Competition fuels are egos. We strive to be the best at our favorite sports and hobbies, especially when we're competing with our friends and families for the pure joy and entertainment that comes out of it (earning some bragging rights isn't too bad either). Of course competition is even better when you're winning. When we come out on top the feeling of being untouchable washes over us as we keep our hands held high until the adrenaline rush finally wears off. A perfect example of this is when an MMA fighter has their hand raised in victory after a grueling fight that pushes their body to the limit. Not every bout can end with a win though. A single loss in MMA can drastically change the direction of a fighter's career. In other sports like baseball and basketball, there are enough games in a season where a loss can be rewritten with a win in the next contest.
For a fighter it takes a number of victories before they're even considered for title contention. There is no definitive number of wins that warrants a title shot and a majority of the fighters in organizations such as the UFC and Bellator never even get a shot at gold. The top tier fighters will get roughly two title shots before changing up their game plan and those changes can come in the form of new weight classes or various adjustments in their skill set as they work their way back up the ladder. There are a number of competitors who have made those adjustments in the past but were still unable to reach the mountain top. Interim titles don't have the same luster as normal championship belts so fighters who won the former were taken into consideration for this list. With that being said let's take a look at some of the better fighters who either never got their hands on a title or are out of reach of one at this point in time.
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15 Nate Diaz
The Diaz brothers are always in the spotlight no matter what the situation may be. Their actions always garner attention and are often controversial to go along with it. These days Nick seems to be basically retired (or somewhere between retired and active) and Nate is looking for money fights more than a title shot. It's hard to tell just how determined Nate is to make another run at the title. His fight against Ben Henderson for the UFC Lightweight Championship was extremely one-sided and Henderson retained his title by earning a win via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-43).
After being the first fighter to defeat Conor McGregor, Nate will always have his name in the mix when it comes to big name fights. The two had a rematch five months later and this time McGregor had his hand raised in the end. The loss has put Nate in a weird position since a number of contenders like Khabib Nurmagomedov have a better argument for a title shot than him right now; it's going to be a long time until he finds himself competing for a title again. The younger brother might go down as the most popular fighter to never win a title.
14 Pete Williams
With his fighting days starting in 1996, Pete Williams is a bit of an OG in the sport. He debuted at the Pancrase - 1996 Neo Blood Tournament and fought for two years until he made his way into the UFC. Filling in for Randy Couture on short notice, Williams was a sizeable underdog heading into his debut against Mark Coleman but he made his presence felt by recording the first head kick knockout in UFC history. The win gets a lot of attention for being the first of its kind but it really is one of the most brutal shots ever landed.
In 2000 Williams was number six in the heavyweight fighter rankings. He was well established in the world of MMA and was given a title shot at Kevin Randleman but lost by unanimous decision. After the loss Williams took his talents to the regional circuit where he won two consecutive fights but then lost three in a row in his return to the UFC. Injuries forced Williams to retire at the young age of 26 with a record of 12-6. His six year career was over before it had even begun. Who knows what he would have been able to accomplish without the damage to his body.
13 Dong Hyun Kim
A fighter that is currently on a three-fight winning streak wouldn't normally be added to a list like this but a title is probably out of reach for someone like Dong Hyun Kim. The Korean fighter has had a bit of a roller coaster of a career so far. With a record of 21-3 Kim has won almost all of his fights but has struggled against fighters within the top 10. The welterweight division is now filled with a number of contenders such as Stephen Thompson, Demian Maia and Jorge Masvidal.
It's going to be hard for the "Stun Gun" to earn the title shot he's been fighting so many years for. To make matters even worse, Tyrone Woodley is the current champion of the division and he already holds a TKO victory over Kim. Not everyone can have a title wrapped around their waist and Kim may be on the outside looking in for the rest of his time in the UFC.
12 Yushin Okami
Promoting a fight is important. In fact its almost more important than winning a fight in the UFC today. Fighters like Yushi Okami found that out the hard way. Okami was always a tough fight for anybody even in defeat (except for Anderson Silva but at that time nobody stood a chance against him). President Dana White was critical of Okami though, claiming that his style was too boring for audiences. Even though he was 13-5 in the UFC, White made the decision to cut "Thunder" after a loss to Ronaldo Souza. Tough luck. Okami was clearly one of the better middleweights in the division and many felt that his release from the company was unwarranted. The World Series of Fighting is now the home for him and it doesn't appear that he will be back in the UFC any time soon.
11 Chad Mendes
Chad Mendes is currently serving a two-year suspension that could drastically alter his career. In July 2016 he tested positive for the growth hormone release stimulator GHRP-6 and owned up to his mistakes by stating that he would pay the punishment for his actions. It's unfortunate since Mendes (31) is currently in his prime and is looking to bounce back after suffering two straight losses for the first time in his career. Before the violation and losses, he looked almost unstoppable at 145 lbs. The setback is quite a game changer for the featherweight who is now suspended for the positive test until 2018.
