Tank Abbott

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Tank Abbott
Tank2015 crop.jpg
Abbott in January 2015
BornDavid Lee Abbott
(1965-04-26) April 26, 1965 (age 54)
Huntington Beach, California, United States
Other namesTank Abbott
Height6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight263 lb (119 kg; 18 st 11 lb)
DivisionSuper Heavyweight
Fighting out ofHuntington Beach, California, United States[1]
Years active1995-2009, 2013
Mixed martial arts record
By knockout6
By submission3
By decision1
By knockout7
By submission6
By decision2
Mixed martial arts record from Sherdog

David Lee "Tank" Abbott (born April 26, 1965) is an American retired mixed martial arts fighter, professional wrestler, and author. He currently hosts his own podcast series titled "The Proving Ground with Tank Abbott."[2] Abbott is perhaps best known for being an icon in the early stages of mixed martial arts and the UFC, but has also competed in the PRIDE Fighting Championships, Strikeforce, EliteXC, and Cage Rage, he has described his fighting style, which he developed brawling in the bars and streets of Huntington Beach, California, as "Pit Fighting". Abbott was the first fighter to regularly wear what would be known as traditional MMA gloves in the UFC[citation needed]. He also authored a novel titled Bar Brawler.


Abbott was born and raised in Huntington Beach, California. Abbott began practicing amateur wrestling when he was nine years old, and continued through high school where he also played football, he then continued wrestling in college, where he was a NJCAA All-American. He then attended Cal State University-Long Beach where he graduated with a degree in History[citation needed]. During this time he was trained in boxing by Noe Cruz who also trained world champion boxer Carlos Palomino at the Westminster Boxing Gym.

However, Abbott was mainly known for the many street fights that he has engaged in, rarely losing. While working at a liquor store to help pay for his college tuition, Abbott encountered a "smart-ass" customer. Abbott beat the customer severely, and the customer, who turned out to be a son of a detective, pressed charges for assault. Abbott was sentenced to six months in jail, the judge saying "Mr. Abbott, you are a maniac. I'm surprised you haven't killed somebody."[3]

Mixed martial arts career[edit]

Abbott started his career in mixed martial arts when he applied to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) for its event UFC 6 Clash of the Titans in Casper, Wyoming,[4] he was promoted to the UFC management by his future manager Dave Thomas, who credited him as a veteran street fighter who lifted 600lbs in bench press and had knocked out four men in his last brawl. Upon this description, the management compared him to the character "Tank Murdock" from the 1978 Clint Eastwood movie Every Which Way but Loose, which encouraged them to give David the nickname of "Tank Abbott" and bill him as a "pit fighter" with over 200 street fights.[4]

According to Abbott, this wasn't the first time he applied to UFC. Inspired by Kimo Leopoldo's participation in UFC 3, he had tried to enter the promotion as soon as September 1994, but the UFC management only allowed him to fight from UFC 6 onwards, after Royce Gracie had ceased fighting in UFC.[5] Art Davie would confirm the Gracie family certainly used its input in the management to limit fighters with amateur wrestling background, like Abbott himself, from entering the first events.[6]

Ultimate Fighting Championship (1995–2003)[edit]

Abbott made his debut at UFC 6 in July 1995 as scheduled, he actively cultivated the tough character he had been given, firstly by giving a rude interview in which he derided martial arts and then by knocking out the Hawaiian Kapu Kuialua fighter John Matua, who weighed 400 lb, in the first 18 seconds of his opening fight.[7] Abbott further solidified his reputation by mocking Matua's convulsions after the KO while the ring doctors rushed the cage.[8] Abbott advanced to the next round and was pitted against a similarly heavier adversary, Paul Varelans. After returning to the cage in midst of strong cheers, Abbott knocked out Varelans by ground and pound and knee strikes, all while smiling openly to his opponent.[9]

At the finals of the tournament, Abbott faced the Russian Oleg Taktarov in a fight that the announcers touted as a "skill vs. power" bout.[citation needed] Just as described, the match saw Abbott blocking Taktarov's artful grappling attempts and damaging him in turn with hard punches and uppercuts. With both men becoming increasingly tired due to their previous fights and the high altitude of the location, the action moved to Taktarov's guard, where Abbott avoided multiple submission attempts and punished him further; the fight was restarted standing, which would give Abbott the advantage, but by this point he was exhausted enough for a slightly better conditioned Taktarov to pull him down and lock a rear naked choke, thus winning the fight at the 17 minutes mark.[10][1] Both men collapsed in exhaustion after the fight, and Taktarov had to be carried out of the cage.[10] Although Abbott had failed at winning the tournament, referee John McCarthy considered him the next big star of the promotion after Royce Gracie.[4]

