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UFC 2's Fred Ettish: 'I'm Never Going To Fail Greatly Again'

Over 15 years removed from his first and only MMA fight, 53-year-old Fred Ettish returns to the cage this Saturday with redemption on his mind.

Ettish, of course, is probably most remembered for reasons he would rather forget. His loss at UFC 2 in March 1994 for many was a clear example of how karate on its own could prove ineffective in a more realistic fighting situation.

Further, a position he utilized in the fight where he curled to his side for protection, became an internet in-joke and spawned websites in dedication of what is jokingly referred to as "Fred Ettish's Fetal Fighting Technique."

In this exclusive interview with FanHouse, Ettish talks about his desire to properly showcase his martial arts training to the best of his ability the way he would have wanted in 1994 and to finally put the UFC 2 performance to rest.

Why did you decide to return?

There's a lot of unsettledness within me that's been there every since UFC 2, and I've tried stuffing it down. I've tried working through it, I've tried a number of things to deal with the unsettledness of how I feel from what happened at UFC 2 and I haven't been successful putting it away so I came to the conclusion there's only one way to put that stuff to rest and that is to go out and actually perform up to my capabilities which I did not do the first time at all.

Are you unsettled about the loss itself or the ridicule that followed?

Neither. Everybody loses at some point. I happened to lose in my first and so far only fight. Losing is something we all have to deal with throughout our lives in any number of different ways. The manner in which I lost, the manner in which I perform -- failed to perform -- is what bothers me the most. At this point in my life what other people are saying about me, what other people's opinions are: the jokes, the ridicule, that kind of thing, doesn't really make any difference to me anymore. Sure it irritates me a little bit but that is not what drives me. I'm not driven to prove anything to anybody. I'm not driven to try and shut anybody up. People are going to say what they are going to say, they are going to have their opinions.

Were you surprised at how a single three-minute UFC fight became such a big running joke?

I became painfully aware of all that. I said it didn't piss me off cause it did. I was very angry about it. I reacted to it, and the reactions never really brought anything to a closure. The websites stayed up, it moved around from one server to another. I tried to get people to come forward themselves and confront me personally. They didn't do that. That seemed to add fuel to the fire and after so long of chasing it around, it just came to the point where, you know what? It's pointless. I'm making myself miserable. I have more to do in my life than worry about what some adolescent people are doing, whether they are adolescent chronologically or just between the ears and above the eyebrows. I mean if you don't have anything better to do with your life than to try and tear somebody else down and make fun of somebody else to make yourself feel better, then I think you have the issues, and it's only my issue if I let it become my issue.

Why the return now? And not five years ago, ten years ago...

I tried a few times to come back and it was kind of strange. Every time I tried to something always got in the way, and I'm at the point in my life now, like I said earlier, I'm blessed with really, really good health. I've got no right to feel as good as I do at my age. I've got no right to do the things I can do physically at my age, and I believe things happen for a reason. I'm blessed with the health and fitness that I have and the motivation I have to train every day, and I should do something with it while its still available to me. And I'm a realist, I know at 53 years of age, I don't have a huge window of opportunity, and I can see in a couple of days if I have any window at all. We're gonna go and find out. I know I can perform in the gym. How I'm going to perform in the cage? That remains to be seen. But stay tuned, we'll find out.

Were there any obstacles at your age in receiving a license from the Minnesota Athletic Commission?

(Chuckles.) Well, they asked me if I can get a note from my doctor, and so I got my doctor to write them a note, and I offered to get my mother to write a note too. We just stuck with the doctor. My health is phenomenal. I'm blessed and it's my choice to do something with it, or not. And I choose to do something with it.

You're fighting for an event promoted by UFC welterweight Brock Larson.

He's got a show called Cage Fighting Xtreme (CFX) in a little town called Brainerd, Minnesota, and I've been there quite a few times before. Brock is one of my best friends and he knew that I wanted to fight, and he said "I can get you a fight on my show if you want." And I thought, why not? Go and do it for a friend of mine, someone who I know is decent human being. He's not going to screw me over, not going to set me up with a ringer. He's going to give me a reasonable fight. It's home. Minnesota is still home. I live in north Kansas City, Missouri. But I'm a Minnesota boy, I lived up here for longer than I lived anywhere else. I've got tons of attachments, friends, students, so it just seemed like the right thing to do and the right time to do it.

What do you know about your opponent Kyle Fletcher?

He's got an amateur record. He's got from what I understand some fights in some smaller pro shows that aren't recorded. I know he's younger than me. Other than that I don't know a whole lot about him. He's from what I understand a little shorter than I am. He's about 5'10ish, and he's right handed. Other than that I really don't know too much about him.

How different at 53 is your training regimen compared to someone like your opponent, who I'm guessing is in his 20s?

Yeah, I'm assuming he's in his 20s from the way it sounds. He's probably in the late 20s. My training regimen is pretty much the same as anybody else's cause I'm blessed with really good health, and I train everyday so it's not like I have to start training and worry about all the bumps and bruises and extra trauma from having not trained before. I'm in gym everyday, if I'm not in the gym, I'm out running, or doing any number of things on my own, so I'm in great shape and the things I do I take more care of than I did when I was younger is that I get more sleep. I make sure I get plenty of sleep. My nutrition I watch that real close, I eat real clean all the time. I don't eat junk. I try and make sure I stay hydrated. I try to tend to my injuries that I have. When I was young, I was like most younger people do, think they're indestructible and just push through things and don't go to doctors. Now I try and take better care of that.

Back then you were a traditional martial artist, how much of that is included in your training for this fight?

I still train traditional martial arts everyday. It's part of my training regimen and I've added a lot to that obviously. I've been working real hard with some real good wrestlers that are in my gym, a couple of phenomenal jiu-jitsu guys. I'm trying to be as well-rounded as I can. Conditioning is something that I do all the time. I worked with Pat Miletich quite a bit. I'm a Miletich Fighting Systems affiliate instructor and I take that very seriously. I needed to round up my game if I was going to be involved in the sport of MMA but that doesn't mean I left my traditional background behind. It goes with me wherever I go. I'm a traditional martial artist first and that's the way it will be until the day I die. I just happen to be a traditional martial artist who happens to also love the sport of mixed martial arts. I see a place for both things. I have my feet in both worlds and I hopefully am realistic in what I view as my strength and weaknesses of both worlds.

And if you can combine those worlds come Saturday, hopefully there'll be some peace finally for you away from all the years of "unsettledness" and bad press.

Yeah, well, there again. All that bad press. I could let it tear me down, destroy me and make me an angry bitter reclusive guy, or I can use it as fuel and use it as education. And for a while I was angry, bitter and reclusive. I didn't like being that way. So I decided many, many years ago to use it as fuel to make me a better human being. First of all, to make me a better martial artist, make me a better instructor, make me a better fighter and it helps keep me motivated. Sometimes I don't feel like going out and running the hills or doing that after a round of sparring or rolling that extra five-minute round, but I know I got that inside of me. I got that motivation to push [myself] extra because I remember what it felt like to fail greatly. That's fuel for me, I'm never going to fail greatly again. I'm always going to give my best, and that's what I intend to do Saturday night.

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