really liked me, and, right after UFC 2, he said, ‘Are you gonna do this?” DeLucia says. “Ken took me to his house, and I lived there to train for my first [Pancrase] fight. I stayed at the Lion’s Den a year straight.”
The Lion’s Den tryouts -- which essentially were a grueling regimen of calisthenics and hard-core sparring for prospective initiates -- were the stuff of legend. Men were broken by them, with only gamest candidates passed through.
“It was way worse than it is now, because you can’t do that kind of thing anymore,” DeLucia says. “It should never exist again, but, at that time, it was necessary. You were nearly fighting to the death in the dojo.”
What ensued was an extended career, mostly on the Japanese circuit, with DeLucia fighting a who’s who. Ranging from three fights with Bas Rutten, two wins over Ikuhisa Minowa and a victory over Matt Hume, DeLucia kept busy in the Land of the Rising Sun, compiling a career record of 33-21-1.
“I started going once a month. I had my birthday two days in a row, two years in a row. The most foreboding of them was a guy named Bob Stines. He hit me in a way that I never wanted to be hit like that again,” DeLucia says. “Ian Freeman fought him and beat him, and Ian concurred. Punching from the neck down was legal. We didn’t wear a mouthpiece or cups. When I fought Hume, I got kicked four times in the groin, and I still didn’t wear a cup afterwards.
“I was happiest to be over there, in the motherland of the art I had been studying longest,” he adds. “I still teach Aikido. That’s why Steven Seagal’s effect on me was so big.”
Retired since 2006, DeLucia remains involved with the fight game, as a co-producer for a fight style called “Hybrid Fighting.” With events slated for March 19 in Manchester, N.H., and the New England Open June 3-4, a modified form of competitive MMA will be on tap, with DeLucia seeing the kind of combat he feels is closer to the intended spirit of the traditional martial arts. He also teaches Aiki Kenpo and MMA at his school in Walpole, Mass., and has a personal Website, www.jasondelucia.com.
“We made it do a few things, first one of which is to give more kudos to throwing,” he says. “You’ve only got 10 seconds on the ground or 15 if you’re in transition. We designed it with the Olympics in mind.”
DeLucia, who turns 42 in July, has mixed feelings when it comes to the martial artists who populate the sport in which he was a pioneer.
“I love Roy ‘Big Country’ Nelson, Fedor [Emelianenko], Randy Couture,” he says. “I don’t like a certain generation of fighters and the things they do...You weren’t being disrespectful and urinating in people’s beds.”
DeLucia also has his eyes on the UFC’s return to Brazil in August.
“I think a great way to retire me is to have me fight Royce,” he says, half-kidding. “They show him kicking my butt every day. Wouldn’t that be a nice way to retire?”
DeLucia, long-steeped in the traditional martial arts, feels that for MMA to come full circle, the original Pancrase model could be a better fit.
“There are things I would do to make [mainstream MMA] more of a sport -- like ground-and-pound, I don’t like, care nor respect it,” he says. “It’s a situation that’s unnecessary, but, over time, you start to realize it’s technically degrading.
“When you have a guy down in a position that’s just comprised of smashing his brain stem, it’s not healthy,” DeLucia adds. “You have to respect guys like Mark Coleman and Randy Couture, and anybody that’s as good a wrestler as them should be able to just do a submission. I’d rather see it go back into what Pancrase was. Let everything be legal [except that].”