The UFC is an organization with a shady, secretive, and somewhat controversial history, which is the perfect environment for urban legends to grow.
Promoters for MMA tend to be an eccentric bunch, either with histories tied to organized crime or to the even more corrupt world of professional boxing. The fighters are an even more bizarre group of human beings, as it can be argued that anybody who chooses to fight for a living is someone that probably does not adhere to standard societal norms. So when those two groups of human beings have to get together to form a professional sports organization, you better believe there will be some weird stories, conflict, and urban legends that develop.
There are a few themes that developed throughout the course of this list. One such theme is that of match fixing or fighters taking dives and cashing checks.
When professional wrestling began, it was a legitimate sport, but only developed into a staged one when the wrestlers realized how much easier it was to stage a fight rather than participate in one. It shouldn’t be a surprise then to learn that staged MMA bouts have taken place regularly throughout the sports young history.
Another theme that developed in this list is that of fighters taking any opportunity they can to cheat. This shouldn’t be considered a surprise either, as in MMA you get paid double the fight purse if you win than if you lose, putting the financial incentive to win greater than in other sports.
And yet another theme that developed in this list is the ties that MMA has had with organized crime throughout the years. Considering that both MMA and the Mafia have been forced underground at multiple times throughout their existences, it is only inevitable that the two worlds would cross paths at some point.
Of all the urban legends that have ever developed in the sport of MMA, since the inception of the UFC, here are the top 15!
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15 TJ Grant Fakes Concussion to Allow Anthony Pettis to Challenge for LW Championship
Canadian lightweight T.J Grant defeated former title challenger Gray Maynard handily at UFC 160, earning a title opportunity with the win. Unfortunately for Grant, UFC 160 was the last time he has stepped inside of the octagon.
Grant was forced to step away from his title shot due to lingering symptoms of a concussion. It is believed that Grant initially suffered the concussion in his fight against Maynard, which was then aggravated when he took an accidental knee to the head during training. The second concussion is what has kept Grant away from fighting ever since.
The UFC Lightweight Champion at the time was current Bellator fighter Benson Henderson. When Grant was unable to make the bout, the title opportunity was then awarded to Anthony Pettis. The urban legend comes in that the UFC secretly paid off TJ Grant to fake the concussion to allow the highlight-reel friendly Pettis to step-in and the UFC to market the more appealing Henderson vs. Pettis fight (which Pettis would win).
Grant has shot down the rumors anytime he’s been asked.
While Grant has been symptom free for sometime, he still has not fought since his win over Maynard.
14 Belfort vs. Rockhold Fixed Fight
Current UFC middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold isn’t immune to urban legends and conspiracy theories. In fact, he’s been accused of taking a dive in his first UFC fight.
Rockhold was a Strikeforce champion and Zuffa really wanted to send a message to him that the UFC was a bigger playing field, so they put him against Vitor Belfort in his first fight. This was no post-USDA drug tested Belfort either, this was Vitor in all of his elevated-testosterone levels greatness.
Belfort would knock Rockhold out with a beautiful spinning back kick. So beautiful in fact, that some people doubt anyone could actually land such a move.
The urban legend is that Rockhold gave a nod to Belfort just before the kick and, according to some, that nod was Rockhold saying it was time for the fight to go to the rehearsed-ending.
When watched in slow motion, it does appear as though Rockhold nods at Belfort, but the motion is actually just normal head movement that occurs during a fight.
Rockhold has denied the accusations of taking a dive, stating that he just got caught by a good kick.
During his middleweight title fight with Chris Weidman, Weidman attempted a spinning back kick but this time Rockhold countered by taking him down, mounting and finishing him to win the title.
13 GSP Greasing Against BJ Penn
At UFC 94, Georges St-Pierre absolutely destroyed BJ Penn, making him look like he didn’t even belong in the same sport.
After the fight (and a little during it as well), BJ Penn’s camp and the athletic commission accused George St-Pierre's corner of putting Vaseline on the back of GSP.
Greasing is something that has been used in mixed martial arts and grappling for a long time. There are even rumors that some fighters would cover themselves in butter, then shower so that the officials wouldn’t notice anything on them when the fight starts, but when they start sweating, the butter that had seeped into their pores would come back to the surface and make the fighter much harder to hold onto.
