Tom Erikson

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For those of a similar name, see Thomas Eriksson (disambiguation).
Tom Erikson
Born (1964-07-06) July 6, 1964 (age 52)
Chicago Heights, Illinois, United States
Other names The Big Cat
Nationality United States American
Height 1.93 m (6 ft 4 in)
Weight 127.1 kg (280 lb; 20.01 st)
Division Super Heavyweight
Style Wrestling
Stance Orthodox
Team RAW
Team Go-Riki
Wrestling NCAA Division I Wrestler
Years active 1996-2008
Kickboxing record
Total 5
Wins 1
By knockout 1
Losses 4
By knockout 4
Draws 0
Mixed martial arts record
Total 14
Wins 9
By knockout 5
By submission 3
Losses 4
By knockout 2
By submission 2
Draws 1
Other information
Occupation Wrestling coach
University Triton College
Oklahoma State University–Stillwater
Notable students Jon Fitch
Sean McCorkle

Tom Erikson (born July 6, 1964) is an American former amateur wrestler and mixed martial artist who competed in the super heavyweight division. Weighing between 127.1 kg (280 lb; 20.01 st) and 139.8 kg (308 lb; 22.01 st) throughout his career, "The Big Cat" began wrestling at an early age and was twice National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Junior Collegiate Champion at Triton College before achieving National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I honors twice at Oklahoma State University–Stillwater. He embarked on his career in MMA in 1996 and went on to fight in the Pride Fighting Championships, being a founding member of the prestigious RAW team.[1]

Erikson was a long time assistant wrestling coach at Purdue University, where he has been coaching since 1997. In 2015 Tom accepted the head wrestling coach position at Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas.


Erikson is a graduate of Bloom High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois. Wrestling for Triton College, he was a twice NJCAA Collegiate Champion in 1984 and 1985. He was also twice NCAA Division I Collegiate wrestling All-American, in 1986 and 1987, while competing for Oklahoma State University.

Erikson made the switch to the emerging sport of mixed martial arts almost ten years later, as part of his friend Rico Chiapparelli's Real American Wrestling team, which was composed of successful wrestlers like him. Tom would debut before the existence of the team, being managed by Chiapparelli personally on November 22, 1996 at the Martial Arts Reality Superfighting eight-man openweight tournament in Birmingham, Alabama.[1] In the quarter finals, Erikson defeated sambo fighter Aleksander Khramstovskly via KO by elbows and punches, and then submitted Willie Peeters with a neck crank just thirty-one seconds into the semis; he went to meet Murilo Bustamante in the final, in what would be considered a classic match.[2]

Erikson outweighed the Brazilian jiu-jitsu stylist by around 45 kg/100 lb and got the takedown immediately, which Murilo tried to counter with upkicks and a heel hook attempt. Not much happened, however, as while Erikson was effectively shutting off Bustamante's offense, he was unable to pass his guard, and the men had to return to their feet eighteen minutes later. The remainder of the bout saw some striking exchanges and Bustamante attempting to pull guard. An extra ten minutes overtime was added onto the match after the regulation thirty minutes finished without a winner, and they returned to their respective positions, with Murilo lying on the ground waiting for Tom to grapple and Erikson standing unwillimg to enter the grappler's field. However, this time Erikson devised a special strategy: he would dove into Bustamante's guard to score punches before disengaging and standing back up to avoid danger, and then repeat the process over and over. After several minutes of this tactic, Murilo's face was visibly damaged while Erikson was tired yet unscathed. As he still couldn't finish Bustamante, the bout ended in a draw.[2]

In his second outing, Erikson TKO'd Davin Wright in under a minute at the World Fighting Federation in Birmingham, Alabama on February 24, 1997. Following this, he took part in the Brazil Open '97 heavyweight tournament on June 15, 1997, again representing WAR. After beating native fighter Silvio "Pantera Negra" Vieira, Erikson was pitted against Team Hammer House exponent and fellow American wrestler Kevin Randleman in the final. Randleman attempted to push Erikson into the fence, but he was caught with a right hook, and then Erikson unloaded a series of big shots for the knock out. The Hammer House fighter had to be stretchered out, and Erikson gained the approval of the crowd by helping him out.

Erikson made his return to wrestling to compete at the 1997 World Wrestling Championships in Krasnoyarsk, Russia in August 1997, finishing in fourth place in the 130 kg/286 lb freestyle division. He also beat Tsuyoshi Kohsaka in a submission grappling match on October 11, 1997, in which Erikson controlled him positionally for most of the match, besieging his half guard and avoiding a tight inverted leglock attempt to win the decision. Finally, he got another quick TKO of Ed de Kruijf at Vale Tudo Japan 1997 in Chiba, Japan on November 29, 1997 in what would be his last MMA fight for almost two years.

In his Pride Fighting Championships debut, he beat Gary Goodridge by unanimous decision at Pride 8 in Tokyo, Japan on November 21, 1999. At Pride 11 - Battle of the Rising Sun, Erikson faced Heath Herring, getting the takedown early and unloading ground and pound as usual. However, after a stand-up by the referee, Herring rocked Erikson with two kicks as he tried to wrestle again, knocking him to the ground before finishing him with a rear naked choke at 6:17 of round one.

Erikson submitted Matt Skelton, a kickboxer making his first MMA appearance, at Pride 17 in Tokyo on November 3, 2001. After the event Pride FC amended their rules so that the type of choke he used, which involved grabbing Skelton's throat with his hand in what was termed a "front strangle choke", would no longer be allowed. In his last bout before departing the promotion, Erikson secured a first round rear naked choke submission of Tim Catalfo at Pride 19 in Saitama, Japan on February 24, 2002.

