Dan Severn has done it all. He is a two-time Olympian, 13 AAU wrestling titles, two-time All-American wrestler, twice he held the NWA championship, UFC 5 Tournament Winner, Ultimate Ultimate Tournament Winner, UFC Superfight Championship and has an MMA record of 101 wins, 19 losses and 7 draws. “The Beast” Dan Severn is in a category unto himself.
When you meet Dan Severn you are struck by his calm demeanor and integrity. Dan will say things the way he sees them. Sometimes it is a little less than politically correct, but you always know where you stand with him. For a man who has accomplished so much in the world of amateur wrestling, professional wrestling and mixed martial arts, it would be understandable that Severn might have a big head, but he doesn’t.
“Don’t ever take my kindness as an act of weakness,” said Severn at a recent Crossfire Wrestling show in St. Catharines, Ontario. “I am a proven commodity. I treat people nice because I want to be treated nice. It is a golden rule of life and yet there are a lot of people in this industry, just like the fight industry, they get their five minutes of fame and it goes to their head. Then they become arrogant asses that I quite frankly don’t want to be around as well.”
Often times Severn has been referred to as a throwback. When he went to the ring or octagon Severn never wore fancy outfits or needed the flashy entrance. Even his attitude and values are uncommon in this era. “I don’t put on any facades with people. I am a real person,” explained Severn. “I am comfortable in my skin. I don’t need to put on any airs. The credibility is not in what you own; it’s how you treat people and how people respect you. Respect isn’t given, it is earned.”
On athletic ability alone Severn has earned the respect of the grappling community. His frank talk is refreshing and not filled with the hyperbole usually associated with sports entertainers. “In today’s society the generation that is coming up in this world are filled with entitlement,” lamented Severn. “I am not a politically correct individual. I am okay with that.”
What Severn sees in the youth of today bothers him deeply. The two-time NWA world heavyweight wrestling champion is on a mission to help young people that he feels are directionless and unmotivated.
One of the things he does is talk to youth and run training seminars for kids. He uses the letters of his nickname “The Beast” as an acronym for young people to follow. “The ring name The Beast has many connotations. I am a positive individual,” said Severn. “The word T.H.E. stands for Dan Severn. I am a Teacher, I am a Humanitarian and I am an Educator. My message to young people is B.E.A.S.T. Believe in yourself, Educate yourself, to adjust your everyday Attitude, to Study hard and then to Teach others. So, I took a negative and turned it into a positive and I have been that way my entire life.”
When Severn leads a seminar, like he recently did at United Family Martial Arts in Niagara Falls, he wants to get the best out of his young charges. “When I work with kids I find out what they know. I do not like to teach kids chokeholds or arm bars. I will teach them aspects of grappling, wrestling, body control, movement, things of that nature. It is all kinds of fun stuff,” said Severn.
Severn laments the lack of physical strength and bodily awareness that children exhibit in this technology-driven world. “Really what I did there for the first 20 minutes was all gymnastics,” said Severn. “Today’s generation growing up has very limited physical abilities. Gross motor skills are horrible, hand-eye co-ordination horrible. Give them a video game, give them a computer they’ve got great finger dexterity, but most kids have never done a foreword roll, backward roll, can’t cartwheel.”
He is more surprised by what kids today can do then by what they can’t do. “Standing on their head, most times I go into a class with 35, 40 students I’ll say, ‘Who here knows how to stand on your head?’ I’ll be lucky to see three or four hands shoot up and that is wrong. It is so wrong,” said Severn. “I take them through this and I have moms and dads are watching me and they can’t believe what they are watching because I am older than them and they are seeing me cartwheel, and foreword role and backward roll. Some moms and dads say that I look like a trained gorilla the way that I do this or that, but I am having the time of my life. I am being paid to work out.”
It is not all bleak for the former UFC champion. He sees his training seminars not just as a way to help kids, but as a way to encourage parents as well. “I don’t look my age and I don’t act my age. I am talking to kids and I am really talking to moms and dads,” said Severn. “I want moms and dads to engage their families more. I want them to go for walks, go for picnics, do something physical. Don’t just be a gathering sitting there in front of the boob tube and eating. That is what’s happening. I know that. I have seen that in my own household, but my kids have learned to never say I am bored around dear old dad then they know that dad always has something to do.”
Dan Severn is certainly enjoying his life. He currently runs his own training facility in Michigan where he trains wrestlers, boxers and mixed martial artists, teaches self-defence to law enforcement officers and still mixes it up in the professional wrestling ring. “Even though I’m retired from the cage fighting world people will see me and say, ‘What are you doing?’ And I say I’m training for the greatest competition which is called life,” said Severn. “Everyone wants to live longer and they want quality of life, but if you don’t put something into it how do you withdraw something out of it?”
Dan Severn is a man with strong convictions and beliefs. He is a person who believes his word and a handshake is his bond. Perhaps we need a few more throwbacks in the world.