Not all great athletes are law abiding citizens. It doesn’t matter what sport these law breakers come from, you’ll always find them. The same goes for mixed-martial-artists, as some of the best ever don’t have the squeakiest records as law abiding citizens. It’s a brutal sport to begin with, so there’s no surprise if these unruly athletes come from a harsh background full of violence and dystopia. Other MMA stars might have come from a virtuous suburban life style before stepping into the octagon. Yet, for some reason or another, they have a criminal record now. This list is about the best MMA athletes that have a criminal record attached to their names. The athlete could be retired or in their prime, it doesn’t matter, as long as they were paid professionally to fight.
Because it’s the top athletes, you won’t find names like Joe Son and Charles “Krazy Horse” Bennett on here. We do encourage you to research them because you just can’t make up their stories. The same goes for Jarrod Wyatt, as he only had one professional fight on his record, but is definitely one of the more vile creatures in the world.
One former MMA athlete that could be considered a dishonorable mention is Lee Murray. He had a lot of potential to be a great fighter for the UFC. You might recognize him in Anderson Silva’s highlight videos as the guy getting blasted in the face with an elbow at Cage Rage 8. Murray was involved in one of the more sophisticated and ballsy robberies of the last decade, which netted a worth over $50 million. Murray and his crew didn’t get far and now he’s spending time in a Moroccan jail. What a waste of potential. We hope all these athletes have learned their lesson. Enjoy.
15 Jason Miller
When you talk about the craziest people in MMA, you have to include “Mayhem” Miller. Even though the former athlete didn’t win any championships in the top promotions, Miller has always competed against the best, finishing his career 23-9. Not only has he beaten UFC’s Welterweight Champion, Robbie Lawler, he’s had matches against Michael Bisping, Ted Kennedy, Jake Shields, and George St-Pierre. Compared to others with his level of experience, that’s not a bad list of individuals to compete with.
When it comes to the law, Miller doesn’t think it applies to him. He was arrested in 2012 for vandalism, trespassing, and sleeping in a church, naked by the way. In 2014, he barricaded himself in his house and had a stand-off with local police for a few warrants. Most recently, he was arrested by Orange County Sheriff’s Department for assaulting a deputy with a deadly weapon after a disturbance call to his house.
Now do you know why he’s called Mayhem?
14 Hermes Franca
The Brazilian native was a household name among the smaller guys in the UFC during the 2000s. When the UFC bought World Extreme Cagefighting in 2006, he would compete in both brands and eventually won the WEC Lightweight Championship against Gabe Ruediger. After being released by the UFC, Franca would bounce around different organizations but would never be as dominant as he once was.
In 2011, he was charged with seven accounts of first-degree sexual abuse and two counts of second-degree unlawful sexual penetration. He would plead guilty to a single count of both unlawful penetration and first-degree sexual abuse of a 14-year old student at his academy. After serving his time, over two years, he was deported from the country. Franca lost his last fight in December and he holds a professional record of 23-16.
13 Jeff Monson
If you have seen some of the tattoos on the former number one heavyweight contender in the UFC, you know he has a love for anarchism. So, it’s not all that surprising that he pleaded guilty to vandalizing a building at the Washington State Capital in 2009. An outspoken critic of the United States’ war in Iraq and economic issues in the county, Monson tagged an anarchist symbol on a building, which was photographed by ESPN.
It became the key piece of evidence in his case and he pleaded guilty to the crime. Monson broke into MMA in 1997 and still fights to this day. Not just an anarchist but a socialist, he competes in Russia and sports a record of 58-25-1 for his career. Don’t let all the tattoos fool you, Monson has a Masters of Psychology degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth.
12 Aleksander Emelianenko
He never fought in the United States, nor for the UFC, but the younger brother of Fedor Emelianenko is a feared man in the cage as well as outside. All but three of his 23 wins have come by way of knockout or submission and all seven of his losses didn’t reach the judge’s score cards. The man loves to finish a fight.
