It takes a special kind of person to be a fighter. That doesn’t always mean special in the positive sense either. With the prospects of making good money as a professional fighter being bleak, and the opportunity to get hurt being high, choosing to become a fighter is a fairly reckless decision to make. So as a group of people prone to making reckless decisions, many fighters have made reckless choices in other areas of their lives as well. Choices that often have negative consequences.
Another contributing factor to fighters ending their career in disgrace is PED usage. MMA has just adopted stringent testing for steroids in recent years, meaning that previously many of the sport’s top stars had been “juiced to the gills” as Mark Hunt puts it. As stringent testing continues, we are finding out more and more fighters were on the gas, and instead of their careers ending with a Hall of Fame induction, they are ending with a 2 year long suspension.
Be it from steroids, legal issues, or loss of ability, every fighter listed in this article ended their MMA career in disgrace. That shouldn’t mean their careers overall should be overshadowed by their shady ending. In many cases the names mentioned in this article can be considered pioneers of the sport.
With that being said however, here are 15 MMA fighters whose careers ended in disgrace.
15. Kimo Leopoldo
Many fans of UFC’s pioneer days will remember Kimo Leopoldo fondly. Kimo really brought an element of pro-wrestling to the early UFC, especially during his ring walk. He would carry a cross on his back like he was on his way to be crucified; it was all very dramatic.
Kimo took on Royce Gracie at UFC 3, and while he didn’t beat Royce, he hurt him enough that he couldn’t continue in the tournament. Royce had won the last two tournaments, and while Kimo couldn’t claim he beat him, he can take credit for knocking him out of the tournament.
In 2006, Kimo was supposed to be involved in a big main event fight against Bas Rutten for the World Fighting Alliance. Two days before the event Kimo failed a steroid test and was pulled from the main event however. Kimo would lose his final three fights of his career. A few years later he was arrested for possession of a controlled substance.
14. Jason “Mayhem” Miller
Jason Miller is one of the more interesting characters the sport of MMA has ever produced. He fought for the WEC, Strikeforce and DREAM but only fought in the UFC three times.
His first UFC bout was a decision loss to Georges St. Pierre in 2005. He didn’t fight again n the UFC until 2010, when he lost badly to Michael Bisping in the Ultimate Fighter season 14 finale. Miller and Bisping had been coaches opposite one another that season.
After dropping his next UFC bout, Miller was fired by Dana White (though Miller would claim he was retiring). Miller then proceeded to get arrested several times. In 2012 he was arrested for breaking into a church and sleeping naked there. He’s been arrested for domestic assault numerous times. Miller’s been arrested for resisting arrest several times as well. Finally he once live-tweeted his own arrest via SWAT team in 2014. He’s an interesting guy.
13. Junie Browning
Junie Browning recently un-retired from MMA. He even won his first fight since November 28, 2009. He’ll never fight in the UFC again however. Nevermind that Browning isn’t a good enough fighter to get back in the UFC, he is too much of a train wreck for the company to ever associate with him again.
Junie was a rather colourful character in the TUF house back in 2008. He was eliminated from the tournament, but picked up a win on the finale show. Things went abruptly down hill for him however. First Cole Miller choked him out in under two minutes, then he had something of a breakdown and got himself fired.
Browning was arrested for assault stemming from an incident at a hospital. He was apparently being treated for a drug overdose, when Browning is alleged to have assaulted and made threatening comments to the nurses. Browning was fired shortly afterwards. He then went on an epic losing streak before retiring from MMA.
12. Luke Cummo
Luke Cummo was one of the more unique fighters ever to live in the Ultimate Fighter house. Some of his more bizarre health-related quirks involved him drinking his own urine.
His career in the UFC didn’t go very well. Overall he went 3W-4L while fighting in the UFC, and then he sort of fell out of the public’s eye for a bit. When he popped back up into sight, it wasn’t pretty.
In 2013 it was discovered that Cummo was wanted by police. He was in the middle of a custody battle with an ex-wife, and he was alleged to have sent her threatening emails. He also released a few disturbing videos.
