The Ultimate Fighting Championship launched in 1993. UFC 1 was much different from the UFC events you see today. It was an 8-man single night tournament with only two rules; no eye gouging or biting. MMA Legend Royce Gracie was the first winner taking home $50,000 for his three fights.
Few could have predicted how big the organization would become as it struggled against a flood of political pressure. The UFC adapted, added more rules and worked with athletic commissions to try to be able to get more national coverage. The Parent company SEG was damn near bankrupt when Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta bought the UFC at the urging of Lorenzo's childhood friend Dana White.
Zuffa pushed the UFC to great heights. Creating stars left and right the UFC has now held 352 events in its history and has made millions of dollars. Not bad for a $2 million investment.
With the rise of the UFC it became the place to be for all fighters. Guys like Ken Shamrock, Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz became household names and paved the way for many of the fighters you will see on this list that made their way to the UFC.
Until recently there was little doubt that the UFC was where a fighter wanted to make it to. Now with the stricter sponsorship rules, promotions such as Bellator MMA and WSOF are becoming more appealing to fighters.
Most of the people on this list were cut due to poor performance. Some were let go due to outrageous meltdowns. Some were disillusioned with the UFC and thought it would be better to leave the promotion. For whatever the reason this list is the top 15 former UFC fighters who you may not know still are currently fighting.
15 Benji Radach
Benji Radach made his UFC debut in 2002 after a dominating win over Shannon Ritch at MFC 3. Radach would fight Steve Berger at UFC 37, a fight initially scored a win for Radach the decision was overturned by the state commission due to an illegal strike. Radach bounced back defeating Nick Serra at UFC 37.5 before he suffered a TKO (due to a cut) loss to future UFC champion Sean Sherk and left the UFC. Radach would go on a four fight tear afterwards, seemingly getting close to earning his way back to the UFC before breaking his jaw in a fight with future UFC fighter Chris Leben, an injury that led to a three year hiatus for Radach. Radach would score some big wins over the next few years against Brian Foster, Bristol Marunde, Gerald Harris and Murilo Rua. It appeared Radach retired in 2010 after losing back to back fights against Scott Smith and Ovince St.Preux however he made his return in March of 2015 signing with Bellator.
14 Alessio Sakara
Alessio Sakara made his UFC debut at UFC 55, suffering an illegal strike to the groin and being unable to finish the fight. Sakara's career like many on this list was an up and down affair. Scoring big wins over Elvis Sinosic and fellow listmate Victor Valimaki. Those wins were sandwiched around losses to Dean Lister, Drew McFedries and Houstan Alexander. The best of Sakara's run in the UFC was 2008-2010 where he picked up three big wins over Joe Vedepo, Thales Leites and James Irvin. That was the beginning of the end however as he was the first victim of Chris Weidman in the UFC then lost three more to Brian Stann, Patrick Cote and Nico Musoke to end his UFC tenure on a 4 fight losing streak.
Since then Sakara picked up a win for Final Fight Championship in 2015 and is scheduled to make his Bellator debut at Bellator 152 against Brian Rogers.
13 Victor Valimaki
Victor Valimaki is one of the best fighters to ever come out of Western Canada. On his way to his UFC run Victor ran a record of 8-2 including big wins of UFC Hall Of Famer Dan Severn and UFC vet Vernon White. Victor's run in the UFC came at an unfortunate time in Valimaki's career as self admitted lack of focus led to two losses in the UFC. Since then Victor's career has been up and down having a seven fight win streak but a three fight losing streak as well. Victor picked up wins over TUF fighter Noah Inhofer and Tim Chemelli.
Victor lost his most recent MMA fight to up and coming prospect Tanner Boser. Victor recently announced he was launching his own MMA promotion Triumph Fighting Championship which has its first show on April 22nd in Edmonton, Alberta.
12 Matt Mitrione
He is the newest former UFC fighter to make the list. Until as recently as March 14th 2016, The UFC was all Mitrione knew. Matt signed with Bellator after his knockout loss to Travis Browne. Mitrione was frustrated after what he felt was a multitude of illegal eye pokes from Browne. Mitrione got his start in MMA on The Ultimate Fighter season 10 where he lost in the quarterfinals. He did good enough to get a spot on the finale defeating fellow former NFL player Marcus Jones by KO. Mitrione built off that win by knocking out Kimbo Slice and UFC vet Tim Hague during Mitrione's 5-0 start to his career. Mitrione would suffer two straight losses after that as he stepped up in competition fighting Cheick Kongo and TUF 10 champion Roy Nelson.
Mitrione would end his UFC run a respectable 9-5 and the future looks bright for "Meathead" in Bellator MMA.
