Jake Rossen has moved on from writing ’10 Fighters that need to retire’ articles for Sherdog and is now putting together excellent retrospectives on historic UFC events of yore for ESPN. This article focuses on the Ultimate Ultimate 2, the UFC’s last 8-man one night tournament. With Tank Abbott’s new wig-wearing pulp writer persona, it can be easy to forget what a legitimate badass he used to be back in the day. Apparently he’s always been a fan of old man loafers, but his attitude and behavior in 1996 was simply legendary. Some choice excerpts from ESPN’s article:
Cal Worsham (quarterfinalist): After my fight with Zane Frazier at UFC 9 [in May 1996], I had a heart contusion, collapsed lung, three broken ribs. I was being kept awake in the ICU for two days without knowing if I would live or die. When I finally got home, I was scared to fart.
Worsham: Around mid-October, I get a phone call from Art Davie telling me no one wants to fight Tank in the tournament. I said, “Yes, sir.” But he was the one guy where if he found out about the injury, he gave off the impression he’d like to do a knee drop on my chest and finish me off.
Art Davie [of X-Arm fame]: I think Tank’s guys followed a tone and a path that Tank set, in the sense they wanted to be like Tank. If they thought Tank would want them to do it, then they would do it. They were the ones who jumped Pat Smith in the elevator [at UFC 6 in 1995, after Smith had exchanged words with the group]. Then Tank came along and finished him off.
Davie: At UFC 8 in Puerto Rico, I ended up in a bar in Bayamon. Tank came in and said to everybody in Spanish, “I think you’re all [homosexuals], you’re all [gay slur]. I’ll kick anybody’s ass in the house.” Like he was John L. Sullivan. The whole place got quiet. I looked at Tank and looked at the crowd and went, “This is going to be a riot.” And Tank looked at me and smiled like, “We’re going to have some fun.”
He’s not irrational. But if he decides he wants to kick your ass, and Pat Smith is a good example, he’ll jump you in a hotel elevator and he’ll kick the s— out of you. He doesn’t think twice about it. There’s no sense of morality.
After the jump, Cal Worsham goes into more detail on what it’s like fighting a maniac like Tank. It involves having broken glass strewn all over your training mats, attempts to throw you out of the cage, eye pokes, and late blows. Y’know, standard oldschool Tank Abbott shenanigans. Don’t forget to check the entire ESPN article out, Tank is only a part of the whole piece.
Worsham: There was a training area within the hotel with mats. All week long, it stayed the same order: everyone else, Tank, then me. I got the last slot of the night. And this particular room at the hotel in Birmingham, they had glass walls and papered it over. It was a storage area for all of their holiday ornaments. The room was fairly dark because of the paper and only a little bit of light from the lobby would come in.
I’m literally in there two minutes or less and somebody in my group yelled, “Stop, you’re bleeding.” I looked and there were dots of blood all over my legs, my arms, my back, my face. What we had found was that somebody had taken some very small Christmas light bulbs and had crushed them up and thrown them on the mat. I can’t prove who did it, but I can tell you nobody else complained about it but me. So you can figure out who did what and when.
Worsham: Apparently, in interviews he had told Blatnick he was going to be the first one to throw his opponent out of the cage. And he got real, real close. The only thing that saved me was the padding on top. I put my heel under it. That’s the only thing that stopped him from throwing me out. If he had thrown me, people would’ve been cheering and laughing. I would’ve had to get up and get someone to open the cage up for me. I get enough flak as it is: “Oh, you’re the guy Tank almost threw out.” Yeah — almost. But he didn’t.
Worsham: Tank turns to McCarthy and says, “He’s eye-gouging me.” John says, “Watch the fingers, Cal.” Well, I wasn’t! But every time he said that, his left hand was on the right side of my face and his thumb is below my eye, so he’s digging his thumb into my eye and for some reason there’s not a single camera angle that catches it. At that point, while he was doing that, I reached out and tapped.
Worsham: John came in and put a hand on his shoulder and one on me and so I relaxed my guard. Tank rears up and drills me with his right hand in the mouth with his two knuckles like he was trying to break off my upper palate. I was shocked and livid.