11. Stephan Bonnar
Stephan Bonnar never won a UFC championship, but he’s in the Hall of Fame. The reason his contributions to MMA are so heralded is because of his gritty performance in the finals of the first ever Ultimate Fighter season. In the finale, Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar had one of the gustiest, grittiest and bloodiest brawls in the sport’s young history.
The UFC wasn’t doing particularly well at the time, but the success of the Ultimate Fighter, and the series finale in particular, helped save the company. Dana White has always been grateful for Bonnar’s performance that night. He put Griffin and Bonnar in the Hall of Fame as a result.
Bonnar’s career didn’t end well however. He was a late replacement to face Anderson Silva in 2012 and lost via TKO. He would fail a drug test for Drostanolone after the bout as well. He would later sign with Bellator, where he lost a split-decision to Tito Ortiz in his only bout.
10. Chuck Liddell
The way Chuck Liddell ended his career will never overshadow the many great years he had in the sport. Liddell was the face of the UFC (and MMA) for many years. During some bleak times for the company, if Liddell had not been as popular as he was there is no telling where the sport would be today.
Liddell’s career ended so poorly however, that it became hard to watch. Everyone realized that Liddell’s ability to take a punch had been so drastically reduced that it wouldn’t take much to knock him out. Liddell kept trying to fight however.
First Rampage Jackson knocked him out. Then Rashad Evans knocked him out in epic style. Shogun Rua got in on the fun at UFC 97. Finally Rich Franklin knocked him out at UFC 115 and Dana White had to bribe him with a no-show office job with the company just so he would quit fighting.
9. Frank Mir
Frank Mir is currently serving a 2-year suspension for a failed PED test. The former UFC heavyweight champion will be almost 40 by the time he is cleared to fight again. In all likelihood we will never see Frank Mir fight in the UFC again.
The end of Mir’s long and successful UFC career has unfortunately ended in a cloud of PED-related questions. Mir was informed by USADA last April that he failed a drug test taken the day he fought Mark Hunt at UFC Fight Night 85.
Hunt knocked Mir out in the first round that night. Mir tested positive for oral turinabol metabolites. At one point Mir suggested that the failed test may have been due to tainted kangaroo meat he ate while in Australia.
8. Ronda Rousey
There will be plenty of readers that are upset with Ronda Rousey’s inclusion on this list. There will also be plenty of Ronda Rousey haters out there who will be upset that she is not ranked higher on this list.
In all likelihood Ronda Rousey is never going to fight again. She doesn’t need to fight for financial reasons, Dana White has all but said she should retire, and she has opportunities outside of MMA.
Her fight career could not have ended on two more sour notes. After losing her title to Holly Holm, Rousey took a year off, then got knocked out in 48 seconds by Amanda Nunes. She went from looking like an unbeatable fighter to one who should never fight again in just two fights.
7. Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar was fantastic for the sport of MMA. When he left the WWE to try his hand at the less fictional version of professional fighting, he brought a lot of fans with him. When he was booked on a UFC PPV, a lot of pro-wrestling fans purchased it, and a lot of them stayed fans afterwards.
The problem with Lesnar is that he was thrust into the cage with top tier fighters while he was still learning the sport. As a result he always looked a little awkward in the cage, but he got by on his freakish size and ability.
When the UFC signed Lesnar to compete at UFC 200 it looked like his MMA career would resume, especially after he won. Then USADA flagged him for a doping violation and it became all too clear that Brock Lesnar, the UFC and advanced drug testing are not as compatible as many fans had once hoped.
6. Rousimar Palhares
Rousimar Palhares should be one of the top welterweights in the world. Only he has become so black-balled amongst the MMA community, that his career has been shattered.
Palhares developed a reputation for holding submissions too long in both MMA and grappling contests. In 2013 he was released by the UFC. The company cited the following as reasons why they were giving up on him: failing to release a submission against Tomasz Drwal in 2010, again against Mike Pierce in 2013, and for a failed drug test in 2012.
So Palhares went to WSOF, where he won the promotion’s welterweight championship. Then in a title defence against Jake Shields in 2015, Palhares once again failed to release a kimura after the ref stepped in. The athletic commission then suspended him for 2 years as a result.
