Catching Up with MMA Legend Don Frye Following His (Sort of) Rematch with Yoshihiro Takayama


Don FryeFrom fighting to professional wrestling to making movies, there’s not much MMA legend Don “The Predator” Frye hasn’t been involved with over the last 20 years of his life, and he shows no sign of slowing down.

Most recently Frye returned to Japan to wrestle for All Japan Pro Wrestling against Yoshihiro Takayama in something of a rematch of their all-time classic MMA bout from Pride 21 in 2002. Along with wrestling Frye has been making appearances in commercials for Allstate Insurance touting their motorcycle coverage.

Frye recently spoke to MMAWeekly.com from his home in Arizona where he discussed facing his old nemesis, acting and what it’s like to be back doing the things he loves after spending time on the shelf with nagging injuries.

MMAWeekly.com: Firstly, Don, you just got back from Japan where you stepped back into the pro wrestling ring for the first time in a while. What was that like after having been laid up with back issues for the past couple years?

Don Frye: It’s been so nice to do something like that, because a couple of years ago I couldn’t even walk.

It was pretty damn bad at one point. There was stenosis and then they carved in there and I ended up getting a staph infection. Then they had to whittle away three of the vertebra and the spinal cord got nipped and that caused a hell of a headache – that was like the worst hangover I ever had.

I could walk 40 steps and then I’d have to sit down for 15 minutes, then I’d walk 40 steps and I’d sit down. I’d spend 20 hours a day lying in bed staring at the ceiling and the other four hours walking to the chair in the living room and sit there. I couldn’t go out and work with my horse or pick up my kids, it was a (expletive) experience.

Then they fixed my back and I’m taking glucosamine chondroitin to help speed up my recovery to where I’m fortunate enough to do stuff like (wrestle in Japan).

MMAWeekly.com: You teamed with Keiji Mutoh (alter ego of The Great Muta) to defeat Takayama and former Pancrase fighter-turned-wrestler Masayuki Kono. What was that experience like?

Don Frye: I was happier than a pig in (expletive) to be able to go back to Japan and work with Keiji Mutoh against Takayama and Kono. We had a great match.

To be back there and hear the crowd cheer is one of the best feelings you can experience, it really is. You know you’ve done right when you walk through the curtain and the smoke and the fans cheer, you know you’ve done something right in life.

MMAWeekly.com: What was it like working with Mutoh all these years after you two were part of the multi-promotional BATT (Bad Ass Translate Trading) stable in 2001-02?

Don Frye: In his prime, he was the best wrestler in the world. And now with all crippled up knees and 20 years into it, he’s still one of the best, in the Top 5. It’s just a privilege to watch the man work, but to be part of his work is something that will go in my memory bank forever.

MMAWeekly.com: What did you think of Kono?

Don Frye: That guy’s got it together. He moves as good as (WWE wrestlers) Edge and Christian do in their prime. He’s got a long career ahead of him.

MMAWeekly.com: Of course the big draw of the match was fans getting a chance to see you in the ring again with Takayama. Tell us about squaring off again with him this time in the wrestling ring.

Don Frye: That was exciting. I was a little bit nervous because once Takayama grabs hold of you or starts swinging that fist at you or kicks at you with those legs the size of oak trees, you want to make sure you come out of there alive.

Takayama and I were only in there for about four minutes. The rest of the time Kono and Mutoh carried the match. For those four minutes I thought I was going to die; they need to remind me to breathe next time.

MMAWeekly.com: What is it like being part of an MMA bout with Takayama that everyone in our sport has seen and still remember and is considered one of the all-time classics?

Don Frye: It’s a privilege, it really is a privilege. It got like Fight of the Year two years in a row for that one. Everybody loves that fight. Everybody who knows something about the fight game or doesn’t know about the fight game has seen that fight. It’s something nobody can ever take away from me.

MMAWeekly.com: Looking back on it is there anything you still take from it all these years later.

Don Frye: What I take away from it is that it hurt.

MMAWeekly.com: You also recently have been appearing in commercials for Allstate. Tell us about that.

Don Frye: I sure do enjoy it. But what else am I going to do with myself? It’s a lot of fun, but it’s a lot of hard work too and some people don’t realize it.

It’s like when I was a fireman for years and you hang out all the time and its 98-percent boredom and it’s two-percent running like hell. It’s also the same thing as the fight game; you train your ass off for two months and then you get in there and try to get it over as fast as you can.

MMAWeekly.com: Thanks for your time Don. Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?

Don Frye: I’m enjoying everything I do and I’m meeting a lot of great people. A man’s got to work and if I wasn’t working, I’d go insane. Thank God I know how to shoe horses, I enjoy that that too. I’ll probably still be shoeing horses in 20 years and chasing Mollie (Frye’s wife) around the campfire.

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