Abbott returned the same year as part of the Ultimate Ultimate event, which saw runner-ups and champions from the previous UFC tournaments gathered together, he first fought UFC 3 winner and ninjutsu practitioner Steve Jennum, whom he outweighed by 80lbs. Although Jennum proved capable of avoiding Tank's strikes, Abbott submitted him with an improvised neck crank. However, his next opponent was Dan Severn, UFC 5 champion and a much more decorated freestyle wrestler than Abbott himself. Tank initiated the action strong, but he was overpowered and eventually kept on all fours while Severn rained elbows and knees on him. After fifteen minutes of absorbing strikes, Abbott managed to free himself, but Severn kept dominance until the end of the fight, which gained him the judges's unanimous decision.[11]

Abbott's next UFC apparition would be in September 1996, at UFC 11. Accompanied by a young Tito Ortiz and dragging a knee injury without its adequate surgery,[5] Tank climbed the cage to fight professional boxer Sam Adkins in the first round, an affair he ended quickly by forearm choke against the cage wall; this tournament venture was cut short, however, by Scott Ferrozzo, a contender from Don Frye's entourage who was billed as a "pitfighter" like Abbott himself. Ferrozzo was also fresher, as he came to replace Jerry Bohlander, who had got injured in the previous round;[5] the two fought evenly in the clinch for minutes, with Tank coming closer to a stoppage by opening a cut in Scott's face, but Ferrozzo eventually gained the advantage with knees to the body and a heavy uppercut. At overtime, now with the crowd cheering unusually for Ferrozzo, the latter controlled the action with knees and punches to win the judges decision.[12] According to Abbott, Ferrozzo had to go to the hospital after the match, while he did not.[5]

As the first time, Abbott was invited back to the next edition of Ultimate Ultimate at December 1996, his first opponent was Cal Worsham, a former U.S Marine whom Tank disposed of swiftly via wrestling and punching. A short brawl happened after the bout when Worsham suddenly tried to attack Abbot, as Abbott had kept hitting him while the referee stopped the bout. Abbot's next fight met an even more brutal ending, as his opponent, Steve Nelmark, fell against the fence upon being knocked out and got his neck folded in a dangerous position. Despite the incident, Tank remained calm, and he was later quoted as "If that man weren't in the octagon, I would have kicked him about five times in the face, and I have, and I've done it many times."[13]

At the end of the event, Abbott met his final adversary in Don Frye himself, with the winner of the fight gaining a title shot against Dan Severn. Despite Frye being a superior wrestler like Severn, Abbott caught him with a hard left jab and dominated the match onwards with wild strikes, appearing as if he could win by KO at any moment. However, by capitalizing on a punch in which Abbott overcommitted and slipped down, Frye managed to capture his back and lock a rear naked choke, winning the fight.[14] Abbott claimed he made a mistake by letting Frye got his hooks in, as he would have been planning to use them to snap his ankles.[5] For his part, Frye praised Abbott, going to say the match featured the hardest hits he received in his entire career.[15]

Ultimate Ultimate 1996 was the last UFC tournament in which Abbott partook, as around the same time the UFC began switching away from the tournament format. Abbott's fortunes declined with the arrival of better trained mixed martial artists, who posed a much bigger challenge than the previously inconsistent opponents from the earlier UFC events,[7] his debut in this new format was at UFC 13 in May 1997 against Vitor Belfort, whose fast-hitting boxing style Abbott had criticized while doing special commentary at UFC 12. Abbott scored an early takedown, but he moved back to trade hits with Belfort standing; this proved to be an error, as Vitor immediately overwhelmed him with punches and dropped him to all fours; the Brazilian kept attacking Abbott until the match was stopped.[16]

At UFC 15, Abbott replaced Dan Severn in four days notice in a title match for the UFC Heavyweight Championship against Maurice Smith, a circumstance he described as literally "falling off the barstool into the octagon."[13] Trying hard to press the action, Tank shockingly dropped the kickboxing champion with an early shot, but Smith controlled him through his defensive guard and a Kimura lock attempt; the action was restarted standing, but by this point Abbott was exhausted and offered little resistance to Smith's low kicks, prompting the referee to stop the match.[17]

