Don Frye spent much of his career flavoring the mixed martial arts soup with his unique brand of charisma and a penchant for the dramatic.
A one-of-a-kind character who hid a ferocious competitive spirit behind patriotic trunks and a thick mustache, Frye was one of the breakout stars of the early Ultimate Fighting Championship. “The Predator” made his professional MMA debut in 1996, rattled off 15 wins across his first 16 appearances and attracted a loyal following that remains with him to this day. Frye, 56, last fought at a Gladiator Challenge event in December 2011, when he was on the receiving end of a first-round knockout from Ruben Villareal. The setback left his record at 20-9-1.
As Frye’s competitive exploits become more and more of a distant memory, here are five things you might not know about him:
1. The singlet was his springboard.
Frye wrestled collegiately for Arizona State and Oklahoma State universities. He helped lead Arizona State to three Pac-10 conference titles under fellow future UFC hall of famer Dan Severn. Frye later transferred to Oklahoma State, where he teamed with eventual two-division Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholder Randy Couture for one season. He was part of national championship teams at both schools—in 1988 with the Sun Devils and in 1989 with the Cowboys.
2. He excelled in the tournament format.
“The Predator” emerged victorious in two UFC tournaments and reached the final of a third. Frye defeated Thomas Ramirez, Sam Adkins and Gary Goodridge to win the UFC 8 tournament on Feb. 16, 1996 in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, and beat Goodridge, Mark Hall and David Abbott to win the Ultimate Ultimate 96 tournament on Dec. 7, 1996 in Birmingham, Alabama. He was a finalist in the UFC 10 tournament on July 12, 1996, when he took out Hall and Brian Johnston before losing to Mark Coleman.
3. He took the don’t-blink approach.
Frye has five sub-minute finishes to his credit. He punched out Ramirez in eight seconds and cut down Adkins with punches in 48 seconds at UFC 8, dispatched Hall with an Achilles lock in 20 seconds at Ultimate Ultimate 96, choked out Eric Valdez in 49 seconds at United Shoot Wrestling Federation 5 on June 20, 1997 and punched out Bryan Pardoe in 47 seconds at a No Limit Fighting show on Jan. 26, 2008. Those five stoppage victories represent ¼ of his career win total (20).
4. Suitors for his services were many.
The Sierra Vista, Arizona, native appeared in 11 different promotions during his 31-fight career as a mixed martial artist. Frye went 9-1 in the UFC, 3-4 in Pride Fighting Championships, 3-1 with one no-contest in K-1, 1-1 in Shark Fights, 1-0 in No Limit Fighting, 1-0 in U-Japan, 1-0 in the United Shoot Wrestling Federation, 1-0 in the Inoki Genome Federation, 0-0-1 in King of the Cage, 0-1 in Deep and 0-1 in Gladiator Challenge.
5. Hollywood took notice of his talents.
Frye has appeared in roughly a dozen feature-length films. He was cast in his highest-profile role in 2009, when he portrayed FBI agent Clarence Hurt in director Michael Mann’s acclaimed “Public Enemies.” Hurt was part of the law enforcement team that hunted down and ultimately killed the notorious John Dillinger in the 1930s.
« Previous A Game of Inches: The Tiny Differences that Define Combat Sports Next The UFC Men's Bantamweight Title: A Visual History »