Where Are They Now? Dan “The Beast” Severn
By Stephen DiLeo
Perhaps one of the most celebrated MMA fighters of all time, Dan “The Beast” Severn is a UFC Hall of Famer who first entered The Octagon in UFC 4. He lost in the championship round of his UFC tournament debut, but rebounded at UFC 5, scoring three wins, including one over Oleg Taktarov, to capture the tournament crown.
After a disappointing loss in UFC 6 in the heavyweight “superfight,” Severn returned with back-to-back wins in the Ultimate Ultimate 1995 and UFC 9. One of the most astonishing things about this wrestler is his longevity in MMA. A veteran of 125 pro fights, he sports an impressive 100-18-7 career record – and he’s still going.
Severn was born on June 8, 1958 and hails from Coldwater Michigan. He was given his nickname by the hall of fame football running back, Jim Brown.
Following one of his UFC matches, Severn said he was approached by Brown who went on to describe him as a mild mannered, Clark Kent-type individual outside of the ring. Brown noted how Severn turned into something quite different inside the cage, somewhat of a beast, and it has stuck ever since.
Severn is first and foremost a wrestler, who compliments his foundation with several other styles, all primarily grappling. He deems wrestling to be a critical component of his game because it is essential to teach body control and positioning.
When asked if his entry into the UFC forced fighters to rethink their strategy, he stated that it only served to “highlight the classic rivalry between a striker and a grappler.”
One of the pioneers of MMA, Severn is quick to point out that the original UFC of old is a very distant cousin of the current organization. He noted that today there are approximately 37 rules; however, the early events had only two – no eye gouging and no biting.
This is where Severn draws a very important distinction between No Holds Barred (NHB) and MMA. The first fighters had no gloves, no weight classes, no time limits for the match, and most important, the event was an eight man tournament where competitors had to fight their way to the final.
He made it clear that he is in no way making a statement about the early fighters, but rather a statement about the evolution of NHB to today’s MMA. With regard to the future of MMA, and specifically the UFC, he believes that the sport will continue to mature and grow over the next three to five years.
So which of his 125 fights stands out in Dan Severn’s mind as one of the most memorable? “Of course, from UFC 4, against Royce Gracie.”
Even though it was an extremely long match and that it was “The Beast’s” first NHB loss, the unforgettable part of that event was the fact that Severn was a last minute replacement. He trained only five days for about one and one-half hours a day with a couple of sparring partners that tried to strike at him while he dodged the blows and positioned for a takedown.
Not exactly an ideal training camp, yet this newcomer was able to post a terrific showing against one of the best fighters of the day.
Severn was both honored and humbled by his induction into the UFC hall of Fame at UFC 52 in 2005. While most of the fight world was aware of his accomplishments, Severn commented that it was important to be recognized by his peers and to solidify his connection to his fans. To this day, he remains the only UFC triple-crown champion from the NHB era.
Perhaps the most intriguing fact about this timeless warrior is his durability. As the number of candles on his birthday cakes continue to grow, he continues to fight and, when asked how he has lasted so long, Severn credited a “healthy lifestyle” as his
He also added that he has learned to fight smart and minimize damage by “guerilla warfare tactics,” suggesting that he closes the distance and finishes his opponent without taking much punishment. (He also noted that he has been accused of having a twin or a clone.) His personal philosophy is to live young by believing you are young and by adding a strong dose of humor in day-to-day life.
Outside of the ring, Severn has devoted a great deal of time to his fight promotion, The Danger Zone, which is largely dedicated to amateur competition. He has also created The Danger Zone LET, which consists primarily of Law Enforcement instructional seminars.
At 53, Severn knows that retirement is on the horizon; in fact, he stated that he will hang up the gloves sometime this year, after several fights that are already in the works. He admitted, though, that he won’t be able to handle retirement well.
His fighting style and his ability to avoid punishment has prolonged his career, but he admits that he can tell his body is slowing down, despite a willing spirit.
“I know it is inevitable,” said Severn, “so I want to walk away on my own terms instead of having a younger fighter force me into retirement.”
His retirement plan will focus on redirecting his energies to teaching, which continues to be a passion. He said he forces his students to think outside the box and have them open their minds as opposed to dictating a one-size fits all solution.
“I will never really retire because I am engaged in the greatest athletic contest – the challenge of life,” Severn explained. My top priority is to live each day to the fullest because every day that passes, represents one less that we have.”