11 Yushin Okami
Yushin Okami had a long and accomplished career in the UFC picking up big wins over Evan Tanner, Mark Munoz and Nate Marquardt on his way to a 13-5 record in the UFC. He was released from the UFC in September of 2013 after a first round TKO loss to Jacare Souza. Since his UFC release Okami went on to fight three times for WSOF losing a title fight to David Branch and being defeated by Jon Fitch. On February 27th, 2016, Okami returned to the winners circle defeating Ryuta Sakurai at DEEP 75 Impact.
10 Kendall Grove
Kendall "Da Spyder" Grove made his way to the UFC through winning a contract on The Ultimate Fighter. Grove was very inconsistent in his time in the UFC. For every breakthrough win he had against guys like Evan Tanner and Alan Belcher, he suffered heartbreaking defeats to Patrick Cote, Mark Munov, Tim Boetsch and Demian Maia. Kendall Grove was released from the UFC following the Boestsch fight in 2011, ending his tenure in the UFC with a record of 6-6 in the promotion.
Since leaving the UFC Grove has bounced around many promotions and has fought all over the world. Grove signed in Bellator in 2013 defeating Joe Vedepo. Since that win he had exchanged wins and losses until his recent two fight winning streak defeating Joey Beltran and won via KO against Francisco France on Februrary 26th, 2016 at Bellator 150. It seems Grove's star is rising in Bellator!
9 Matt Hamill
Matt Hamill is one of the feel good stories in MMA history. He was a three time NCAA Division III National Wrestling Champion. He was 2-0 when he got the call to join The Ultimate Fighter season 3 cast where he was a member of Tito Ortiz's team. He made it to the semi-finals before he had to drop out due to injury. He accomplished all that despite the fact he has been deaf since birth. Hamill would win his first five fights before losing a controversial decision to Michael Bisping (the fight was in the UK and despite Hamill dominating he lost the decision). Hamill would rebound well defeating names such as Tim Boetsch, Mark Munoz, Jon Jones(via DQ), Keith Jardine and Tito Ortiz.
That was the highlight of his career however as after the Tito win he would lose four of his next five and the UFC would cut him after the 3rd of those defeats. Hamill would retire once but eventually ended up in WSOF losing his debut to Vinny Magalhaes. Hamill will be taking on Sokoudjou in Italy in May 2016.
8 Brandon Vera
Brandon Vera had a very frustrating career in the UFC. His UFC record is 8-7 with 1 NC which is a good example of how up and down his career was. At one point Vera was hyped as having the potential to be the first man to be UFC Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight champion at the same time. He picked up his biggest UFC win in 2006 defeating MMA legend Frank Mir but after that suffered devastating defeats at the hands of Tim Slyvia, Fabricio Werdum, Randy Couture, Jon Jones and Shogun Rua. Vera was a very good fighter that struggled against the elite the UFC had to offer.
His UFC tenure came to an end after his loss to Ben Rothwell. Since leaving the UFC, Vera has won two straight in One FC becoming their first Heavyweight champion at the end of 2015 defeating Paul Cheng.
7 Paul Daley
Paul Daley had a longer road than most to get to the UFC. The native of England fought for every major promotion in the UK and appeared for Pancrase in Japan. Daley made his way to Edmonton, Alberta and fought two big fights in MFC defeating John Alessio at MFC 19. Daley won 2 more fights overseas before making his UFC debut at UFC 103 in 2009, shocking many by defeating Martin Kampmann by TKO in round 1. His UFC career would end in infamy just one year later. After losing a frustrating decision to wrestler Josh Koscheck, Daley would strike him after the fight was over. Dana White said that Daley would never fight for the UFC again and despite all his success he has yet to make it back.
Since being cut from the UFC Daley has a record of 15-5 picking up wins over UFC vets Scott Smith, Jorge Masvidal and Luigi Fioravanti. It appears Dana White is steadfast in his desire to never allow Paul "Semtex" Daley back in the UFC but only time will tell if that remains the case. Paul Daley is currently signed with Bellator and fought on their recent Bellator 148 card.
6 Jon Fitch
Jon Fitch had a very successful run in the UFC from his debut in 2005 until his release in 2013 winning his first 8 fights in the UFC. Like many people in the division at the time his streak came to a crushing end against GSP. Fitch picked himself back up however and went on another five fight winning streak before being a victim of a crushing upset against Johny Hendricks. That fight sparked the beginning of the end for Fitch in the UFC as he would go on to lose to Demian Maia in February of 2013 and was subsequently cut from the UFC.
Since leaving the UFC Fitch's struggles in big title matches has continued as he lost via submission to Rousimar Palhares at WSOF 16. Fitch bounced back in a big way defeating Yushin Okami to get himself back in the title picture. Fitch will take on Joao Zeferino at WSOF 30 on April 2nd.
