Matt Hughes v. Frank Trigg II was the first fight to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. It’s widely known that UFC president Dana White considers this fight one of his all-time favorites- not just in MMA, but all of sport. According to White, the roughly four minutes of that fight “showed everything that is great about the UFC.”
Why honor this fight above all others as the first pick? It wasn’t to recognize Hughes, already inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. This honor requires that we look at the heel of the fight. One of the first bad guys in MMA. The heel who came before other notables like Josh Koscheck, Chael Sonnen, and the current heel du jour, Conor McGregor.
Who is Frank Trigg?
No word comes to mind more in Frank Trigg’s presence than "hustle."
There was a time when the word "hustle" wasn't pejorative - it was used to describe hard work and the mental fortitude consistent hard work required. It was an intangible quality that was hard to quantify but nonetheless was easily spotted by those who had an eye for it. It's time to reclaim that word from the shadows and give it its due as a badge of honor.
In that spirit, Frank Trigg is the consummate hustler.
One of seven brothers raised in Rochester, New York, Trigg was hustling for attention from the get go. The brothers were physically competitive and achieving on their own was a necessity and encouraged. All were considered good athletes in high school yet none save Frank thought about doing anything with their talent. Of the siblings, Frank was the most determined. Picture a 10-year-old walking three miles one way for a kung-fu lesson.
This determination defined Trigg’s fighting style. When asked about it, Trigg responds in succinct, staccato soundbites: “I'm the gas pedal. I go harder than the other guy. He'll want to quit. 100 miles an hour. As fast as you can go. Constant pressure - a berserker kind of style.” When a comparison is brought up between that style and that of Wanderlei Silva in Silva's prime, he welcomes it, just making the distinction that they had different tools they brought to achieve their objective. Silva had Muay Thai and BJJ. Trigg had wrestling and boxing.
His approach to marketing as an MMA fighter demonstrated similar verve. He launched his own brand - Triggonomics, opting to promote himself alongside anyone who would throw him extra cash to supplement the meagre payout from the UFC and their competitors. This was in the early 2000s and Trigg’s two title fights paid less than $15,000 apiece; a far cry from the six to seven figures awarded to headliners today.
Trigg credits a summer from his youth when he was grounded for missing curfew as the time he began to understand self-promotion. Barred from the outdoors, Trigg read voraciously including a biography of Muhammad Ali. He read that Ali was tutored by none other than genius promotor Aileen Eaton of Olympic Auditorium fame. Eaton put Ali together with Gorgeous George and Freddie Blassie, two huge wrestling personalities that inspired Ali’s “I am the greatest” shtick. What Ali went on to achieve is legend. Trigg modeled Ali and sat opposite Matt Hughes’s equally manufactured country boy persona. Most fans hated "Twinkle Toes" Trigg and that’s the way he planned it.
The fights that defined Trigg’s career are also the ones that ended it. He fought and lost to Hughes twice for the UFC Welterweight Championship. On paper Hughes was no match for Trigg, a superior wrestler and striker. Yet as with most combat sports (and sports in general), just because entity A defeats entity B, and entity B defeats entity C, entity A does not automatically beat entity C. To wit - Trigg beat fighter Dennis Hallman twice. Dennis Hallman beat Matt Hughes twice. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in both, Trigg’s hustle failed and he was never to test for the UFC championship again.
Trigg’s transition from professional fighting to professional non-fighting life was nothing short or incredible. Name an MMA promotion and it's likely that Trigg has fought for it, provided commentary for or about it, or both. He's famed for fighting early on a PRIDE card so he could provide commentary during the rest of the show. Trigg is MMA's perpetual motion machine. Go ahead. Use that search engine at your fingertips. Type “Frank Trigg” into the little box and press enter. Hours later, if you listen to every interview, read every article, watch every available clip on YouTube, you'll still only have scratched the surface.