In 2016 he fought in some smaller European shows where his suspension isn’t enforced, but he was knocked out both times. At this point in his career, no big name promotion will take a chance on him again.
5. Dada 5000
February 19th 2016 was not a good day for MMA fans. That was the date of Bellator 149, the famed event aimed at casual MMA fans. The double main event that night saw Ken Shamrock vs. Royce Gracie, more than 20 years since their first meeting, and Kimbo Slice vs. Dada 5000.
The Kimbo vs. Dada5000 bout has been called the worst in the history of MMA, and it is hard to argue that point. Each fighter achieved a state of exhaustion almost instantly. As neither fighter had any strength in their punches neither guy could knock the other one out.
Eventually Dada 5000 just stumbled and fell over, causing the ref to end the bout. What we would later learn is that Dada 5000 had such a rough weight cut that his body was pretty much failing. He would go into cardiac arrest later that night and almost die. He’s never fought again.
4. Josh Grispi
In 2010 Josh Grispi was one of the hottest prospects in the lighter weight divisions. He was heading into the UFC having won all four of his fights in the WEC and had gone 10-1 in bouts before he got there.
Only 22 when he made his UFC debut, things fell fast for Grispi. He promptly lost four straight fights to begin his UFC career and was released from his contract. A year later he was arrested on numerous domestic violence charges and he’s been in jail ever since. There are even allegations that he trained his dog to attack his wife.
Grispi’s wife told police that he was abusive towards her and one of the investigators referred to it as the worst case of domestic abuse they had seen. While in jail Grispi appeared with his wife on an episode of Dr. Phil to talk about their relationship.
3. Aleksander Emelianenko
Fedor’s little brother is also a fighter, but he’s also a convicted rapist as well.
Aleksander Emelianenko has fought mainly in Russia for M-1 or ProFC, but he also fought a little bit in Pride. He knocked out James Thompson at Pride 28 in just 11 seconds. He also finished Sergei Kharitonov at Pride FC: Final Conflict Absolute.
He’s got losses on his record to current UFC heavyweights Fabricio Werdum and Josh Barnett as well as one time UFC heavyweight Jeff Monson. To his credit he did manage to knockout Bob Sapp at a show in 2013 however.
In 2014 he was charged with sexually assaulting his housekeeper. He pleased not guilty but was convicted and sentenced to 4.5 years in jail. He was released on parole in 2016. Emelianenko is hoping to return to MMA but promoters will be hesitant to put him on their show.
2. Hermes Franca
Hermes Franca hasn’t fought in over a year, and it is likely nobody is going to schedule him for a bout ever again.
The 42-year old Franca is one of only two fighters to ever finish Nate Diaz. Franca made Nate tap to a kimora in 2006. Having fought for years in the WEC and UFC, he has fought some of the best of the lighter weight divisions. He also has wins over Jamie Varner and Spencer Fisher.
Unfortunately in 2011 he plead guilty to unlawful penetration of a minor and was charged with multiple sexual battery offences. He eventually plead guilty to one count of unlawful penetration and was sentenced to 42 months in jail.
He attempted to revive his fight career after his release but was unable to get booked on bigger shows. He fought in Russia, Kazakhstan and a couple of times in Brazil after being released from prison. After being let out of jail his record is 1W-4L.
1. War Machine
They don’t come much worse than War Machine. Born Jonathan Koppenhaver, War Machine legally changed his name so that TNA Wrestling couldn’t sue him over using the same nickname as Rhyno.
War Machine went 1W-1L in the UFC before being released. He was then somewhat successful in Bellator, going 2W-1L in his stint there. His fight against Jared Rollins at the TUF6 finale was a particularly epic battle, and earned him both fight of the night and knockout of the night honours.
Unfortunately he is more well known for allegedly assaulting his one time girlfriend, Christie Mack, so badly that she suffered 18 broken bones and a ruptured liver. He is also accused of attempting to rape her. Jury selection is currently ongoing for his trial.
War Machine also served time in jail for assault due to multiple bar fights.
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