Travis Fulton retires at 41, after 307 fights
One of the most monumental fighters in MMA history has retired at the age of 41.
I first saw Travis Fulton fight live on March 20, 1999, at HOOKnSHOOT: Horizon, when he knocked out the giant Harry Moskowitz. Three weeks later I was there live as he was neck cranked by Vladdy Matyushenko at IFC: Fighters Revenge. His record then was 56-14-5 and I was in awe.
Travis Fulton's record is now 253-54. He's fought 307 times. That's more fights than every full and interim UFC champion, male and female, combined.
Fulton's decision comes after the oddest win of his career, vs. Johnathan 'Leglock Monster' Ivey at Colosseum Combat 45 on June 30, in Kokomo, Indiana. Ivey dropped Fulton and was striking on the ground. The referee felt Fulton was intelligently defending himself to a degree and declined to stop the fight. So Ivey backed off and tapped out.
The odd fight ending got huge coverage, and provided Fulton an opportunity to reflect.
I didn't compete in mma to make a name for myself. I always loved martial arts and after watching the movie "Bloodsport"...Posted by Travis "Ironman" Fulton on Monday, July 2, 2018
I didn't compete in MMA to make a name for myself. I always loved martial arts and after watching the movie "Bloodsport" I became obsessed with the idea of mixed martial arts (although that term was completely unknown at the time).
I watched UFC 3 at the age of 16 and at that moment I decided that my goal in life was to compete in the UFC.
As I stated earlier, I did not compete in MMA to make a name for myself. I just loved the sport. I never dreamt that I'd ever leave an impression let alone be considered a "legend".
20 years ago was arguably the most successful point of my fighting career. In 1998 I posted an MMA record of 36 wins 5 losses and 3 draws. I won the IFC and WVC world titles. I won 10 tournaments and competed in Brazil, Japan, Canada and a dozen different US states. I also had the opportunity to fight my UFC hero Dan Severn.
Sports fans seem to forget that professional athletes also had their favorite players and competitors who competed in the same sport they do. I had my UFC hero and it was Dan The Beast Severn. I never imagined I'd ever be another fighter's hero.
I first saw Jon Ivey compete in 1998 in Indiana when he manhandled and piss pounded his opponent in 13 seconds. I remember thinking Ivey looked mean as f***.
I fought Jon in California in 2002. I won the fight via kimura lock. I don't really recall talking to Jon at the event. In fact, I don't recall talking to him much at all in spite of the fact that our paths had crossed many times throughout our fighting careers.
I had no idea that Jon had my face tattooed on his leg until a couple of years ago. Up until then, I was clueless that he thought anything of me as a fighter.
Time catches up with all of us. Time was eventually going to catch up with the genetic oddities such as myself.
In my first 275 or so MMA fights I was only cut open twice. I was dropped just three times and I was never knocked out.
In my last 30 or so MMA fights I've been cut 4 times, dropped several times and I was knocked out for the first time in my fighting career.
I was well aware of the fact that my age was finally catching up with me. This fact really didn't bother me because I had no intentions of ever attempting to take a serious run at anything in the sport of MMA. I accepted fights that seemed fun. The 21-year-old animal I once was had long since lost interest in competing in MMA.
I rarely follow MMA news, but it did sadden me when I occasionally checked up on recent fight results and would see my MMA hero Dan Severn losing to fighters I felt he would have destroyed in his prime.
I never posted a victory against Severn, but I did fight to a draw with him and I was content with that. I felt I could've beaten Severn towards the end of his career, but I wasn't sure if I'd ever want to do that. Up until reading a comment on a video I watched this weekend I never put any thought into how I would feel if I were fighting Severn and was in a position to finish him.
The sport of MMA has evolved considerably since I made my professional debut 22 years ago. It's been more than a decade since I've had the opportunity to compete in the same scenario as I did when I first began fighting. This past weekend I had the chance to relive my glory days one last time when I fought for a title on an event in Indiana against a fighter from my era. Neither of us were local fighters and therefore the hometown fan support wasn't relevant.
Ivey seemed determined and I have always stated that the fight game is all about your mentality. Ivey didn't appear to be coming for a paycheck. He was coming to win.
I had no intentions of making my fight with Ivey the final MMA fight of my career. I saw a winnable fight for a championship title. It was a chance to relive my glory days.