Abbott bounced back from his losses with his performance at the first UFC show in Japanese ground, UFC Japan, where he was pitted against shoot-style wrestler Yoji Anjo; the American dominated the match with takedowns and right hands, avoiding submission attempts with short bursts of ground and pound every time they hit the mat, which eventually gained him the unanimous decision win. The event featured a tournament format, but Abbott forfeited due to a broken hand acquired while punching Anjo.[18]

Back in United States, at UFC 17, he followed with an impressive victory over renowned luta livre fighter Hugo Duarte, who was famous for his vale tudo fights against Rickson Gracie. Duarte had previously criticized Tank and his fighting skills, and he came close to proving himself right by almost locking a rear naked choke and an armbar on the first few seconds. However, Abbott blocked them successfully, captured Duarte's back, and landed heavy punches from there, completely knocking the Brazilian out.[19] At the same event, Tank was suspended by UFC for verbally fighting with Allan Goes, which according to Abbott happened because David had cheered for the opponent of Goes's teammate Wallid Ismail at UFC 12.[5]

In October 1998, Tank visited Brazil next as part of UFC Brazil, facing another luta livre fighter, Pedro Rizzo, who came on a 5-0 record; the Brazilian proved to be a dangerous opponent when he stopped Abbott's early barrage with several hard rights, but Abbott answered with a counterpunch that opened a cut near Pedro's eye. Rizzo then adopted a more evasive approach, avoiding Tank's overhands and grinding him with low kicks and his own counterpunches, which Tank counteracted himself again by taking him down and besieging his guard. However, the match had drained Tank's energy, and Rizzo was able of dominating him with strikes from the bottom and more kick and punch combinations while standing. At the end, the Brazilian knocked Abbott out for the win, becoming the first opponent to do so.[20] Abbott praised Rizzo after the match, although he claimed to believe the cage canvas had been greased to hinder the footing of wrestlers like him.[13]

After his match with Rizzo, Abbott retired from MMA.

Return (2003–2013)[edit]

Abbott waged an unsuccessful UFC comeback in the mid-2000s, losing fights to Frank Mir, Kimo Leopoldo and Wesley "Cabbage" Correira and was released from the promotion. Following his release he defeated Cabbage by KO in a rematch in what is in fact the only time Cabbage, who is famous for his chin, has ever been knocked out. Abbott would lose several more matches in regional shows.

In February 2008, he had a first-round knockout loss to Kimbo Slice at Elite XC's Street Certified event.[1]

His next fight against former PRIDE veteran Mike Bourke on February 13, 2009 at The Selland Arena in Fresno, California—was a part of the Valentine's Eve Massacre Event. Abbott controversially knocked out Bourke with a punch that inadvertently landed in the back of Bourke's head, securing a victory for the first time in nearly four years.

In 2011 Abbott participated in an unsanctioned "backyard brawl" with Scott Ferrozzo, whom he previously fought at UFC 11; the match ended without a winner, but Abbott dominated almost its entirety by pinning Ferrozzo on the ground and punching him for fifteen minutes.

At King of the Cage: Fighting Legends, on Saturday, April 13, 2013, Abbott was defeated by longtime veteran Ruben "Warpath" Villareal by way of a 2nd round TKO. After the loss, his first sanctioned fight since 2009, Tank said that he was not sure if he would fight again but he had trained seriously for the first time in years, felt great, and had a lot of fun stepping back in the cage, he thanked Warpath and the two men shook hands. As he was leaving the cage Tank said that he was "starting to feel a little old".

Abbott was expected to face fellow MMA veteran Dan Severn for the upstart UR Fight promotion on March 20, 2016;[21] the contest was cancelled the day prior to the event as Abbott could not pass the required medical tests per the Arizona Fight Commission.[22]

Professional wrestling career[edit]

World Championship Wrestling (1999–2000)[edit]

Abbott worked as a professional wrestler with World Championship Wrestling (WCW);[23] initially he was brought in as an opponent for Goldberg,[23] on the understanding he was a "legitimate" fighter—who could render any opponent unconscious with a single punch, which became his wrestling finisher, 'The Phantom Right'—and could boost Goldberg's reputation; this feud, however, never developed.

