49 North Wrestling Interview with Dan “The Beast” Severn
Interview by Eric Asselin
Always the class act, Dan apologized in advance when I called him, as he was in mid typing and stated how amazed he was about how he was able to still have a mind left with the multi tasking he does on a regular basis. I quickly told him that there is very little a man with over 125 MMA fights couldn’t handle.
Dan Severn: My record is actually a bit different than what the “official” record is. In the early days, I was in some situations where promoters would give me a pager and tell me to call the number when the pager goes off, a ticket would be waiting for me at the airport, I’d fly in and be taken to a designated area where I would fight someone with spectators, food and festivities. It was a different world back then.
49 North Wrestling: You had your share of good Canadian heavy wrestlers in your day such as Jeff Thue and Clark Davis.
Dan Severn: Yes, growing up in Michigan I ended up competing quite a bit in Ontario. I wrestled in the Canada Cup as well.
49 North Wrestling: Yes, you won the Canada Cup in 1985.
Dan Severn: Wow that was so long ago. Sometimes it’s all just a blur. I wrestled so long that my father-in-law had asked me one time if I was ever going to get a real job. I’d like to write a book one day. They would be highlights of my amateur wrestling, pro wrestling and MMA careers.
49 North Wrestling: I still remember watching UFC 4 with some guys who knew nothing about amateur wrestling, and as you were coming out to face Anthony Macias in your first fight, I told them that this guy is going to be dangerous. Jeff Blatnick was listing off your accolades and the UFC spectators were going to witness their first world class wrestler.
Dan Severn: It was like the Wild West. Nobody knew anything about each other, the rules were wrong. It was a very interesting time in my life.
49 North Wrestling: I heard that you were only planning on only doing one fight.
Dan Severn: Yes, I had no idea how it was going to go. I didn’t tell any of my family members that I was competing. I didn’t want them to worry about me. I only trained for five days with 1.5 hour practices and walked into the world of No Holds Barred. The five practices consisted of me fighting workout partners in a wrestling ring. I made them scream and squawk. Amateur wrestling teaches you the mechanics of leverage, but that leverage also equals pain. What motivated me to keep going in NHB was when I lost to Royce Gracie, and he told me I was the toughest guy he ever fought. I said to myself that they haven’t seen anything yet.
49 North Wrestling: Did you compete a lot in the Soviet Union?
Dan Severn: Yes, I competed a lot in Eastern Europe during the cold war including the famous Tbilisi Tournaments. Those were different times in the world. The athletes were great, but they always had to be aware of where their coaches were. Behind closed doors they were very open with you. I learned about the word propaganda. How other countries use it, and how we use it. I have not taken too much for face value for quite some time. You’re testing my mind, Eric; I’m thinking wow.
49 North Wrestling: I know, most interviewers ask you about your last four fights, I’m asking you about competing in Communist Russia.
Dan Severn: The ones I remember are the losses. I had an interviewer ask me about fighting Forrest Griffin once, and I said “Who?” No disrespect to Forrest, but a win is just another soul along the way. The losses stay in my mind. I wrestled at a time where you had to beat the champ decisively and not by a close margin. I had some questionable calls go against me in some big matches. That is one of the bad things about sports, as you would hope they could be cut and dry, but they’re not.
49 North Wrestling: Sore spot for you, but I assume if things would have went the way you wanted them to in 1984, we probably wouldn’t be speaking right now.
Dan Severn: I would have retired. My goal was to win the Olympics and retire.
49 North Wrestling: How did your seminar go at ACCESS MMA here in Ottawa?
Dan Severn: It was fantastic. Typically people are a bit intimidated before they meet me, but they see that I’m approachable and interactive. I never forgot where I came from.
49 North Wrestling: Yes, you never played the bad guy in NHB/MMA.
Dan Severn: No, but in pro wrestling the cycle is to go from a good guy to a bad guy or vice versa, and the WWE creative team wanted to turn me into an evil character where I would have 666 written across my forehead, as it is the number of the beast, but I told them that wasn’t going to happen for a variety of reasons. Being from small town America is one of them. I didn’t want to put myself or any of my family members in a hostile situation.
49 North Wrestling: Did you have a chance to watch Foxcatcher?
Dan Severn: I haven’t had a chance yet. I spoke to many athletes who trained there, and they told me it was a decent depiction. I was actually being recruited by John Du Pont, but I stayed away after hearing about the crazy antics, and I also wanted to stay loyal to the Sunkist Kids Program. You’re actually speaking to the original Sunkist Kid from 1976.
49 North Wrestling: Do you miss competing?
Dan Severn: Actually, I had a professional grappling match not too long ago. My opponent was 30 years younger than I, 65 pounds heavier and won 24 NAGA events.
49 North Wrestling: I assume you won?
Dan Severn: Yes.
49 North Wrestling: You’re going to live to a 100.
Dan Severn: I plan on living to 125 and hope to go tragically by a jealous husband.
49 North Wrestling: Dan, it was a real honour. You are without a doubt one of the athletes who tuned me into the sport.
Dan Severn: Eric, you made me think of things I haven’t thought about in a long time.
49 North Wrestling: My pleasure. I like MMA, but I’m all wrestling. I can’t think of too many MMA stars that had long wrestling careers state that wrestling has taken a backseat in their hearts.
Dan Severn: Wrestlers agree that amateur wrestling instilled in us that drive and perseverance. I owe all my gratitude to wrestling, mano a mano, stepping out all by yourself.