If you’ve been an MMA fan for any length of time there’s about a 97% chance that you’ve made fun of Fred Ettish. I did. His fight against Johnny Rhodes is the stuff of legends, and not for the right reasons. But there’s way more to Fred Ettish than what happened at UFC 2 in 1994. He’s tougher than you are.
Earlier this year, MMA journalist Bob Carson interviewed James “The Colossus” Thompson and the subject of Fred Ettish came up. Fred Ettish was a karate black belt who lost to kickboxer Johnny Rhodes at UFC 2: No Way Out on March 11, 1994. The fight was ugly, bloody, and was the perfect poster child for the anti-MMA movement of the time. The interview pointed me in the direction of Thompson’s Fred Ettish article on his “Colossal Concerns” blog, which led to the following mini-documentary / trailer by Bobby Razak of TapouT Films.
It’s a dramatic story. Fred Ettish loses his father to suicide, dedicates years of his life to learning karate, jumps into uncharted waters at UFC 2, takes a brutal beating in front of the world, is subjected to years of relentless mockery and ostracized by peers, loses a son, then pulls his life back together, revamps his training, and gets back into the cage at 53 to beat an opponent about half his age.
The video hit me right in the gut, and being the communication junkie I am, I went to Twitter:
Legendary MMA Referee Big John McCarthy Responds
And out of everyone on Twitter, who should decide to weigh in? None other than the third man in the cage when Johnny Rhodes whooped Fred Ettish at UFC 2 almost two decades ago. Quintessential MMA referee Big John McCarthy. His response was spread across three tweets:
“Good!! Fred Ettish endured more pain and ridicule from Internet warriors that would never have the balls to step up. Fred may have been beat, but when he looks in the mirror he can stare back and say, ‘I gave it my best!’ Not everyone can.”
It’s pretty cool how the Internet has revolutionized communication. Some goof sitting at a computer in Vancouver can send a tweet and find themselves conversing with Big John McCarthy (who happened to be en route to Rio to meet with Rickson Gracie at the time) and a filmmaker in Los Angeles.
During this little episode I learned (or was reminded of) a few things:
- Don’t pass judgement before you have the whole story
- Fred Ettish is a true martial artist
- John McCarthy is cool
- Bobby Razak’s History of MMA doc is going to be bad ass
- I’ve done some dumb things in my life
- William Faulkner was right when he said, “unless you’re ashamed of yourself now and then, you’re not honest.”
“Down, but far from out: Fred Ettish” by James “The Colossus” Thompson. Colossal Concerns http://colossalconcerns.com/2012/04/10/down-but-far-from-out-fred-ettish/