Dan Severn, Frank Shamrock, Ken Shamrock and Mark Coleman are some names you hear and instantly know they are legends of the sport. Del Hawkins should be added to the list.
A fighter his whole life, Hawkins has always been up for a fight.
"I've been fighting since I was a kid. I come from a family of fighters. My first MMA fight I was 127 pounds in a pair of Speedo shorts and my opponent weighed in at 176 pounds. When you are a fighter, you fight. That's it. I fight, I can't guarantee wins and I can't guarantee losses. I can guarantee the fight will be exciting and you will remember it. I'm just trying to feed my family."
I was digging through a lot of old news sites and I found out Hawkins was the first North American Junior Flyweight Champion of the world. Hawkins beat Leo Uriquez for the belt but would only defend the belt once. Quite an achievement since featherweight, bantamweight and the flyweight division have taken off recently. Hawkins fought at all these weight classes and amassed a 60-11 record before fighting Urijah Faber. Clearly Hawkins should go down as a pioneer for the lighter weight divisions.
Our discussion moved toward his time Rage in the Cage. As I brought it up, Del starts laughing. "I trained with team Phoenix in the 90's and I fought overseas quite a bit. When I started fighting for Rage in the Cage they had all these rules. I had just gotten back from a Vale Tudo tournament, so this was really strange to me. We fought in a little damp country club/bar. They had a square cage with the fence you see around construction sites. Basically what they did was say you look about the same weight as him, you guys should fight. I wasn't worried about the competition back then because I was tough."
I asked Hawkins to share some old stories; I got much more then I asked for. "I fought on a card with Dirty Harry Moskowitz called Reality Submission Fighting 2. I was the co-main event and I fought Jason Reinhardt. Our limo driver had a heart attack. The EMT's took him away and instead of waiting for another limo driver, I just took the limo to the hotel. The next day I took the limo to weigh-ins." Del pauses to laugh. "During the show the promoter got picked up by the Fed's for money laundering and racketeering. I talked to Sean a couple years ago and he brought the story up and we had a laugh. I have been around a long time, so I got stories for days."He wasn't kidding, as he told another.
"Nothing is wilder than Thomas Denny and his crazy wife. ... One day I just walked in a room that I thought was mine. I mean I had the hotel key to the room. I walk into the room and they are shooting a porn. Then that same day they are editing in your own room. Then you have to seen it on the Internet and it's like, ‘Oh my God. I was there for that crazy stuff.' Now I'm just an old guy. I stay in my hotel room and I don't get crazy. My younger brother does all that for me."
I asked Hawkins if he missed the old days, he paused for a second and replied very seriously. "We stayed in dirty hotels. I mean dirty ass places with cockroaches, broken windows, and bed sheets have doo-doo stains. I really do miss that grime part of fighting. Back then you fought to survive. Now fighters fight to fight. I really miss the humbleness. Fighting is in every city now. I've had 70-year old people tell me they have seen me fight. And I'm like what the hell are you doing watching MMA? I don't think fighting is as pure as it used to be."
When I noticed Hawkins hasn't fought since 2008, this intrigued me. Never in his career had Del taken a year off. I was completely blindsided by what he told me next.
Del exhales loudly, "I took a hiatus because I needed to heal up some things. I broke both my hands in the WEC fight, I have a vertebrate that needed tuning up, and I needed some time off the road for a while. After my WEC fight I lost two controversial decisions and after that I got run over by a car.
"I was at my house and my best friend thought the car was in reverse, but it was in drive. I was standing in front of my garage when he hit me. I ended up going through the double-sided aluminum to the center of my garage. I went into surgery with a 50/50 chance of losing my legs. It ended up shattering my right knee, and shinbone. My patella shot up into my groin area. My left foot was crushed I had major surgery's done. I was bedridden for 11 and a half weeks and in a wheelchair for just under five months."
For Hawkins, his one and only fight in the WEC left a sour taste in his mouth. "To speak to the referee [Joe Valencia] of that fight ... It sucks. That's why I went with a new management team because I wanted that fight to be turned to a no contest. I never tapped out, I never verbally submitted and my arm was not in danger. I talked to him on a personal and business level and told him how I felt. He has apologized openly, on the record and off. Seven seconds into the fight I broke my left hand and two minutes later I broke my right. I have some unfinished business in the WEC."
Hawkins has never lost a fight in the flyweight division. He is currently seeking fights and having trouble finding any.
"At 125 pounds, I would love to fight Danny Martinez. Would he do it? Probably not. I have three DVD's of us sparring and me putting my fist through the back of his head. Great kid, tough guy, but he just isn't on my level. I got a message for all the people that are going to see this. I will finish Danny Martinez quick. I would love to put that WEC flyweight belt around my waist."
Currently the WEC has not opened its flyweight division up but it is rumored Martinez will be fighting Juicer Formiga at Tachi Palace Fights.
For Hawkins, though, it's all about getting back on the horse and regaining what he once had.
"I am trying to get on the wagon that leads me to the top," he said.