LAS VEGAS – If the Ultimate Fighting Championship doesn't take advantage of Frank Trigg's near-legendary gift of gab and get him involved with its television broadcasts one of these days, someone is making a bad mistake.
There are few athletes this side of Gilbert Arenas who can outtalk Trigg, who is one of the elite welterweights in mixed martial arts history but still may be better known to most fans for his television work with the PRIDE Fighting Championship.
Trigg is now 37 and much closer to the end of his career than the beginning. He's not ready, however, to become a full-time talking head just yet.
He came within a whisper of claiming the welterweight championship from Matt Hughes at UFC 52, a bout that the Yahoo! Sports MMA staff voted the No. 2 match in UFC history in a poll before UFC 100.
That failure has gnawed at him for the last four years. He's 19-6, has won his last four and six of his last seven and has been among the elite fighters in his class for years. The key word in that sentence is among.
Trigg still wants to see if he can become the elite fighter at welterweight. And that's why he picked up the phone earlier in the year and all but pleaded with UFC matchmaker Joe Silva to give him another shot.
Silva acquiesced and paired Trigg with another title hopeful, Josh Koscheck, at UFC 103 on Sept. 19 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. Trigg isn't looking for newcomers or up-and-comers. He wants to take on the elite in the hope he'll earn one more championship shot.
"Let's be honest: This is a title run," Trigg said following a vigorous workout Wednesday at Xtreme Couture. "I've kind of always been that way, where I'd rather run myself into a brick wall and fail at the attempt than keep running my mouth. Let's face facts, guys: I'm a good mouth runner. I can talk about anything at any time I want. But the real guys will talk about it and then go out and do it.
"I don't have much time left. I'm 37 years old and I'm only going to be around four, five more years. (The sport is) going to develop too much around me. No matter what I'm going to do, I'm not going to be able to develop. Age and wisdom can only take you so far before age catches up to you. I want to go up at least having made the attempt of being one of the best guys out there."
Trigg's last appearance in the UFC at UFC 54 against Georges St. Pierre was about four months after the monumental battle between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar in 2005 at The Ultimate Fighter season one finale that UFC president Dana White credits with saving the company.
In essence, Trigg's loss to St. Pierre came just as MMA was emerging from the dark ages. So for all he's accomplished in the game – a résumé that includes wins over Kazuo Misaki, Jason Miller, Dennis Hallman and Renato Verissimo is impressive by just about anyone's standards – he's a relative unknown to many UFC fans.
Thus, his bout against Koscheck will be seen by many not as a return but as a debut. Had Trigg finished Hughes in that epic 2005 bout, however, he probably wouldn't be an active fighter today. And now is when fighter pay and sponsorship money is at an all-time high.
Trigg isn't the kind to fret about what might have been, but if he ever was going to let his mind wander back to 2005, his friend, former UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture, convinced him of the uselessness of such a thought.
"He said if he had made the world team and won a world medal in wrestling and if he'd made the Olympic team and won an Olympic medal in wrestling, he would probably have been done (as an athlete)," said Trigg, who wrestled at Oklahoma. "He said, 'I probably would have been done. I would have finished my athletic career doing that and I would not have been here.' My past failures are why I keep going forward. Because I lose, when I do lose, it's at the big show and it's the reason why I keep forcing myself to become better and better.
"One of the best presidents America ever had is Abraham Lincoln. How many times did he fail? … Because of his failures, he kept going forward. It's the same thing with me. If I had won early in my career, and if wining had been easy for me, I would have stopped and gone on to something else. I'd probably have become a wrestling coach at Division I somewhere. Because of my failures, I decided to keep on fighting and that's why I still chase it."
He looks to be in peak condition, but he hasn't had to spend a lot of time watching tape trying to come up with a game plan. He and Koscheck are both wrestlers and employ a similar style.
Trigg knows what to expect from Koscheck and figures Koscheck will know what to expect from him.
And though Koscheck started in MMA on season one of TUF as strictly a wrestler, he began the sport at a time when there were plenty of coaches who understood the game and were adept at putting the pieces together.
Trigg said the new breed of fighter who will come along is frighteningly good, but he has plenty of respect for what Koscheck has managed to do.
"Koscheck is a mirror image of me," Trigg said. "Fighting him is basically like fighting myself. At the same stage of my career. I didn't know what jiu-jitsu was. I didn't know what boxing was. I just grabbed a guy by the head and shook him around a little bit until he fell down and then I punched him in the face until the ref stopped it.
"Guys like Koscheck, it's a totally different ballgame. These guys are developed and they understand what the sport is all about. They have time to develop themselves (as complete mixed martial artists)."
Trigg has become one – "Much, much better," he said of his overall game – through sheer persistence. He's legendary in the sport for his entrepreneurial spirit and ability to gab and would like to combine the two with a broadcast job.
Talking will have to wait, though, until he takes one last title run. And given that he knows the end is near, he doesn't feel nearly as much pressure as he did when he was younger. He's competing because he enjoys it and wants to see if he can become the best.
"Yeah, I still get nervous," Trigg said. "I throw up and have diarrhea the day of the fight. Typical stuff. Everybody kind of goes through this. If you don't get a little nervous, if you don't get butterflies, then what the hell? Why are you even doing it? For me, it's still fun. It's a fun process. I'm an adrenaline junkie. It's pretty cool for me to have that feeling because now I know I'm back in front of the limelight again."
Win or lose in his title bid, though, now that he's back in the UFC, the MMA limelight is never going to be too far away from Trigg.
- Frank Trigg
- Josh Koscheck