USWF Shoot Fighting Inc, Owner-Steve Nelson
After going back and forth to Japan wrestling, one of my best friends from high school talked me into starting the USWF. Felix Rios (my high school team mate) helped me start and run the USWF. He was my right hand man and the USWF owes a great deal of its success to Felix. Without his help and confidence, the USWF would not have ever begun. Felix is still a fight referee and stays very involved in the fight game.
My first USWF show was August 2, 1996. It was an amateur shoot wrestling event just meaning no money. After USWF 1, the fighters competing wanted paid. I didn’t blame them. I was receiving the gate. I had great athletes on USWF 1
such as Ron Trip who is the only person to ever beat
Rickson Gracie who was 300-1 according to history data.
Heath Herring and Paul Jones, both future UFC fighters. Paul Jones who ended up 21-1, his only loss was to Chuck Liddell. Herring was ranked #2 in Pride at one point in time. It was only fair to take shoot wrestling to a professional level.
I received written permission from the president of the Texas Boxing Commission Dick Cole on September 4th,1996 to hold shoot wrestling events under a professional wrestling license. Dan Severn was a friend of mine and had just won the Ultimate Ultimate Fighting Championship. Dan Severn and Royce Gracie were the biggest names in the fight business at the time.
I brought in Dan Severn for USWF 2 on November2, 1996. The USWF became the biggest shoot wrestling/shoot fighting company in America. I never expected the success but was grateful to UFC. Without the UFC there would have never been a Dan Severn to help bring the USWF company name to the attention of the fight fans.
The terms shoot wrestling and shoot fighting had been inter-changeable all over the world since the beginning of the sport. I named the company the
Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation Inc, and advertised as USWF Shoot Fighting.
Texas professional mixed martial arts was started with the USWF in 1996 but shoot wrestling didn't get sanctioned as MMA under the boxing commission until a few years later.
I honestly started the promotion purely to make a little extra money. There was not any ego involved I was just a struggling teacher/coach that wanted to make some extra income through the fight industry.
I wrestled since I was nine years old including college for Oklahoma State University. I was a black belt judo player and had won three world medals in Sombo.
A Bronze in the 1987 World Cup, a Silver in the 1991 World Championships and also a Silver in the 1994 World Championships. I wanted to be involved with fighting at the professional level.
Amarillo had a lot of other men living in the Texas Panhandle that were college All-Americans and many former great high school wrestlers. I believed if I could talk some of the local heroes into fighting, I just may get lucky and draw a crowd.
The USWF is truly a company of the people. Amarillo fans feel they still own shoot fighting and wish the USWF come back. Amarillo had minor league hockey and baseball but nothing had audience attendance like the USWF. Amarillo fans treated the fighters like professionals and were always very excited to see USWF fighters at special appearances and of course the arena. I built the USWF to be a company with class and didn’t allow any kind of disrespectful language or cursing on the microphone at events or during radio interviews. I never wanted myself or my fighters that reflected as if fighters that didn’t like each other. The USWF represented shoot fighting as a sport and not a fight company which employed belligerent out casts. The USWF had a lot of young kids that looked up to us and I felt every fighter had an obligation to be a role model for the company.
I had no problems getting fighters. The USWF had athletes wanting to fight to Amarillo from all over the U.S and Japan. It was purely a respect the USWF earned by the way Felix Rios and I handled business, treated people, and how hard the fighters fought every time they stepped into the ring. It was a respect helped by reporters that came from around the world to see USWF events. These rpeorters could easily see the influence the my fighters had on the public.
The person most responsible for letting the world know what the USWF was about was boxing and MMA reporter
Eddie Goldman. Eddie told the world everything he knew about the USWF and the great town of Amarillo. I will always be grateful to Eddie for reporting to the world what he saw in the USWF and Amarillo, Texas.
It made a giant difference in my career and many
Other USWF competitors.
I never could get a TV deal for the USWF. We only advertised on the radio, newspapers, and put up posters. We did many interviews and special appearances but those were the only outlets we had to bring those big crowds in to our events. I remember trying to get several TV syndicates to come watch us after sending them a USWF VHS. All of their answers were the same, “your company is too violent for television”. I found it hard to believe no sports channel could see the potential that I saw in the USWF being on television.
I currently enjoy all the new fight promotions and what they have done for grapplers. Amateur boxers have always had a place to go when they were ready to turn pro and make a fare salary doing what they love. Fortunately now amateur wrestlers, sombo, judo, jujitsu and other grappling sports have a place to go and make money with their skills as professionals.
Some very good UFC fighters had their first fight with the USWF including:
Evan Tanner former UFC Champion-(deceased) who was a true friend of mine and hero of the people.
Paul Jones, Heath Herring, Frank Trigg Paul ”The Head Hunter” Buentello, Leonard “Bad Boy” Garcia
And Eric “Big Head” Davila
Other famous fighters that competed in the USWF were
Dan “The Beast” Severn-3 Time UFC Champion
Don ”The Predator” Frye-UFC Champion, Ralph Gracie,
Ali Elias, and Ron Trip --defeated Rickson Gracie who was 300-1as an amateur.
I know the USWF helped groom all these fighters but they are where they are because of their own determination, work ethic, and more than anything, perseverance.
Some people ask me do I have a favorite USWF fight and all I can say is there are several fights I consider my favorite. I will say being a fighter, promoter, agent, and coach too many of these fighters taught me respect for all different kinds of people
History of USWF ownership.
The first 16 USWF events were promoted and owned by
Evan Tanner was going to take over the USWF and ran USWF 17-18 but then Evan decided to fight for the UFC full time. Evan realized he could not promote the USWF and fight to his full potential at the same time.
Steve Nelson agreed to take back ownership of the USWF.
Steve Nelson (a high school head wrestling coach and teacher) then sold the Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation corporation name and equipment to his high school assistant coach Lisa Hunt. (Lisa was also a world champion professional shoot fighter in the USWF)
Lisa Hunt promoted USWF 19 then changed the name of the corporation to International Fighting Alliance Inc.
Under the International Fighting Alliance Inc, she ran one more show.
For information on USWF 17 and 18 you would need to contact Jeff Tanner of Amarillo, Texas.
For information on USWF 19 and IFA 1 you would need to contact Lisa Hunt.
Steve Nelson currently owns three corporations including:
USWF Shoot Fighting Inc,
Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation Inc,
and USWF Inc.