The transition wasn’t easy. Trigg found himself outside the inner circle of the UFC after working and fighting for rival PRIDE in Japan. A natural born shit talker, Trigg pushed himself further and further away from the organization that was to come to control the sport. Things peaked when Lorenzo Fertitta, casino owner, entrepreneur, and co-owner of the UFC, showed up at the wedding of a mutual friend. Trigg describes how the crowd parted “like the Red Sea.” Fertitta directly called Trigg out on the trash talk. Trigg explained that it was all part of his job - he had a mortgage and PRIDE was writing the paychecks. The path to peace was laid.
Just when things started to warm up again with the UFC, an altercation with UFC announcer Bruce Buffer deepened the divide. Buffer made the error of getting between Trigg and Dana White just as Trigg was speaking to the UFC president about getting back into the organization. As the story goes, Trigg's hand flew out and delivered Buffer a blow. This popped off as the elevator doors were closing. For 10 floors, White, White's bodyguard, and UFC commentator Mike Goldberg were wide-eyed witnesses to the surreal spectacle of Trigg and Buffer exchanging blows. When the elevator doors opened, the action stopped, and both Trigg and Buffer (friendly then and friendly now, by the way) stopped. Buffer looked down and his thumb was a wreck. His shirt was stained with blood. After a quick trip to a Vegas ER for some stitching, Buffer has claimed, he was back on the town, ending the night successfully by retiring for the evening with a "beautiful woman." Stories like this are the legends of MMA, the oral history - not televised, photographed, packaged, and produced - that will equally cause fan, fellow fighter, and journalist alike to question the story's veracity. Like the "Judo" Gene LeBell - Steven Seagal story that ends with LeBell standing over an unconscious (and soiled) Seagal.
Over the years, the UFC has warmed to Trigg yet again, culminating with the Hughes v. Trigg II induction into the UFC Hall of Fame. Today, you can find Trigg hosting regular interviews on a show called "Toe to Toe with Trigg" at mmaoddsbreaker.com, interviewing popular fighter after popular fighter. His fighting history and extensive network of friends insures a constant flow of top talent: Randy Couture, Gilbert Melendez, Michele Watterson, Johnny Hendricks, etcetera. When Trigg speaks, it's with his patented no-nonsense, take-it-or-leave-it directness that’s become Trigg’s hallmark. A more circumspect personality, given to nuance, affectations of politeness, or being "nice" will likely find him abrasive. MMA fighters have themselves been so rattled by his cutting commentary that they've publicly confronted him. Remember, though, that "niceness" is a strategy- a form of manipulation, a mask of harmlessness and pleasantry. Trigg may paint his toenails, but he certainly doesn't gloss over what he says. Conor McGregor felt so burned by Trigg’s analysis that he won’t let Trigg interview him for anything. Ever.
Currently, Trigg coaches at Strong Sports Gym in downtown LA, alongside fellow former UFC fighters Mac Danzig and Vladimir Matyushenko. He's actively involved in work as a stuntman and is working as a referee in the major fighting organizations save the UFC, where his debut there is imminent. His interview show is well received and he stays involved and active in all aspects of social media, regularly speaking his mind on issues both inside and outside the cage.
Trigg muses: “Every morning when I wake up, I think ‘How can I win today?’ I’m still very competitive in everything I do.”
~ Michael Martin
Frank Trigg started wrestling when he was 12, eventually competing in NCAA's Division I, and was an Olympic trials wrestling finalist. He also holds a 2nd degree black belt in judo. An original member of Rico Chiparelli's RAW (Real American Wrestling) team, Trigg trained with the likes of Randy Couture, Dan Henderson, Vladimir Matyushenko, and Matt Lindland, becoming one of the first MMA fighters to excel at all aspects of the game- striking, clinching, and groundwork. Connect with Trigg on Twitter, Facebook, or visit his website at http://www.franktrigg.com/. Trigg can also be found on IMDB, YouTube, Instagram, and LinkedIn. His Acting Resume and Stunt Profile are available by clicking on the links provided.