Despite fighting only one match in his entire career (which lasted little over three minutes) Fred Ettish is perhaps the most maligned fighter in MMA history.
His sole showing, as an alternate in UFC 2, in 1994, when he lost via naked choke to Johnny Rhodes spawned a wild fire of internet mockery and hate that has yet to end. In fact, not a day passes without his name being mentioned in jest on MMA forums.
“I’ve been tried, convicted and sentenced all on the performance of one night,’ said Ettish, in Clyde Gentry’s book No Holds Barred.
“I’ve been doing mixed martial arts for decades, and on one night when I step out of the box and do something in venue to me, and don’t come through it seems a little harsh.
“I readily admit that I didn’t do well; there is no doubt about that. I bear full responsibility. But I’ve been misquoted in magazines. There were interviews attributed to me that were in no way, shape or form things that I said.
“And that ridiculous website! It goes against everything I believe in and what a mixed martial artist should be.”
The rogue website that Ettish lambastes first appeared in 1995 – with seemingly the sole purpose to humiliate the kempo karate practitioner and everything he stood for.
It dubbed his style “The Fetal Fighting System” referring to Ettish’s defence from the down position used against his opponent for some of the match. (Despite the fact that many other fighters have fought from this position since, notably Thales Leites against Anderson Silva earlier in the year).
“We’ve had the site taken down more than once, but it’s like a dandelion… you pluck one and another pops up somewhere else,” Ettish added.
A keen martial artist for more than 25 years, Ettish, of Minnesota, decided he wanted to test out his Japanese/Okinawan hybrid of shorin-ryu matsumura kempo in a real fighting situation. The UFC, which had just started, offered a chance of this.
So in 1994, when Ettish was 38, he sent a letter to the organisation’s founder Art Davie, begging to be a part of the second tournament.
“He sent a letter back telling me there was no room on the card and, basically, ‘Don’t call us. We’ll call you,'” Ettish said in a recent interview with sherdog.com.
“I got a phone call about Ken Shamrock breaking his hand and them having to move an alternate up to fill his spot. They wanted me to come in to replace the alternate, and I told them I’d definitely like to take the opportunity. This was less than two weeks before the show.”
He added: “I asked under what circumstances would I fight and they said only if someone doesn’t show up, gets sick or injured.
“I asked to fight the other alternate, but they told me since it was a 16-man tournament, there wasn’t time. They let me know everybody was there and told me they’d definitely get me on the next UFC or the one after.”
However, due to fighter Frank Hamaker suddenly pulling out, Ettish suddenly found himself thrust into the action. He had all of ten minutes to get his gi on and get mentally prepared for 39-year-old karate practitioner come street fighter Johnny Rhodes.
An understandably tentative Ettish got rocked early on by a big right hand from Rhodes that sent him reeling. A quick flurry of punches later and Ettish was on the ground. Scooting back to avoid further punishment Ettish was soon clocked with a falling fist that all but ended his night.
Ettish rolled onto his stomach and ate some vicious knees from his opponent. Rhodes got back to his feet and circled Ettish, whose face was now a mess. Eventually Rhodes took his opponents back again and sunk in a choke. A brave Ettish was forced to tap after 3:07.
Despite the outcome, Ettish sent a letter to the UFC saying that he had a great experience and would willingly participate in future tournaments.
Ettish’s performance was probably the bravest in the octagon up to that point. Many green fighters in the early UFC’s simply tapped out of frustration at being on the ground. Yet Ettish kept going to the bitter end.
Such a showing should have been met with universal respect. However shortly after the inexplicable humiliation started and Ettish’s ultra-brave performance was despicably mocked.
“It was incredibly difficult,” Ettish told sherdog.com. “I’ve been judged and ridiculed based on three minutes and some odd seconds. The severity of it and the depth of it went way over the line. Nobody wants to be ridiculed like that. I think that’s unfair, but at the same time, I’ve had to suck it up and put my big boy pants on.”
Despite this Ettish is involved with martial arts. Most recently he has been running the Damaibushi Martial Arts academy, in Minnesota, which is affiliated with the Miletich Fighting Systems camp.