Greg Jackson, who was cornering GSP for this fight, stated that nobody in their corner was putting Vaseline on GSP’s back, but that one trainer may have had a miniscule amount of Vaseline on their hand when they were running Georges through a breathing exercise and laying a hand on his back at the time. Of course, BJ Penn’s camp believes this is a cover up and that they were intentionally putting large amount of Vaseline on his back to make him harder to hold onto.
12 Hughes Brothers Switch During Weigh-Ins
Matt Hughes is a former UFC Welterweight Champion, UFC Hall of Famer, and currently works for the company in a promotional role, helping to pave the way for MMA legalization across the world. Mark Hughes on the other hand, fought a few times and decided it wasn’t a career he was interested in pursuing.
A strange rumor regarding the twin brothers has popped up from time to time. The rumor is that Mark used to step on the scales in the place of Matt at weigh-ins, thus allowing Matt to walk into the octagon fresh as a daisy after not having had to cut weight and weighing in excess of 200lbs for welterweight fights.
Considering Matt’s reputation as a fairly decent guy, there aren’t a lot of people who seriously believe this urban legend, but the question does remain: if the brothers did decide to do this, would there have been anyway to catch them?
11 Fertitta Brothers “Fight Clause” in Contract
Ever wonder what would happen if the two Fertitta brothers ever disagreed on something in regards to the UFC? Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta both have equal share in the company, so if there were ever to be a disagreement amongst the brothers, there would have to be some legal way to sort out the mess.
According to an urban legend, the two brothers have figured out a sure fire way to resolve such disputes: they will fight it out.
There is, according to this legend, a contract that exists which states that in the event the two brothers are unable to come to an agreement on some issue concerning the UFC, they will engage in a jiu-jitsu bout that would be refereed by Dana White.
The contract between the two brothers was even reported by CNN at one point, though nobody is too sure how legal such a clause is.
10 First UFC Almost had a Moat with Alligators and/or Sharks
According to UFC co-founder Rorion Gracie, the first UFC event almost had a set up where the fighting area was cordoned off by a moat that was to contain either sharks or alligators.
The first UFC sort of flew-in under the legal radar and perhaps the decision was made to not have the fighters come too close to human-eating animals out of fear this would attract unwanted attention from people who might find the sport too barbaric.
Ultimately, the decision was made to go with an octagon instead of a moat with alligators.
Considering the idea suggested, it’s not surprising that when Zuffa purchased the UFC, they had to make numerous changes for the sake of fighter safety in order to achieve any kind of mainstream acceptance.
You have to give them an A+ for creativity however.
9 Did Miesha Tate Choke Taylor Swift?
According to rumor and urban legend, it’s entirely possible that current UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Miesha Tate choked pop sensation Taylor Swift backstage at a concert in Las Vegas.
The two were both allegedly at a JabbaWockeeZ show in Las Vegas when Swift was backstage getting a little lippy with Tate. According to those that believe the incident occurred, Swift was unaware of who Tate was or how bad Tate could hurt her and was getting right up in Miesha’s face.
Tate is said to have grabbed Swift’s neck and looked as though she was going to choke her but instead just shoved her out of Tate’s way.
No word on how Kanye West feels about this urban legend.
8 UFC Fighters Have to Register Their Hands as “Deadly Weapons”
This is the oldest martial arts rumor in existence, probably because there actually is some truth to it. No, mixed martial artists, UFC fighters, pro boxers and/or any other combat athletes do not have to register their hands as deadly weapons. A person’s MMA background, however, does impact how seriously a courtroom is to take an incident of assault or physical confrontation that they may have been involved in.
Take the case of Jamal Parks, who was sentenced to sox years after getting into a physical altercation with his friend and sending him to the hospital. In that case, the judge took Park’s martial arts background into consideration when handing out a harsher than normal sentence.
7 Conspiracy Against Matt Lindland
According to some, and probably Matt himself, there was a massive conspiracy to keep Matt Lindland away from the UFC middleweight title picture.
Why would the UFC do this? At the time, the company was pushing Rich Franklin to be the new poster-boy of the division and (apparently) they were worried that Lindland’s top-notch wrestling would be too much for Franklin.
Lindland, and his wrestling-based technique, would not be as marketable at the top of the division as Franklin would be, so Dana White and the UFC, according to this urban legend, saw to it that the two never ended up in the cage together at the same time. Lindland only received one title shot, despite winning the majority of his fights and was released from the company in controversial fashion after wearing an unapproved sponsor logo on his t-shirt.