Mere days prior to the Souled Out pay-per-view in 2000, WCW head writer Vince Russo was given the responsibility of booking a match to crown a new WCW World Heavyweight Champion; this came at the news that both WCW Champion Bret Hart and Jeff Jarrett, two of the company's top performers, were injured and could not participate at the event. To the dismay of company officials, Russo suggested having the mid-card Abbott win the Championship albeit only to hold it briefly; the scenario would not take place, and Russo was consequently released from WCW while other bookers composed the Souled Out card, choosing Chris Benoit to win the belt. Abbott instead faced Jerry Flynn, a legitimate black belt in taekwondo and defeated him on the pay-per-view.

He was then featured in segments with the boy band parody stable, 3 Count as their "biggest fan",[24] he began feuding with the stable after they would not let him join the band; the feud ended when Abbott was released from WCW.[24]

Other media[edit]

In 1997, Abbott appeared as a UFC fighter in the TV show Friends,[25] defeating Jon Favreau's character, the millionaire Pete Becker, who was dating Monica at the time, he appeared as himself in the 2013 web series Black Dynamite Teaches a Hard Way!, where a Black Dynamite mannequin teaches him what to do in case of an earthquake.[26]

Personal life[edit]

In December 2018, Abbott revealed that due to his lifestyle his liver had to be replaced. Despite suffering several strokes during the surgery, Abbott survived and the transplant operation was successful.[27]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

Mixed martial arts[edit]

Amateur wrestling[edit]

  • NJCAA All-American

Mixed martial arts record[edit]

Professional record breakdown
25 matches 10 wins 15 losses
By knockout 6 7
By submission 3 6
By decision 1 2
Res. Record Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Location Notes
Loss 10–15 Ruben Villareal TKO (punches) King of the Cage: Fighting Legends April 13, 2013 2 2:06 Oroville, California, United States For the KOTC Superfight Championship.[29]
Win 10–14 Mike Bourke KO (punch) War Gods/Ken Shamrock: Valentine's Eve Massacre February 13, 2009 1 0:29 Fresno, California, United States
Loss 9–14 Kimbo Slice KO (punches) EliteXC: Street Certified February 16, 2008 1 0:43 Miami, Florida, United States
Loss 9–13 Gary Turner TKO (punches) Cage Rage 21 April 21, 2007 1 2:27 London, England
Loss 9–12 Paul Buentello KO (punch) Strikeforce: Tank vs. Buentello October 7, 2006 1 0:43 Fresno, California, United States
Loss 9–11 Hidehiko Yoshida Submission (single wing choke) PRIDE Final Conflict 2005 August 28, 2005 1 7:40 Saitama, Saitama, Japan
Win 9–10 Wesley Correira KO (punch) Rumble on the Rock 7 May 5, 2005 1 1:23 Honolulu, Hawaii, United States
Loss 8–10 Wesley Correira TKO (doctor stoppage) UFC 45 November 21, 2003 1 2:14 Uncasville, Connecticut, United States
Loss 8–9 Kimo Leopoldo Submission (arm-triangle choke) UFC 43 June 6, 2003 1 1:59 Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Loss 8–8 Frank Mir Submission (toe hold) UFC 41 February 28, 2003 1 0:46 Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States
Loss 8–7 Pedro Rizzo KO (punch) UFC Brazil October 16, 1998 1 8:07 São Paulo, Brazil
Win 8–6 Hugo Duarte TKO (punches) UFC 17 May 15, 1998 1 0:43 Mobile, Alabama, United States
Win 7–6 Yoji Anjo Decision UFC Japan December 21, 1997 1 15:00 Yokohama, Japan
Loss 6–6 Maurice Smith Submission (exhaustion) UFC 15 October 17, 1997 1 8:08 Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, United States For the UFC Heavyweight Championship.
Loss 6–5 Vitor Belfort TKO (punches) UFC 13 May 30, 1997 1 0:52 Augusta, Georgia, United States
Loss 6–4 Don Frye Submission (rear-naked choke) UU 96 December 7, 1996 1 1:22 Birmingham, Alabama, United States
Win 6–3 Steve Nelmark KO (punch) UU 96 December 7, 1996 1 1:03 Birmingham, Alabama, United States
Win 5–3 Cal Worsham Submission (punches) UU 96 December 7, 1996 1 2:51 Birmingham, Alabama, United States
Loss 4–3 Scott Ferrozzo Decision (unanimous) UFC 11 September 20, 1996 1 15:00 Augusta, Georgia, United States
Win 4–2 Sam Adkins Submission (forearm choke) UFC 11 September 20, 1996 1 2:06 Augusta, Georgia, United States
Loss 3–2 Dan Severn Decision (unanimous) UU 95 December 16, 1995 1 18:00 Denver, Colorado, United States
Win 3–1 Steve Jennum Submission (neck crank) UU 95 December 16, 1995 1 1:14 Denver, Colorado, United States
Loss 2–1 Oleg Taktarov Submission (rear-naked choke) UFC 6 July 14, 1995 1 17:47 Casper, Wyoming, United States
Win 2–0 Paul Varelans TKO (punches) UFC 6 July 14, 1995 1 1:53 Casper, Wyoming, United States
Win 1–0 John Matua KO (punches) UFC 6 July 14, 1995 1 0:18 Casper, Wyoming, United States