His first title shot at former champion José Aldo came at UFC 142 but the night couldn't have ended worse for Mendes as he was knocked out with one second left in the first round by a brutal knee thrown by Aldo. The Team Alpha Male member got another shot at Aldo two years later and was much more competitive the second time around but was on the wrong side of the judges score cards and lost via unanimous decision. By the time Mendes gets back it's going to be hard to regain the footing he once had in the featherweight division and a third loss could prove worry some for the UFC veteran.
10 Carlos Condit
The first combatant on our list to win an interim title, Carlos Condit could not have come closer to winning a title. After beating Nick Diaz in 2012 Condit played the waiting game as UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre was sidelined with a torn right ACL. GSP was given the green light to defend his belt at UFC 154 and the two put on a back-and-fourth fight that had many questioning the decision once the contest was all said done. Condit became only the second person to knock down St-Pierre after he dropped the Canadian with a head kick at the beginning of the third round but lost the fight by unanimous decision.
He received another shot at the title last year against Robbie Lawler but once again failed to win the belt. The grueling fight went on to win Fight of the Year honors but I'm sure Condit would trade that recognition for a place atop the welterweight division any day of the week. Retirement may be approaching soon for Condit as he has voiced his concerns over brain trauma sustained from his fighting days.
9 Urijah Faber
Urijah Faber put the WEC on the map. José Aldo might have had the best run in the blue octagon, but not being able to speak English made it difficult for the Brazilian to reach out to the American audience (at least for the casual spectators). Faber on the other hand was a marketable star that showcased a laid back attitude; but once the cage door was locked he was all business and he let his fist and feet do the talking. The Division I wrestler was one of the most exciting fighters in the organization.
He came over to the UFC after Dana White and company made the decision to merge the WEC weight classes (bantamweight, featherweight and lightweight) with the rest of the UFC roster. Faber received three title shots (one was for an interim title) but was unable to win any of the three bouts. His final fight came against Brad Pickett at UFC on Fox: VanZant vs. Waterson and "The California Kid" came out on top in his home state. The former WEC champ and founder of Team Alpha Male will continue to help his peers as they prepare for their upcoming fights. Don't be surprised if you see him cornering his teammates in the near future.
8 Kenny Florian
It's very rare for a fighter to compete in four different weight classes. Kenny Florian is one of the few who has. While he has received title shots at lightweight and featherweight, Florian also fought in the middleweight and welterweight divisions during his time with the UFC. The versatile fighter fought B.J. Penn at lightweight and José Aldo at featherweight for the titles in their respective divisions but lost to both of them. After his fight with Aldo, Florian began to feel tingling and numbness in his right leg while training and sought out medical attention to get a diagnosis on his condition. After being advised by doctors to retire from the sport, the title challenger officially announced that he would be walking away from the sport in 2012. He now serves as an analyst on the Fox Sports network while occasionally providing color commentary for UFC events on the side.
7 Kyoji Horiguchi
Horiguchi recently turned down a contract offer by the UFC. After stating that the offer put him front of him was less than desirable, he decided to test the free-agent market and signed with Rizin Fighting Federation on February 20th. The situation is a prime example of how the WME-IMG sale may be having a negative effect on the MMA organization. He left the company with a 7-1 record with his only loss coming to Demetrious Johnson. One thing to note about his title shot against DJ is that it might have come a bit early for the Japanese fighter. Johnson had already cleaned out the flyweight division so Horiguchi was promptly given a shot at the title after just four fights. A bit more time and he could have had a better showing against "Mighty Mouse". Who knows how a second fight with Johnson would turn out.
Unfortunately we may never know since Horiguchi seems to be making good with Rizin President Nobuyuki Sakakibara. Can't blame him for leaving though. Fighters deserve to be paid as much as every other athlete but the UFC fails to realize that.
6 Pedro Rizzo
Pedro Rizzo was one of the most revered strikers during his days in the UFC. His use of leg kicks set him apart from the rest of the competition and for good reason as they were some of the most brutal strikes the sport of MMA had ever seen. He was well ahead of his time when it came to the evolution of the sport. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt combined a lethal ground game with superb striking to become one of the most well-rounded fighters of his era. Rizzo had his hands full facing Tank Abbott in his debut at UFC Brazil back in 1996, but he blazed through Abbot and his next four opponents to earn a shot at then-heavyweight champion Kevin Randleman.