From ’03 to 2010, he went 17-3 and it took the best to beat him. He lost to UFC’s Heavyweight Champion Fabricio Werdum, former UFC Heavyweight Champion Josh Barnett, and Pride’s 2006 Open-Weight Grand Prix Champion Mirko Filipovic. In 2015 he was found guilty of sexually assaulting his housemaid and stealing her I.D. by Moscow’s Simonovsky District Court. He was sentenced to four and a half years in prison.
11 Josh Grispi
Josh “the Fluke” Grispi had an excellent career from 2006 to 2010, going 14-1 with all of his wins, except one, coming in the first round. He was a top prospect and was being built as a young and hungry competitor, but once he reached the UFC in 2011, he went on a four-fight losing streak. He never recovered and retired in 2013.
A year later, Grispi was arrested several times for assaulting his wife, Kaitlyn, and even was accused of allowing his dog to attack her. Police also found 15 grams of cocaine and marijuana plants in their home. Kaitlyn went on an episode of The Dr. Phil Show while Grispi called in from jail in an effort to paint a better picture of the incident, but it failed when they showed texts from Grispi threatening to kill Kaitlyn.
10 Reza Madadi
If you watched UFC Fight Night 87 this past month, you might have noticed them talking about Madadi’s first win since his return to the octagon. While working for the UFC in 2013, Madadi and an associate burglarized a designer hand bag store in his home country of Sweden. He was found guilty of stealing about $150,000 worth of merchandise and spent 14 month in jail for the crime.
It wasn’t the first time he and the law met. In 2009, he was accused of being part of a robbery of a cash service depot which involved the use of a helicopter as a get-away vehicle in Stockholm, Sweden. He was never charged for the crime, but it makes you wonder. With a 14-4 record, Madadi can have one special story when his career is done.
9 Brian Bowles
The former WEC Bantamweight Champion looks like a clean cut kid with a great head on his shoulders, but that’s not the case. While sporting a record of 10-3 in the UFC in 2014, police showed up with an arrest warrant for a friend of his but found a whole lot more than what they were looking for.
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department of Georgia posted the six felony charges for Bowles and his friend. Possession of methamphetamine, possession of a schedule IV drug, possession of schedule IV drug with intent to sell, possession of marijuana, possession of marijuana with intent to sell, possession of tools for the commission of a crime, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime. Ladies and gentlemen, the Walter White of MMA.
8 Chris Leben
The Crippler exploded onto national television as one of the original members of UFC’s television series, The Ultimate Fighter. Right off the bat you knew Leben was dealing with personal demons after being pranked by house mates Josh Koscheck and Bobby Southworth. Regardless, Leben’s toughness helped make a name for himself in the UFC.
He would win important matches and move up in rankings but like many other talented fighters in UFC’s middleweight division, Leben would feel the wrath of Anderson "The Spider" Silva. He would become The Spider’s first victim in the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 5.
He retired in 2013 and finished with a record of 22-11. In 2015, he pleaded guilty to three criminal charges in a San Diego court. Two were misdemeanor charges, vandalism and a violation of a restraining order, and the third was a felony of possession of an assault weapon. Looks like those demons haven’t left.
7 Chael Sonnen
He came within seconds of beating Anderson Silva for the UFC’s Middleweight Championship at UFC 148. At the time, no one thought it would be possible for him to survive one round against Silva, let alone five. It propelled his career into stardom and the next thing you knew, everyone was reporting on what Sonnen had to say. Sonnen may not have won the belt but he sure did beat a lot of great athletes during his career and retired with a record of 28-14.
One thing he couldn’t beat was one count of money laundering in connection with mortgage fraud in a federal court in 2011. While he worked for a real estate company in 2006, he arranged a $69,000 loan to repair plumbing issues for a house. The work was never done and most of the money went to the home’s buyer. The fallout caused him to drop out of local politics, pay a $10,000 fine, and two year probation.
