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Trigg back in the spotlight

Story by Anthony Springer Jr.

As the sport mixed martial arts gets bigger, thousands of men (and women) will enter gyms across the world in search of recognition and financial security. Of those thousands, the UFC keeps a couple hundred under contract at one time. Many men have had a shot in the Octagon. Some have gone on to become champions and others have blown the opportunity of a lifetime.

The fighters in the middle of the pack achieved some level of notoriety on the world’s biggest stage before finding themselves on the outside looking in. Of these, few get a second go round.

Frank “Twinkle Toes” Trigg is one of those exceptions. Though the University of Oklahoma graduate picked up a pair of wins in his debut run with the UFC, he is remembered for highlight reel battles with former welterweight champion Matt Hughes—in which he was choked out twice. After dropping a bout to current 170-pound king Georges St-Pierre, Trigg fell out of the spotlight.

Away from the UFC, the married father of three compiled a 7-3 record away from the Octagon, started a clothing line, and co-hosted an Internet radio show. With so many other ventures on the horizon, why is Trigg happy about another go round in the UFC?

“I don’t know what else to do,” he says after a workout. “I have no idea what else to do.”

While Trigg claims to know nothing but fighting, his goal is crystal clear--he wants t be the champion.

“It’s a title run. I’ve always been that way. I’d rather run myself into a brick wall and fail the attempt than run my mouth. I can talk about anything, but the real guys will talk about it and then go do it.”

In a stacked welterweight division, saying you want to be the champion and actually becoming the champion are at two opposite ends of the spectrum. Compounding Trigg’s attempted ascent to the top is one fighter who remains undefeated in all competitive sports—Father Time.

“I don’t have much time left, I’m 37-years-old,” Trigg notes. “Age and wisdom can only take you so far. I want to go out at least having attempted to [try to] be the best guy out there.”

Trigg is a realist. His second bout with Matt Hughes made the top 100 greatest fights in UFC history. A resilient Hughes battled back from near certain defeat, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. While Trigg is at peace with the loss, it is a low point in his career, but a great fight by anyone’s standards. Like most great fighters, Trigg finds motivation in his failures. Had he emerged victorious in that fight, it’s possible that there would be no second stanza in the UFC.

“Because of my failures, I keep going forward,” he says. “Because I lose when I do lose in the big shows is why I keep forcing myself to become better. If winning had been easy for me, I’d have stopped and went on to something else. I’d probably have been a wrestling coach. Because of my failures, I keep on fighting.”

Despite a career that spans more than a decade, Trigg’s speech alternates at times. One moment he’ll be talking like the veteran he is; the next, he sounds like his debut fight is around the corner. “I get nervous,” he says of fight week. “If you don’t get nervous and you don’t get butterflies, then why are you doing it? For me, it’s still a fun process. It’s how I know I’m back in the light again.”

12 years is an eternity in MMA years. When Trigg began his professional career in 1997, most fighters were one dimensional with basic—or no—knowledge of other disciplines. Today’s fighters are younger, faster, stronger, and well rounded, and the reality of the sport hasn't escaped him. The advanced nature of the sport’s younger fighters make Trigg take note of his level of knowledge when he was a neophyte in the game.

“I didn’t know what jiu-jitsu was, didn’t know what boxing was. I just grabbed a guy by the head and shook him around,” he says of his early days. “[Today] it’s a totally different ball game. Guys like [Georges] St-Pierre, what did he do before mixed martial arts? He did nothing before mixed martial arts and now he’s one of the best fighters in the world… we’re going to have a whole generation of guys that have done nothing but mixed martial arts. They’re going to show up at 18, 19-years old, be champions by 23 and retire by 26.”

In many ways, Trigg 1.0 will square off with Trigg 2.0—Josh Koscheck—on the main card of this Saturday’s UFC 103. He calls the American Kickboxing Academy fighter a “mirror image of me.” Koscheck is a top-ten welterweight and a win over the former Ultimate Fighter contestant will put Trigg on the fast track up the mountain. With implications like that, it’d be easy to think that the pressure to come out victorious would be mounting.

Not so.

“I’m older and the pressure’s kinda less when you’re older,” Trigg explains. “I don’t put so much weight on the fact that I have to win or lose. I’m going to go home and night and my wife is still going to love me as much as she can. My kids are still going to love me as much as they can. Nothing is really going to change; because I know this, winning or losing is not the end of the world, it’s just the end of that night. Let’s pick up the pieces and move on.”

Though Koscheck is faster than Trigg, look for the veteran to utilize his experience and “old man strength” to keep Kos at bay. “It makes me smarter and makes me understand that I have to figure out what these guys are doing a lot quicker,” he says of consistently training with younger fighters. “Plus, it’s not bad to put your strength on him to make him understand, ‘I’m dad here.’”

For as much confidence as Trigg displays, as much as he talks about winning the welterweight championship, he’s fully aware that he may not leave the Octagon with his hand raised Saturday night. Until the final bell sounds, Trigg won’t dare discuss his standing in the division—or even speculate on it.

“If I just barely beat him, I’ll know where I am,” he says of a possible outcome. “If I lose a close decision, I might be in the hunt. If I get fucking destroyed, [I’m] out of the game. From there I’ll make an evaluation.

One thing that Trigg knows for sure is that the bout with Koscheck is no walk in the park.

“It’s going to be a tough fight.”



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