The fight between Rizzo and Randleman was in front of a tiny crowd of 1,100 people (tiny when compared to fan attendance today) and was very forgettable as the two were hesitant to engage one another. Rizzo was unable to defeat Randleman and it would be the only time the two would ever fight each other. His next two title shots came against Randy Couture but Rizzo was once again unable to pickup a victory in either fight. However, in his first fight with Couture at UFC 31 many believed that the Brazilian did enough to earn the win but the judges had a different opinion. Judging by the look on Couture's face after Bruce Buffer announced the decision, Couture couldn't believe the outcome either. The result could have changed the outlook on the UFC for years to come but all we can do now is speculate what would have happened if Rizzo won the belt in 2001.
5 Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira
Antonio "Minotauro" Nogueira faced his fair share of top ranked opponents during his career. Despite going 1-3 in his last four fights, Nogueira was still able to retire with an impressive record of 34-10-1 (1). One of his most memorable accomplishments was beating Tim Sylvia at UFC 81 to become the interim heavyweight champion. While it was a defining moment in his career, the interim belt would be the only title that Nogueira would hold in the organization. He was unable to defend the belt and his chances at winning the real heavyweight championship were all but over after he lost a title eliminator fight to Cain Velasquez at UFC 110.
Pride played host to some of Nogueira's better days but his legacy of being one of the most exciting fighters to ever put on a pair of gloves will live on forever.
4 Joseph Benavidez
There are four losses on Joseph Benavidez's record: two losses to Demetrious Johnson and two losses to Dominick Cruz. If you're going to lose to anyone it should be to champions and no one else. Benavidez has done just that and has proven that he is more than capable of holding a title some day. It's just that Johnson is a tad bit better than him and Cruz is in a different weight class now. Their fight at UFC 152 for the inaugural flyweight championship was a fast paced battle that really could have gone either way but the judges had Johnson winning the fight and gave him a split-decision victory (48-47, 47-48, 49-46). With the two losses to the current champion it's going to be hard for "Joe B-Wan Kenobi" to get another shot at the title as long as Johnnson has his hands on the belt.
3 Mirko Cro Cop
Coming into the UFC Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic was relatively unknown to American fans of the sport but the hardcore spectators knew what they were getting with the kickboxer. The Croatian had already made a name for himself in Japan having won the Pride FC Open-Weight Grand Prix Tournament a year before his debut in the states. He first stepped foot in the octagon back in 2007 at UFC 67 and was welcomed into the promotion by the undefeated Eddie Sanchez. Cro Cop went on to beat Sanchez but would become a part of almost every UFC knockout compilation on youtube after getting brutally KO'ed by Gabriel Gonzaga in his next fight.
His fight with Gonzaga was a title eliminator and a majority of MMA fans had Cro Cop picking up the win. He failed to string together more than two wins in a row and was released in 2011. This past December Cro Cop won another Open Grand Prix Tournament with Rizin Fighting Federation and subsequently announced his retirement where it it all began, the Saitama Super Arena. While he never won a UFC title like everyone expected him to, at least Cro Cop went out on top by fighting three times in three days and becoming the Rizin Grand Prix champion.
2 Wanderlei Silva
Devastating knees in the clinch. That's the one thing that comes to mind when thinking about Wanderlei Silva. Yes, his name has been a bit tarnished after the whole USADA fiasco but we'll try to focus on the brighter aspects of Silva for the sake of this article. "The Axe Murderer" got his start during some of the crazier days of the sport. Having taken part in multiple Vale Tudo events, Silva's brawler mentality made him a fan favorite as soon as he entered the UFC.
Chuck Liddell served as Silva's first opponent at UFC 79 and the two put on a show that is remembered as being one of the greatest fights the sports has ever seen. He was never able to put together back-to-back wins in the UFC but at the same time almost every single one of his fights was filled with excitement regardless of the outcome. His run as the Pride Middleweight Champion was amazing and his title defense against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson was name the Fight of the Year in 2004. The future for Silva is a bit unknown right now. He is currently signed with Rizing Fighting Federation but has yet to compete under their banner. For now we'll just sit back and reminisce about the days when Silva was rearranging faces back in Pride.
1 Dan Henderson
Having won a title in almost every organization he competed in, Dan Henderson is one of most decorated athletes in MMA history. His victories in Pride and Strikeforce were more than notable but there is one thing that eluded Henderson throughout his entire 19 year career: a UFC championship. Henderson and his patented "H-Bomb" were a serious threat to knockout an opponent at any given second. His background in Greco-Roman wrestling forced opponents to stand and trade with him, which is something that most people in this world wouldn't dare to do. Henderson was given another shot at the UFC Middleweight title at UFC 204 but came up short against Michael Bisping and retired shortly after.
While his resume consists of three championship belts and wins over notable fighters such as Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira, Fedor Emelianenko and Maurício Rua, adding a UFC belt to his collection would have been a tremendous way to end his illustrious career.
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