By GREG ALLEN EPPIC
With less than 24 hours notice, BYU wrestling coach Mark Schultz found himself center stage May 17 in the octagonal ring of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) IX in Detroit, Mich., waiting to begin his 12 minute no-holds-barred competition.
Schultz said he considered the possibilities of fighting in the UFC a couple of years ago and realized the need to train in other areas besides wrestling.
He began his cross-training under the direction of Pedro Sauer, a Brazilian jui-jitsu expert. He claimed that his intensive experience with jui-jitsu training and full-contact sparring is what best prepared him for the match of his life.
Sauer offered Schultz the opportunity to train with Canadian Dave Beneteau, who was specifically preparing for the UFC.
“Dave had been in three UFCs before and wanted to come down here and train with Pedro to get ready for this last one in Detroit,” Schultz said.
Sauer thought it would be good for Beneteau to train with a wrestler, he said. Unfortunately, Beneteau’s hand was broken during one training session 3 1/2 weeks before the fight, but it wasn’t considered a problem at that point and the issue was set aside.
“Beneteau is a really good guy and we became friends immediately,” Schultz said. “He asked me to go to Detroit with him to be his personal corner man, or the guy to throw in the towel if necessary.
“I went out there with the understanding that that’s what I was going to do,” Schultz said. “I didn’t take any work-out gear. All I brought was a suit and tie and one pair of shorts to do some training with some of the Brazilians that were going to be there.”
Immediately following a news conference that took place on the eve of the fight, Beneteau was looked over by a doctor and told that he would not be able to compete, Schultz said.
“After the doctor said that (Beneteau) was out of the tournament, everybody turned and looked at me,” he said. “So I went over to the head promoter … and told him that I was thinking about taking Dave’s place.”
The next step was to arrive at an agreement with promoters over details to be included in the last-minute contract, Schultz said.
“They called me at seven in the morning with an offer, requesting an answer, but I still needed time to think about it all,” he said. “I went over to a corner and sat down and I asked God what I should do. I felt that I had to do it — I knew I had to do it.”
“I walked back, signed the papers … had a physical, had an interview, went to the octagon to feel the mat, then some guys went and bought all new equipment for me for the match,” he said. “Two hours later I was in the octagon fighting.”
Schultz’s opponent was Gary Goodridge, a Korean martial art expert who was the runner up in the previous UFC competition.
“There’s no eye gouging, no biting, but everything else goes,” he said. “You can break his bones or punch him as hard as you want.”
An automatic victor is declared if one of the opponents submits during the match, Schultz said.
“There are four ways to end or win the match. The guy submits, the doctor stops it, the corner throws the towel in, or the referee stops it,” he said.
At the end of the regulation 12-minute match, doctors would not allow Goodridge to continue in the 3-minute overtime due to numerous cuts, Schultz said.
“He was cut up pretty bad, mostly on his face,” he said. “I didn’t have a scratch on me.”
This is just one more impressive championship to be added to the list of accomplishments for Schultz. As a 1984 Olympic gold medalist in freestyle wrestling, a freestyle world champion in 1985 and 1987, and an NCAA national champion at Oklahoma for three consecutive years (1981-83), Schultz is no stranger to winning.
“This has to be the most significant achievement of my life,” he said. “I got into wrestling believing that wrestling was the ultimate fighting martial art.”
“I’ve been in a lot of fights and … my wrestling skills have always given me the advantage,” he said. “But I had a match one time in here with a guy named Rickson Gracie, who is the best jui-jitsu fighter in the world … and after 20 minutes he finally got me into a submission hold and made me tap out.”
A second match that followed ended the same way, Schultz said.
“It was then I thought wrestling may not be the ultimate martial art and there may be something else out there better,” he said. “I just wanted to start adding to my repertoire.”
“I started shifting my training away from wrestling and toward submission holds … to develop my own style with the best of wrestling, striking arts, and submission arts,” he said. “There is a lot more out there to learn than I ever thought there was.”
The UFC has been able to incorporate all aspects of combat, Schultz said. Cross-training has really paid off, he said.
While most wives may be concerned with the prospect of their husbands getting involved in an event like the UFC, Kristy Schultz, wife of Mark Schultz, said she is probably his biggest supporter.
“I knew it was only a matter of time before Mark stepped into the ring. Being the best at the most difficult physical and mental sport in the world was in his blood,” she said. “As I have always done before, I will continue to support Mark 110 percent in whatever he does.”
As a national wrestling champion and a 5th-place world championship finisher, Kristy said that she is able to understand and appreciate all that is involved in fighting.
“People don’t realize the personal sacrifice, hard training, and mind set Mark puts himself through,” she said. “Most people have little respect for the sport and the fighters because it looks like a sort of cockfight, just two guys beating each other up. The physical exertion is secondary to what’s going on in Mark’s head.”
“Mark is a passionate, special man. Few wives are as lucky as I am,” she said. “I respect, admire, and appreciate my husband for all that he has done and who he is on the inside.”