5 Jason "Mayhem" Miller
Mayhem has had an interesting career to say the least. Mayhem got his first touch with the UFC way back in 2005. Mayhem had a record of 11-3 when he earned his UFC debut, unfortunately for him his debut came against UFC legend George St. Pierre and Miller lost via decision. After that Mayhem spent 6 years fighting all over the world for promotions like Strikeforce, Dream, Kingdom MMA as well as hosted the MTV show Bully Beatdown. Along the way Mayhem picked up wins over current UFC Welterweight champion Robbie Lawler, Tim Kennedy and MMA legend Kazushi Sakuraba, becoming the first man in 14 years to submit "The Gracie Hunter". Mayhem earned his way back to the UFC in 2011 after hosting a season of The Ultimate Fighter however he lost on the finale to Michael Bisping then lost his next fight against C.B. Dollaway.
Miller was cut from the UFC after the Dollaway fight after some alleged outburst backstage. Since getting cut Miller has been in the news for his arrests than any fight news but it was recently announced that Mayhem will be fighting in May against UFC vet Luke Barnatt in Italy.
4 Royce Gracie
Royce Gracie needs no introduction but I am going to give him one anyway. Royce Gracie is a UFC hall of famer and winner of the UFC 1, UFC 2 and UFC 4 tournament. He has defeated fellow UFC Hall Of Famers Ken Shamrock (twice), Dan Severn and lost to another (Matt Hughes). Gracie was one of the first true legends in MMA. Gracie would go on to Pride where he lost a marathon 90 minute war with Kazushi Sakuraba. Gracie returned to the UFC in 2006 (11 years since his last UFC bout) to face Matt Hughes where he lost by TKO in round 1. Gracie avenged his loss to Sakuraba in 2007 (despite testing positive for steroids after the fight)
He fought in February 2016 and defeated Ken Shamrock via TKO at Bellator 149, in his first fight in nine years.
3 Kazushi Sakuraba
Sakuraba is one of the most respected fighters to ever come out of Japan. Sakuraba made his only UFC appearance at UFC Japan in 1997. Sakuraba was entered in the 200 lb(Minimum) tournament as a late replacement(he lied about his weight to qualify as he was only 183 lbs) Sakuraba's first fight against Marcus Silveira was intitally was ruled a loss but was changed to a NC. Sakuraba would then face Silveira again in the finals(Due to Tank Abbott dropping out) Sakuraba would win by submission. Sakuraba would go on to be one of the featured fighters in Pride defeating Carlos Newton, Guy Mezger, Rampage Jackson and Shannon Ritch as well as becoming known as "The Gracie Hunter" submitting Royler Gracie, Renzo Gracie, Ryan Gracie and UFC Legend Royce Gracie in a bout that took 90 minutes before Royce's corner threw in the towel.
Sakuraba lost his last MMA bout vs fellow Japan legend Shinya Aoki in late 2015. Sakuraba is scheduled to team with Hideo Tokoro to take on Wanderlei Silva and a too be announced opponent for Rizin Fighting Federation.
2 Ken Shamrock
Much like Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock is one of those fighters that don't need any introduction to even the most casual of fans. Ken Shamrock is a UFC Hall of Famer and former UFC Superfight Champion. He has victories over such MMA icons as Bas Rutten, Dan Severn, Patrick Smith and Kimo Leopold. His rivalry with Titio Ortiz was one of the most heated in MMA history(Despite the fact Ken lost all three fights) Ken Shamrock was one of the greatest fighters of the early days of MMA (once holding a record of 20-4-1).
Sadly after his last fight with Royce Gracie that record has bloated to 28-17-2. Shamrock is currently on a three fight losing streak (and only has two wins in his last 11 fights) losing to Mike Bourke, Kimbo Slice, and Royce Gracie, his most recent fight at Bellator 149 in February 2016. Ken Shamrock is a sad case of a fighter who held on too long and probably should have hung them up back in 2006 after the last Tito Ortiz fight, if not sooner.
1 Wanderlei Silva
"The Axe Murderer" made his UFC debut all the way back at UFC Brazil in 1999 losing in the first round to Vitor Belfort. He was successful in his next outing at UFC 20 before suffering a loss to Tito Ortiz at UFC 25 for the Vacant Light Heavyweight Title. After that fight it would be 7 years before Wanderlei would find his way back to the UFC. Wanderlei went to Japan and dominated in Pride going 18-4 (his only losses coming to Mark Hunt,Ricardo Arona,Mirko CroCop and Dan Henderson) Wanderlei made his return to the UFC at UFC 79 in a losing cause to Chuck Liddell. Wanderlei's UFC run was very mixed as he picked up big wins over Michael Bisping, Cung Le and Brian Stann but suffered devastating losses to Rampage Jackson, Rich Franklin (twice) and Chris Leben.
Wanderlei retired after receiving a lifetime ban from the NSAC. After the ban was reduced to three years Wanderlei signed with Bellator MMA. His ban doesn't extend to fights in Japan and Wanderlei is scheduled to compete in a 2-on-2 grappling match with a yet-to-be-determined opponent against Kazushi Sakuraba and Hideo Tokoro for Rizin Fighting Federation