Interview With UFC Legend Tom "The Big Cat" Erikson Interviewed by Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com - December 2008
Tom Erikson is a full contact fighter. He dominated Kevin Randleman back when Kevin Randleman was the best fighter in the UFC. Erikson in my opinion, when he primed, was perhaps the best MMA fighter in the world. I was very fortunate to get to interview with him for all of you.
CRITICAL BENCH: This is Ben Tatar from Critical Bench and I am here with full contact fighting great Tom Erikson. Tom, tell Critical Bench readers about yourself.
My name is Tom Erikson and I am a professional fighter, I have fought in multiple organizations all over the world in multiple styles. Even though I am a professional fighter my base and one true love is Amateur Wrestling and without it I would not being doing this interview.
CRITICAL BENCH: Tom, do you have any disturbing stories about destroying someone in a fight?
I guess the most disturbing one is when I fought Kevin Randleman down in Brazil. I always felt I could really hurt someone bad if necessary but it wasn't until that fight that I truly realized I could actually kill someone with my bare hands.
CRITICAL BENCH: So far in a fight, what has been your most powerful moment?
I think the fight with Kevin would be the most powerful as it was very disturbing to do that to another person.
CRITICAL BENCH: Was it difficult for you to hurt Kevin Randleman, one of the best wrestlers ever, in the Octagon?
The fight with Kevin was difficult as he was a friend of mine and we had to fight. Once we were in the ring the friendship ended and we were competitors.
CRITICAL BENCH: It appeared as if you beat Kevin easily in the fight and he was the very best at that time. Do you consider that victory over Kevin to have been easy?
As far as being easy I don't think so. Particulary when he caught me with one of those big over hands. I think the biggest obstacle Kevin had was dealing with my wrestling skills and dealing with his size was my hardest part.
CRITICAL BENCH: How did it feel to beat Kevin?
It felt a little sad as he was a friend of mine and I put him on a stretcher.
CRITICAL BENCH: In your prime do you think you could have beaten today's UFC monster world champion Brock Lesnar? What about wrestlers like Mark Coleman and Mark Kerr from their primes?
In my prime I know I could have beaten Brock. If I trained I think I could beat him now and that goes for any other wrestler you mentioned.
CRITICAL BENCH: Have there been any moments in your fighting career that has really changed you?
I know I mentioned it before but my fight with Kevin was one and another would be against Tim Catalfo. It was after both of those fights that I really felt I was "getting it" in terms of the fight game.
CRITICAL BENCH: How would you describe your essence as a fighter?
Depends on what point of my career you are talking about. Early in my career I felt I could be very dangerous against anyone. Now I feel I am part of the freak show tour in which people come to see what could have been.
CRITICAL BENCH: A lot of people would like to be more hardcore and gutsy like you. Do you think being as hardcore and as gutsy as you is a good thing?
I am not so sure that would be a good thing. I do think we would have a lot more quality fights if they did though, people would not duck each other as much.
CRITICAL BENCH: Do you have any funny moments from beating someone in a fight?
Yes, my win over Skelton with a rape choke. I had never intended on winning the fight that way but as I was creating space to punch he started to choke and not even try to clear my hand so I squeezed harder. The truly funny part is that it became rule 6 in the pride rules of banned techniques and I always got robbed for it during rules meetings.
CRITICAL BENCH: Do you believe that there are any secrets to becoming tough?
There is no secret to being tough, either you are or you are not. The only secret is how people choose to pretend to be tough about fighting. They are the ones who want to be tough and talk tough but when the chips are down and someone punches you in the face what are you going to do.
CRITICAL BENCH: Tell us about some of the things you have done in fighting that you are proud of?
I think the most important thing is that I truly would fight anyone, any style at any time. My personnel record is 4 days notice to fight K-1, I did that after sitting on my couch for a month after having knee surgery. I ended up knocking out Jan Nortje in the first round (if it went longer I would have passed out)
CRITICAL BENCH: What are the best and worst things about being a fighter?
The worst is easy, the pain you have to go through in your training sucks because everything that goes on in the ring has been done times ten in workouts. The best is obvious and that is winning, funny how winning can take away all the pain (at least temporarily).
CRITICAL BENCH: What are your future goals?
To have my team here at Purdue win a National title. I know it is out there but if I don't truly believe how can it ever happen.
MMAClassics, Tom Erikson vs Kevin Randleman
CRITICAL BENCH: What is your favorite weapon when it comes to fighting?
My head is the most important as that is the one thing that helps me do the things I need
CRITICAL BENCH: Do you get in fights outside of MMA or do you like to keep it to the professional cage?
I am way too old to be picking fights out in the real world and I would also like to think I am much smarter than that. I am not sure what fighting in the real world solves any way except for someone getting hurt.
CRITICAL BENCH: How do you see the future of MMA?
I am pumped about the future as the sport is just now coming into its own. Love him or hate him, Dana White and the UFC are directly responsible for that.
CRITICAL BENCH: If you could fight at Wrestle Mania and challenge 3 people, in a full contact fight who would you choose and why?
I wouldn't care who I fought as long as they where the best, as an elite level athlete I always want to challenge myself against the best.
CRITICAL BENCH: What do you like doing away from fighting?
I am a wrestling coach and I am very fortunate that is something I love to do.
CRITICAL BENCH: Do you have any sponsors? Tell us about them!
Early in my career I never really had any "big" sponsors, at least not in the terms like they do today. HCK (Howard Combat Kimonos) was a very loyal sponsor and I will never forget them. Right now I have represented Tap Out and a company called Phiten.
CRITICAL BENCH: Where did you grow up and what does your family think about you fighting?
I grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago. My wife wishes I would and I think my kids think it is cool their dad fights. As for my mother and sisters they hate it.
CRITICAL BENCH: What adversities did you have to overcome growing up?
My family wasn't rich and my father was an alcoholic so when I walked out the door to go to college, I walked out with nothing.
CRITICAL BENCH: What is going through your mind before a big fight? Do you ever get nervous?
I learned from my wrestling background to stay nice and relaxed. The only time I used to get nervous is when I knew I did not prepare properly for a fight.
CRITICAL BENCH: What is your advice for someone who would like to be a fighter?
I would tell them they are going to have to be willing to put in the time as nothing is going to come easy. If they are not totally committed to leaving everything behind and going some where to learn and train then maybe the fight game is not for them.
CRITICAL BENCH: Tom it has been great talking to you today. You clearly have made a big impact on the sport of MMA and we at Critical Bench wish you all the best with everything ahead. In closing is there anything else that you would like to say?
I would like to say Thank You to all the fans out there that support not only me but the sport in general. I think fighters and promoters alike forget it is the fans in the stands that truly make MMA a sport on the rise and when we get a little self centered thinking we are the show just look out in the crowd and remember if they weren't there would not be a show.