Frank Trigg has been as close to winning an Ultimate Fighting Championship title as one can get without actually having the belt secured around his waist.
He appeared to have then-champion Matt Hughes beaten when he locked in a choke, but Hughes fought off the maneuver and moments later cinched in a choke of his own to retain the title.
That was in 2005.
Trigg lost his next fight in the UFC to Georges St. Pierre and was soon out of the organization.
After more than four years spent toiling around the minor circuits, doing broadcasting work and a radio show, running a clothing company and appearing on a reality show, Trigg will return to the company to fight Josh Koscheck on Saturday at UFC 103 in Dallas.
The 37-year-old Las Vegan has a simple goal as he makes his return to the octagon. He wants to finally capture the title that eluded him the first time around.
Trigg knows he faces an uphill climb.
“It might be two or three fights before they even start talking about me being in the hunt, and then I’d have to win another fight to actually be in the hunt,” he said. “So, it might be four or five fights before I’m actually there. It’s the reason why I’m back. I’m trying to win the title. I want to fight the best guys in the world, and all the best guys are here.”
He also understands the UFC has come a long way in the four years he has been away.
“It’s a totally different ballgame now. These guys are developed, and they understand what the sport is all about,” Trigg said. “A guy like St. Pierre, what did he do before mixed martial arts? Mixed martial arts. He did nothing before mixed martial arts, and he’s one of the best guys out there.”
It’s that type of fighter that is going to continue to evolve the sport, said Trigg, a standout collegiate wrestler before switching to MMA.
“We’re going to have a whole generation of guys that all they’ve ever done is MMA. That’s how it’s going to be,” he said.
He takes pride in the notion that he is part of a generation of fighters that laid the groundwork for where the sport is headed.
“You cannot have LeBron James. You cannot have Kobe Bryant. You cannot have these great basketball stars without Michael Jordan first,” Trigg said. “You cannot have Barry Bonds without Babe Ruth. It’s impossible.
“You cannot have the future without the old guys like me that did it first. That’s just how the sport is going to progress. Is it going to get more athletic and more acrobatic? You better freaking believe it because the kids are going to get younger and smarter about it.”
That’s why Trigg knows he must reach his goal now while he still can compete.
“I don’t have much time left. I’ve got to get out of the way of the sport. It’s going to develop too much around me,” he said. “Age and wisdom can only take you so far before it catches up with you.”
Still, he couldn’t shake the dream of capturing a UFC belt. He called and “begged” for a place on a card. The organization finally relented and matched Trigg with Koscheck, whom he calls a “mirror image” of himself at that stage of his career.
Trigg said he now feels more free to train and compete as he no longer is doing a daily radio show or regularly doing color commentary for MMA television broadcasts.
Trigg also has scaled back on his clothing company “Triggonomics” and has no immediate plans to participate in any more reality shows, as he did on the short-lived “Kept” on VH1.
“If you’re in the NFL, do you do broadcast work and have clothing lines? Unless you’re (Terrell Owens), you’re not doing all that other crap. You’re basically a football player, and that’s what you do,” he said. “Same thing here in the UFC. If you’re going to be in the UFC, you’ve got to just be a fighter, and it’s helped me now not to be doing those other things.”
Even through all the distractions, Trigg has compiled a 7-2 record since his UFC exit. He will put his newfound focus to the test against Koscheck.
Trigg enters as a 3-1 underdog, but Koscheck has dropped two of his last three fights and is coming off a foot injury.
If Trigg can pull the upset, his path to the title could be back on track after a four-year detour.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509.