6 Anthony Johnson
Anthony Johnson was once a top contender in UFC’s Welterweight division but was released by the company due to weight issues in 2012. While bouncing around promotions and weight classes, he eventually found his way back into the UFC, but this time competing at Light Heavyweight in 2014. He went on an unbelievable three-fight win streak and fought UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Daniel Cormier, in 2015.
He lost, but is still in the mix for another title shot after winning his last two matches in a dominant fashion, bringing his record to 21-5. His brush with the law came in 2009 when he was found guilty of domestic violence and two other misdemeanor charges in the state of California. He served three years of probation, 52 weeks of domestic counseling, and eight hours of community service. With his troubled past behind him, Johnson is making the most of his second chance in the UFC.
5 Alexander Gustafsson
He was 15-1 before he challenged Jon Jones at UFC 165 for the Light Heavyweight Championship. He would lose the match but because it was such an excellent performance, he gained the respect of many. The match won 2013 Fight of Year from every respectable publication. He’s now 16-4, coming off two devastating losses, but we think he can recover like he did after serving time in jail.
Before MMA and Gustafsson were intertwined, he was a troubled child who served 15 months in a Swedish prison for aggravated assault. He attributed MMA to setting his life straight and we hope to see him get another crack at the title soon.
4 Tito Ortiz
Even though he has a record of 18-12, The Huntington Beach Bad Boy was the face of the Light Heavyweight division for the UFC during his prime. The UFC's Hall of Famer was the Light Heavyweight Champion from 2000-03 and fought in some of the most memorable matches for the promotion. His feuds with other Hall of Fame legends like Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, and Ken Shamrock are renowned.
Before he became a star, he pleaded guilty to battery charges in 1998. He was sentenced to three years probation and a month in jail. It wouldn’t be the last time he would get in trouble. He pleaded no contest to a DUI charge in 2014, which netted him another three years of probation.
3 Quinton "Rampage" Jackson
His personality has landed him movie roles, professional wrestling gigs, and a slew of other bookings in pop culture, but his greatest achievement was becoming UFC’s Light Heavyweight Champion in 07. Since the dawn of the new century, Rampage has fought every prolific fighter you can think of. Sure he’s lost some, but he also has destroyed others. With a record of 36-11, his next fight is against Satoshi Ishii at Bellator 157 in June.
Ten days after losing his UFC title to Forrest Griffin in ‘08, Jackson went on a driving rampage. After leading police on a car chase, Jackson was charged for one felony count of evading the police and one misdemeanor count of driving recklessly. The Orange County District Attorney's office gave him a deal if he pleaded guilty, which Jackson complied with. He could have faced several years in jail if he didn’t.
2 B.J. Penn
Don’t let the 16-10 record fool you, Penn has never had an easy fight in his career. He’s the only fighter to hold the UFC’s Welterweight and Lightweight Championships and is considered a trailblazer for Hawaiian MMA. Arguably the greatest lightweight fighter ever, Penn has always been one to not back down from a fight.
That mentality got him in trouble in 2005 when he punched a cop and was issued a misdemeanor charge of third-degree assault. In order to not be charged for a felony, Penn took a deal and pleaded no contest. He's been trying to get back into the UFC, but recent allegations of sexual assault have slowed down his chances.
1 Jon Jones
We don’t think there’s anyone as highly skilled and as controversial in MMA as Jon Jones is. With a record of 22-1, his one blemish was a mistake he made in a fight he was winning against Matt Hamill, and it costed him the match by disqualification. Besides that fight, he has made legends look silly in the octagon. No one has put the man down and we doubt anyone will any time soon.
With that said, Jones isn’t indestructible outside the octagon. He’s been in trouble with the law on several occasions. In 2012, he was charged with a DUI but didn’t serve any jail time and in 2015, he pleaded guilty for leaving the scene of an hit-and-run accident, which is a felony charge. It didn’t take long for the UFC to strip him of his title and suspend him. Now he’s back and ready to fight Daniel Cormier for the unification of the UFC’s Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 200.