Fight Record (presently) 199-47-10

If ever there was an apt nickname for a fighter it’s “The Ironman”, a moniker long used by the undoubted journeyman of MMA, Travis Fulton.

His statistics are truly mind boggling. Since debuting in 1996, where he lost to Dave Strassler, he has fought more than 250 times. It’s an average of 16 bouts a year! In 1998, his most prolific 12-months, the Iowa-born fighter notched up 38 matches.

And if his mixed martial arts exploits aren’t quite enough for you then it’s also worth mentioning that since 1999 he’s fought 38 times as a professional boxer.

“If I had my way, I would fight every day,” said Fulton, who’s still only 33. “I’m doing this because it’s what I like to do.”  

Despite winning nearly 200 MMA fights and facing the likes of Forrest Griffin, Matt Lindland, Ian Freeman and Evan Tanner, Fulton, who was an Iowa State wrestling competitor, has always remained under the radar of mainstream mixed martial arts.

“It seems that today’s average MMA fan only knows what they see on TV,” said Fulton in an interview with Tru Storie MMA.

“Even in my own hometown I’m not respected. Of course I’m known as the toughest guy around here, but I’d say that nine out of ten MMA fans in my hometown area have no clue that I ever fought in the UFC of faced any UFC fighters.”

In 1999, after competing in more than 70 fights, the majority of which were in small shows in his native Iowa, Fulton finally received a shot in the UFC. He was still only 22 and was regarded as one of the most promising Vale Tudo fighters in North America.

Fulton was matched up against the upcoming Lion’s Den fighter Pete William’s, famed for his highlight reel head kick knock out of Mark Coleman.

William’s defeated Fulton via submission (armlock) after six minutes. With this win William’s went on to unsuccessfully challenge Kevin Randleman for the vacant UFC heavyweight belt in his next fight.

Fulton showed enough to be asked back to the very next octagon event: UFC 21. He won a decision against Davis Dodd. This was last appearance to date in the UFC.

“The Iron Man” cites the sheer amount of fights that he’s been in as the reason he’s never figured more in large organisations like the UFC.

“Now that the sport is mainstream I totally regret having so many fights because it has kept me from getting back into the bigger events. Honestly I think I’d be a really marketable fighter with all of the fights that I have, but hell, I don’t even get calls to fight anymore.”

Asked simply by Tru Storie MMA why he fights so much? Fulton replied:

“At first it was because I loved this sport so much. I had my dark days in which I didn’t train but I still fought. I always felt guilty for turning down a fight. Plus I live in Iowa and there have been more MMA events in this state than in any other place.” 

Although a career like Fulton’s, in which he has frequently stepped into the cage for next to nothing, has a kind of romanticism that could well be celebrated in a movie, some are critical.

Former Lion’s Den fighter Mikey Burnett was pretty outspoken on the matter in Clyde Gentry’s book, No Holds Barred.

“Any fighter that fights for that cheap ($100) is cheating the fuck out of himself and cheating the fuck out of everybody.

“We do this for a living and anyone who knows about training for ultimate fighting knows it takes a long time, every damn day.”  

Injuries and general wear and tear has meant that Fulton’s career has slowed in recent years. Last year he fought just once and this year he has fought three times.

His most recent outing was a submission loss to one-time UFC title contender Jeff Monson in October. In May Fulton lost to former UFC heavyweight champion Ricco Rodriguez.

Despite facing some of the sports’ most renowned fighters, like Monson and Rogriguez, throughout his career an actual victory over a marquee name still eludes Fulton.

“I never picked up what I consider to be a big victory. I always beat guys right before they made it to the top. I never actually beat a guy when he was a star.”

Whether or not Fulton ever gets a career defining victory, his place in MMA folklore is pretty secure. And as the sport gets more and more mainstream and professional Fulton’s career looks more and more extraordinary.

Matt Hyde