Highly Entertaining Pay-Per-View Special
on UFC Legend Airs Tonight
By Loretta Hunt
For those who cannot get enough of a certain rambunctious heavyweight that has recently made a return to mixed martial arts, the UFC offers "Ultimate Tank Abbott" (UTA) tonight through various pay-per-view providers, starting at 10 PM EST. Like the last two "Ultimate" installments that have focused on legendary fighters of the UFC, UTA is a chronological look at the fight career of original "Huntington Beach Bad Boy" David "Tank" Abbott, who became a staple of the 1995 through 1998 UFC’s by being the "anti-athlete" of the Octagon. Claiming to have no training other than what he learned on the streets, Abbott’s colorful personality added a much needed excitement to the UFC as it struggled to keep its fans enthralled and involved. A legend in his own right (at the time of this writing, Abbott stands as the most active fighter in UFC history with a whopping sixteen fights), Abbott joins the ranks of past subjects Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock.
Unlike this episode’s predecessors, however, UTA diverges from the rigid format the series has displayed in the past in what could be a ballsy stroke of genius for Zuffa Sports Entertainment, the company that helms the UFC. Host Mike Goldberg is nowhere to be found this time around, but in his place is the Tankster himself, reminiscing over a beer or ten at a favorite local hangout somewhere out in California. On the mic to coax the king of all MMA trash talk along is "Big Al," a former strength and conditioning coach to Abbott and a past witness to his shenanigans inside and outside the Octagon. The two men are placed in front of the camera and evidently left to their own devices, as Tank and Al take the audience down memory lane — from Abbott’s explosive twenty-one second premiere at UFC 6 to his final appearance at Ultimate Brazil in 1998. Big Al and Abbott share an appealing camaraderie on-camera, but the real star of this show is Abbott’s unforgiving, non-PC commentary during his fight clips. Bordering on inappropriate many a time, Abbott proves that he is still the quickest one-liner slinging fighter out there, even as the flowing libations indiscriminately start to take a toll on his motor skills.
Along with brutal displays of knockout power from Abbott’s checkered 8-7 record, the UFC also manages to get a hold of home footage featuring a charging Abbott at a UFC after-party melee and causing a ruckus ringside at an actual UFC competition. Despite a few odd instances, including a reenactment of Abbott in an vaguely-explained elevator incident, the special is chock-full of real life accounts of what went on behind closed doors in the UFC’s infant years, albeit from Abbott’s point-of-view. Of interest are the first few moments of Abbott’s dialogue with sidekick Al as he explains why and how he got involved with the UFC. Honest and poignant, Abbott is at his most intriguing here.
The show is laugh out loud funny for much of its hour-long duration and should be a real treat for dedicated MMA fans looking for tidbits from the sport’s previously undocumented past. While this might not be a major concern for the show’s producers (for the show really seems to be directed towards fans already familiar with Abbott), audiences tuning in to watch this unique fighter for the first time might be confused or misguided with no real reference provided to where the sport has evolved to today (and where Abbott fits among it). Although one may be able to catch the trend with Abbott’s opponents (he easily dismantled lacking opponents, but had a much harder time with the true emerging athletes of the Octagon), this may be too much to ask from those that have not been with the sport long enough to distinguish between the two. The producers do give the inebriated Abbott almost enough rope to hang himself by hour’s end with his slurring and slobbering (you begin to doubt anything that ever came from his mouth prior), but they don’t seal the deal by showing Abbott’s final fight (and his ultimate demise from the sport) at 1998’s Ultimate Brazil, where a young up-and-comer named Pedro Rizzo finally silenced Tank with a knockout to end all knockouts.
However, with the bold choice of letting Tank be Tank, an entertaining hour of programming has emerged that is well worth its $9.95 asking price. Not taking itself too seriously, this lighter approach to the material at hand is a step in the right direction for the UFC and is probably the hippest piece of work to come from the organization that won’t rest till it hits the mainstream.
For those that can live without Tank Abbott’s recent return to MMA (and we know you’re out there), check out "Ultimate Tank Abbott" for your love of the sport. There is enough there to tide you over till the next "Ultimate" installment highlights another fighter worthy. For everyone else– hunker down on the couch and tune-in. David "Tank" Abbott will surely not disappoint.