6 Wanderlei Silva KO’ed Shogun Rua for a Puppy
It might be the most adorable reason anyone has ever punched someone else in the face. As the urban legend goes, Shogun Rua’s pet pitbull had a litter of puppies and Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva asked if he could have one. No mention of money had been discussed at the time, but a couple of weeks later, Shogun asked Silva for a couple of hundred dollars for the adoption.
Silva had been under the impression the puppy was a gift, so in order to solve the dispute, the two put on boxing gloves and had a fight to a finish. Not only had the two decided to spar over if Silva needed to pay Shogun for the puppy, they deemed that the fight needed to end in a knockout.
Legend has it that Silva only needed one round to knock out Shogun.
He never paid for the puppy.
5 EliteXC Bribed Seth Petruzelli to Keep Fight with Kimbo Slice Standing
Shortly after this fight, EliteXC went out of business and Kimbo Slice was on the UFC’s reality show The Ultimate Fighter.
Kimbo Slice was scheduled to fight Ken Shamrock but a pre-fight injury prevented Shamrock from being able to compete. On short notice former, UFC fighter Seth Petruzelli took the fight and knocked out Slice in the first round. This was terrible for EliteXC, as the company was basically banking on Kimbo Slice’s popularity, but things would go from bad to worse the next day when Seth appeared on several media outlets. In some of the interviews, Seth alluded to EliteXC officials offering him financial bonuses that may or may not have come with the expectance that he would keep the fight standing against Kimbo.
EliteXC went out of business before it could be investigated further.
4 Greg Jackson’s Fighters Have Strength in their Nipples
Greg Jackson has cornered some of the greatest fighters of all time and some of the creepiest. Go back on UFC Fight Pass and watch some of Keith Jardine’s introductions and you might notice something a little unnerving: Jardine tweaking his own nipples.
Evidently the urban legend/myth started floating around Jackson’s New Mexico-based camp is that tweaking your nipples releases energy throughout the body, giving a fighter an advantage. Georges St-Pierre became the first guy from the camp to do it and Rashad Evans than took the unfortunate further step of being the first guy to lick his fingers and then do it.
Jackson has said he does not endorse the technique and doesn’t know why it was practiced by many of his top fighters.
3 Floyd Mayweather Gives Nate Diaz $1 Million for Beating Conor McGregor
Nate Diaz made a lot of money from his fight with Conor McGregor, enough that he probably doesn’t have to fight again for the rest of his life.
There are some rumors floating around that he has even more money than we think, as some believe that Floyd “Money” Mayweather gave Nate Diaz a duffle bag with $1 million in cash as a thank you for defeating Conor McGregor.
Mayweather and McGregor have gone back and forth in the media, with Conor even challenging Mayweather to a fight at one point.
According to the rumor, Mayweather was so pleased that somebody had shut Conor up that he just wanted to show his appreciation in the form of a cash-filled duffle bag.
2 Pride and the Yakuza
The Yakuza is the Japanese version of the mafia and some suggest the organization could have over 100,000 members. It is also rumored that the Yakuza played a large role in Pride.
Many tabloid style media outlets in Japan began reporting a link between the Yakuza and Pride, which may have contributed to the company losing some of their TV deals.
Pride had always had a reputation for corruption, with allegations of fight-fixing having been rampant in the organization from its inception to its merger with the UFC. The Yakuza link just furthered the company’s image as being corrupt and not “on the level.”
Zuffa purchased Pride in 2007, with the Middleweight and Welterweight Championships being merged with UFC’s existing division.
1 The UFC is Run by the Mafia
Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta were initially involved in the casino business when their longtime friend Dana White came to them about purchasing the fledgling Ultimate Fighting Championships in 2001.
Their father, Frank Fertitta Sr., was linked to a mafia skimming operation with Station Casinos in the mid-80s, which fuels speculation that his sons are involved with organized crime as well.
Going back even farther into the Fertitta family history, there are Fertittas that were involved with organized crime in Galveston, as part of the Maceo-Fertitta crime family. It is said that in comparison to other mafias operating back in the mid-1900s, the Maceo-Fertitta crime family was actually quite safe, with all of the crimes hidden away from public view.
Of course, just because the Fertitta family name has been associated with organized crime throughout the years doesn't mean there's a reason to believe they continue to be involved with such operations. The UFC is doing quite well and most likely does not need any help from the underworld.
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