Despite having no kickboxing background to speak of and only showing rudimentary striking ability in his MMA bouts, Erikson was recruited by premier kickboxing organization K-1 later that year. Matched with Mike Bernardo at the K-1 Andy Spirits Japan GP 2002 Final on September 22, 2002, Erikson suffered a first-round knockout defeat.[3] He was able to survive into the fourth round with Hiromi Amada at K-1 Beast 2003 on April 6, 2003 but again lost by KO in a slug-fest.

He faced off with boxing champion Shannon Briggs at the K-1 World Grand Prix 2004 in Saitama on March 27, 2004 and, as one might suspect, the wrestler stood no chance and was KO'd little over a minute into the fight.[4] Erikson recorded his first and only win as a professional kickboxer against Jan Nortje at the K-1 World Grand Prix 2004 in Nagoya on June 6, 2004, flooring Nortje three times in fifty-five seconds to win by TKO.

Tom Erikson made his return to MMA and Pride on February 20, 2005 at Pride 29 in Saitama, submitting to a Fabrício Werdum rear naked choke in round one.[5] This was his last fight in Pride and he next fought for Hero's at Hero's 5 in Tokyo on May 3, 2006 where he was TKO'd with ground-and-pound from Antônio Silva in the first round.[6]

Erikson was knocked out during the first round of his match with Alexandru Lungu at Strike FC 2 in Mamaia, Romania on August 1, 2008. In his last fight before retirement, he rematched Jan Nortje in a kickboxing match at Deep: Glaiator in Okayama, Japan two weeks later and looked to repeat his performance in the first match as he dropped the South African giant early. After Nortje beat the referee's count, Erikson moved in to finish him only to be knocked down by a left hook from Nortje. Erikson in turn beat the count only to be sent to the canvas again soon after, forcing the referee to stop the fight and sending him into retirement on the back of four straight stoppage losses.[7]


In 2010, Erikson stated in an interview that he believed that he was not invited to the Pride Grand Prix tournament because Mark Kerr forced Pride to leave him out in order to avoid fighting him.[8] Kerr denied this claim, and replied by saying that Erikson didn't want to be in the tournament in the first place.[8] However, according to fellow Pride veteran Gary Goodridge, both Kerr and Ricco Rodriguez had it put specifically in their contracts with the promotion that they would not fight Erikson.[9]

Championships and awards[edit]

Amateur wrestling[edit]

Mixed martial arts[edit]

  • Brazil Open
    • Brazil Open '97 Heavyweight Tournament Championship
  • Martial Arts Reality Superfighting
    • MARS Tournament Runner-up

Kickboxing record[edit]

Kickboxing record

Legend:   Win   Loss   Draw/No contest   Notes

Mixed martial arts record[edit]

Res. Record Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Location Notes
Loss 9–4–1 Alexandru Lungu KO (punches) Strike FC 2 August 1, 2008 1 1:21 Mamaia, Romania
Loss 9–3–1 Antônio Silva TKO (punches) Hero's 5 May 3, 2006 1 2:49 Tokyo, Japan
Loss 9–2–1 Fabrício Werdum Submission (rear-naked choke) Pride 29 February 20, 2005 1 5:11 Saitama, Japan
Win 9–1–1 Tim Catalfo Submission (rear-naked choke) Pride 19 February 24, 2002 1 2:35 Saitama, Japan
Win 8–1–1 Matt Skelton Submission (front strangle choke) Pride 17 November 3, 2001 1 1:51 Tokyo, Japan
Loss 7–1–1 Heath Herring Submission (rear-naked choke) Pride 11 - Battle of the Rising Sun October 31, 2000 1 6:17 Osaka, Japan
Win 7–0–1 Gary Goodridge Decision (unanimous) Pride 8 November 21, 1999 2 10:00 Tokyo, Japan
Win 6–0–1 Ed de Kruijf TKO (punches) Vale Tudo Japan 1997 November 29, 1997 1 0:37 Chiba, Japan
Win 5–0–1 Kevin Randleman KO (punch) Brazil Open '97 June 15, 1997 1 1:11 Brazil Brazil Open '97 heavyweight tournament final.
Win 4–0–1 Pantera Negra TKO (punches) Brazil Open '97 June 15, 1997 1 2:21 Brazil Brazil Open '97 heavyweight tournament semi-final.
Win 3–0–1 Davin Wright TKO (corner stoppage) World Fighting Federation February 24, 1997 1 0:42 Birmingham, Alabama, United States
Draw 2–0–1 Murilo Bustamante Draw Martial Arts Reality Superfighting November 22, 1996 1 40:00 Birmingham, Alabama, United States MARS tournament final.
Win 2–0 Willie Peeters Submission (neck crank) Martial Arts Reality Superfighting November 22, 1996 1 0:31 Birmingham, Alabama, United States MARS tournament semi-final.
Win 1–0 Aleksander Khramstovskly TKO (punches) Martial Arts Reality Superfighting November 22, 1996 1 8:55 Birmingham, Alabama, United States MARS tournament quarter-final.

Submission grappling record[edit]

Result Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Notes
Loss Finland Jannie Pietilainen ADCC 2009 +99 kg 2001 1
Loss United States Jeff Monson ADCC 2001 +99 kg 2001 1
Win Brazil Roberto Traven Points ADCC 2001 +99 kg 2001 2
Win Japan Tsuyoshi Kohsaka Decision The Contenders 1997 5 5:00

External links[edit]