I have been unable to find a video of the full fight, but I have found many clips of the final minute of the fight.
The first three and a half minutes of the fight was a standing engagement where both Ivey and I felt each other out and looked to land punches and kicks.
My strategy going into the fight was to keep it standing. It is common knowledge that Ivey was a ground fighter and very skilled in leg locks. Obviously, it'd be tough for him to catch me in a leg lock if we were on our feet.
Shortly before the 4-minute mark, Ivey landed a hard right hand which dropped me. He instinctively followed up and tried to put me away and I instinctively defended myself.
After landing several hard shots Ivey quit. He stood back and tapped out and the referee asked him what he was doing and I recall hearing him tell the referee "I'm done. That's my f***ing hero.
I have difficulty picturing myself being a fighter that another fighter looks up to. Especially a fighter from my generation such as Jon Ivey.
I didn't attempt to watch the fight until last night. I did get dropped, but I was defending myself. The referee didn't appear to be contemplating stepping in and stopping the fight. There was less than a minute left in the round and had Ivey continued his attack I could have very well recovered entirely and the round would have ended.
I then began reading stories and posts and comments regarding the fight. Stories claiming Ivey faked a heart attack to get out of the fight and others talking about how he didn't want to beat his hero.
I then read a comment where someone stated who their hero was and how they would fight even harder because they would want their hero to respect them. It was at that moment I thought about what it would feel like to fight my hero Dan Severn at the end of his career and to be on the verge of finishing him. That's when it hit me...I don't think I could do it.
You see, these keyboard warriors and armchair quarterbacks have no idea what they'd do if they were in the same position as Ivey because they never have and never will be in that position. I cannot sit back and read stories and posts written by people who have no idea what it would be like to be put in the same position as Ivey.
Could he have finished me? Maybe, we will never know. Arguably I was still in the fight and didn't appear to be on the verge of being stopped. There was also less than one minute remaining in the round. Experience and instincts alone could've helped me weather the storm and survive the round.
The footage of the fight shows that I am still in the fight and any fan, fight analyst or commentator would most likely agree with that statement.
However, fans, fight analysts, and commentators were not in the cage. Ivey is well known as a leg lock specialist and my guard was separated and my legs were easy targets. Yet Ivey didn't take a leg.
I recall seeing Ivey submit and hearing him explain to the referee why he decided to do so. What I don't remember doing is giving a post-fight interview or leaving the cage.
Two people knew I was hurt 4 minutes into the fight last Saturday night. Ivey and myself. A fighter can see when he has hurt his opponent and the end of the fight is near.
Ivey dropped me with a punch and instinctively went in to finish me. I was dropped with a punch and instinctively defended myself.
It was after the seconds had passed and we were no longer acting on instincts that the gravity of the situation registered for the first time.
I still have difficulty accepting the fact that I am another fighter's hero. Did I want to beat my fighting hero Dan Severn? Absolutely. But I never put any thought into how I would feel in the moment when I'm on the brink of victory. You know what I realized? In the exact same scenario as last weekend...I couldn't f***ing do it! It was an emotional blow that I had never put any thought into.
Ivey and I are both 20-year veterans of the sport of MMA. I had no intentions of retiring from MMA going into my fight last weekend, but the way that fight played out showed me it was time to hang them up.
Would Ivey have finished me? Would I have come back and won the fight in the second or the third round? After watching the fight I think either of those was a possibility. It wasn't as if I was unconscious and the referee wasn't intervening so Ivey showed me mercy and handed me the victory.
As I stated several times, it's difficult for me to consider myself another fighter's hero, but what Jon Ivey decided to do this past weekend was a greater tribute than having my ugly mug tattooed on his leg. I was in danger of losing and Ivey chose to allow me to retire a champion. The option to do so was placed in front of him and that's the decision he chose to make as a tribute to a fighter he said he looked up to throughout his career.
Sports writers, fight analysts, and fans want to deem what Ivey chose to do as bizarre. Well, sports writers, fight analysts, and fans are just that...they aren't fighters. As a fighter, it took a moment to reflect on the situation to understand.
I appreciate the years of fan support, the experiences that most people will never have and hopefully one day I will be remembered as the true warrior I once was.
Congratulations Travis Fulton, on one of the most impressive careers in the history of our sport. You are a legend.