  1. ^ a b Woods, Michael (February 19, 2008). "Abbott not ready to call it quits just yet". ESPN. Retrieved September 22, 2009.
  2. ^ https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/proving-ground-w-tank-abbott/id1036013736?mt=2
  3. ^ Woods, Michael (February 19, 2008). "Abbott not ready to call it quits just yet". ESPN. Archived from the original on December 27, 2008. Retrieved September 22, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c John McCarthy, Let's Get It On!: The Making of MMA and Its Ultimate Referee
  5. ^ a b c d e f Tank Abbott Interview Part 1 & 2, Onzuka.com
  6. ^ Let There Be Fight: Pioneers Emerge, Sherdog.com
  7. ^ a b Snowden, Jonathan. MMA Encyclopedia, ECW Press, 2010
  8. ^ Tank Abbott's Terrifying Debut Featured in 'Ultimate Ultimate Knockouts'
  9. ^ Scott Newman (June 16, 2005). "MMA Review: #55: UFC 6: Clash of the Titans". The Oratory. Retrieved January 20, 2018.
  10. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 1, 2009. Retrieved January 24, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ Scott Newman (June 8, 2007). "MMA Review: #130: UFC: Ultimate Ultimate". The Oratory. Retrieved January 20, 2018.
  12. ^ Scott Newman (January 17, 2006). "MMA Review: #76: UFC 11: The Proving Ground". The Oratory. Retrieved January 20, 2018.
  13. ^ a b c Tank Abbott Interview Part 3 & 4, Onzuka.com
  14. ^ Scott Newman (June 14, 2007). "UFC: Ultimate Ultimate review". Sports Oratory. Retrieved January 20, 2018.
  15. ^ Don Frye on the hardest he Was ever hit: It'd Have to be Tank Abbott, Sherdog.com
  16. ^ Scott Newman (February 24, 2006). "MMA Review: #79: UFC 13: The Ultimate Force". The Oratory. Retrieved January 20, 2018.
  17. ^ Scott Newman (March 28, 2006). "MMA Review: #81: UFC 15: Collision Course". The Oratory. Retrieved January 20, 2018.
  18. ^ Scott Newman (July 13, 2007). "UFC: Ultimate Japan review". Sports Oratory. Retrieved January 20, 2018.
  19. ^ Scott Newman (April 5, 2006). "UFC 17: Redemption review". Sports Oratory. Retrieved January 20, 2018.
  20. ^ Scott Newman (July 18, 2007). "MMA Review: #138: UFC 13: Ultimate Brazil". The Oratory. Retrieved January 21, 2018.
  21. ^ "UR Fight". UR Fight. URshow.tv. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  22. ^ "Tank Abbott fails physical, Dan Severn needs new opponent on March 20th". Bloody Elbow. Retrieved April 7, 2016.
  23. ^ a b Tank Abbott Speaks On His WCW Career, UFC Return, & More Archived September 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine[unreliable source]
  24. ^ a b "The Hurricane". SLAM! Wrestling. June 13, 2005. Retrieved September 22, 2009.
  25. ^ Friends episode "The One with the Ultimate Fighting Champion" on IMDb
  26. ^ "Black Dynamite Teaches Tank Abbott "Disaster Safety"". Black Dynamite. February 15, 2013. Retrieved August 25, 2013. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  27. ^ Tristen Critchfield (December 12, 2018). "UFC Veteran Tank Abbott Says He 'Died 5 Times' on Operating Table During Liver Transplant". sherdog.com.
  28. ^ http://www.fighttimes.com/magazine/magazine.asp?article=856
  29. ^ http://m.kingofthecage.com/fight-results-for-king-of-the-cage-fighting-legends-oroville-ca/
  30. ^ Sherdog.com. "David". Sherdog. Retrieved December 20, 2018.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]