Dan “The Bull” Bobish is a man that has seen it all. After finishing up a national champion wrestling career at Mount Union college, Bobish signed up for ultimate fighting in the early days. This wasn’t your modern MMA with the safety rules, athletic commissions or helpful referees. This was the brutal, dangerous fighting of the “dark ages” of the sport.
Dan has fought everywhere, from the Vale Tudo tournaments in Brazil, to the finals of the UFC 14 heavyweight tournament, to Pride in Japan. The former King of the Cage heavyweight champion ended his career winning 6 of his last 7 fights, with his sole loss being to Aleksander Emelianenko (Fedor’s brother).
Bobish suffered a career ending back injury in the Emelianenko fight, but his story does not end there. With his fighting career over, Dan decided to make the transition to the business side of the sport. Dan now heads the Ohio fight promotion Ultimate Cage Battles and their 4th event “Pride and Glory” takes place tonight. Dan was kind enough to be a guest on my radio show “The Verbal Submission” this past week and had plenty of interesting experiences to speak about.
Brian Hemminger: Before we get to some stories about the old days of MMA, let’s get to the important stuff. You’ve got a big show coming up, especially for the Ohio scene. Can you tell us about it?
Dan Bobish: I’m trying to put a show on in Ohio so that people in Cleveland and Ohio know that Bobish puts on a show that they want to see everything they see one is coming. We have a pro show about every 2 1/2 months. Ron Foster from Shine Productions, he’s our head matchmaker, he’s helping me get some good pros out there. We have Jason Riley from Strikeforce fighting, he’s fighting Bobby Brent from St. Louis. Bobby’s actually 6-1 sanctioned, but 12-1 unsanctioned. Riley’s 9-4, his record speaks for itself.
Brian Rogers is a great fighter, a great up and comer he’s 5-2 and he’s fighting Robert Conner who’s 9-3 and Tiawon Howard, he’s 7-6, he’s fighting Eric Moon who’s 7-4. In our main event we’ve got Forrest Petz, a UFC veteran fighting Herbert Goodman who actually played for the Packers and fought in Bellator. Herbert’s a tough guy.
BH: You sent out a press release saying “I’m not a promoter, I’m a fighter who promotes fights”
DB: Yeah I’m trying to treat the fighters the way I wanted to be treated when I fought. I fought for 12 years all over the world in many different organizations. I never, ever want to be considered a promoter. I tell my guys that at every fighters meeting before the fight “Just fight hard for me and I’ll take care of you the best that I can with the budget I have. ” Every fighter that’s been on my show, it’s a well run show, they’re happy with their pay and it’s not the greatest but I’m trying my best to take care of the fighters backstage as well as in the cage and give them an opportunity to give them someone that’ll help their record, not just to have a fight. The fight is something that means something, that’ll boost them to help them up the chart.
BH: You mentioned that you don’t want to treat fighters the way you were treated and that you’ve learned from your experience as a fighter by dealing with promoters. Can you site any examples of times where you were wronged?
DB: There’s a bunch of them out there. I don’t want to name names to be professional. I never really burned any bridges in my career. There were a few, there were medical bills that were unpaid for me. I didn’t get paid a show fee one time. We went down to Brasil a few years ago and they promised the fight was gonna be in the cage and it was in a ring so it helped the jiu jitsu guys because we were wrestlers. I was a national champ in college. I was with me, Coleman, Severn, Randleman, Dave Beneteau, we go down to Brazil and they say the truck broke down the day before and the next thing you know we were supposed to get paid before we get in the ring, we didn’t get paid. We had to fight with not knowing if we were gonna get paid or not it was terrible.
When I fought Igor Vovchanchyn for [Pride] I got caught with a thumb through the eye. I was out for 4 1/2 months and my optometrist says I’m ok to start training again, not to fight so I called up my team and Pride and told them I was about to start training and they go “Oh you fight in 11 days vs Igor Vovchanchyn” and I go “No, I’m way overweight. I haven’t trained. I just told you that.” and they go “No, you’re under contract. You must fight.” So I went in there at 381 lbs clearly out of shape against Igor and I won the first 10 minute round but in the second, I was so tired I couldn’t fight.
That’s the kind of stuff I’d never do to my fighters. I’d never sign them to a contract where they can’t fight. I mean they want to make money. Go fight where you can,God bless you. Just don’t fight 30 days prior to our event after signing a contract with me so if something would happen, you can’t fight, you know, I’m putting you on the billboards. I put up billboards, I run TV commercials, ads on different websites such as Sherdog and CageCraze. We’re doing what we can, which is put on a legitimate pro MMA show in Cleveland, Ohio.
BH: Something I loved about your fighting style was that fans were guaranteed a short, action packed and ruthless fight when Dan Bobish was on the card. I think of your 26 career fights, 2 of them went to the second round and most of them never left the first minute.
DB: Yeah, I had no east, west or south on my forte. It was always north, north, north. (laughs) Yeah, it was go balls to the walls and what happens happens.
BH: I think that’s a style that the fans love and they can relate to and I think it’s a benefit to you leading a promotion and succeeding.
DB: Yeah, the people are coming around. The word’s getting out. This is our 4th show, our 3rd pro/am. I did one amateur show, I don’t think I’m going to do much, if any ever again. I really like having the pros on the card. I know it ups the budget but I’ve got some backers and a good name in the area and I think we’re gonna put a good product together. I think we’re gonna start to get some national recognition.
Even our amateur fights are exciting. We’ve got Alvin Worrels, Cody Garbrandt, he’s a big up and comer, tons of boxing background. There’s a bunch of ammy’s, they’re doing really well. We have a new video crew, they do the Cleveland Indians and they’re doing things in HD now so we’re looking to get a TV contract with this show. We’re just gonna roll forward so hopefully we can keep getting bigger, get a bigger budget and hopefully we can pay the fighters better.
BH: I’ve always found that was something that was really important was taking care of the fighters. If you make the fighters happy, everybody is happy.
DB: Even with the little show that we have, we’re actually flying in (Herbert) Goodman and his corner. We pay travel for anyone that’s driving, we’re buying hotel rooms. I’m doing everything I can. We’re no where near a UFC atmosphere but we’re giving guys anything we can do make them happy. Backstage we’ve got different things for fighters that they normally wouldn’t have. Some shows they just tell the guys to find a corner and sit down but we’re trying to give them draped off areas and ice buckets and water wraps and everybody’s happy. I want to be a fighter’s promoter.
Dan wanted to make sure to let you know to check out his organization’s website CageBattle.net which had interviews with fighters, locations of events and how to buy tickets.