While plenty of fans these days are fed up with trash talk, it's still a part of sport and, if done right, it's nothing short of an art form. With that said, the art comes in many different forms. Some trash talkers in hockey just chirp throughout the whole game, calling an opponent names and critiquing their play. In football, a linebacker might talk about walking all over an offensive line and wrangling a quarterback "all day, baby!"
Notice, however, that trash talk is different in combat sports. In team sports, there is always a focus on winning the game and helping out the team but in MMA and recent boxing culture, there is a focus on describing how a fight will be won and lost, whether it be rearranging an opponent's face or breaking a limp. In MMA especially, this visceral, almost gory discourse brings new aggression into the sport in conjunction with an even more entertaining spectacle.
Of course, the greatest trash talker of all time was Muhammad Ali, but his brand of clever, witty verbal jabs is now all but extinct, as wordplay is rarely used with the care and effect that he had. With that said, in its brief (just over 20 years) history, mixed martial arts has produced some prolific mouthpiece athletes who have come up with brilliant, hilarious, cruel, and crude examples of trash talk. In its infancy, during the early days of UFC, trash talk in MMA looked similar to that of a WWE match; some juiced up maniac in a leotard howling about breaking bones and throwing an opponent through a wall. But there were some decent talkers back then and as the sport has matured, so has the talking game.
Here is our list of the all time greats in this category.
15 Rashad Evans
"Suga," one of the finest knockout artists the sport has ever seen, is almost as good with his trash talk as he is with his fists. Unfortunately, his finest line is also one that caught him some severe criticism. Leading up to his fight against Phil Davis back in 2012, he told Davis: "you’re going to have to find out for yourself. I bet you won’t be able to put your hands on me though. I bet you’ll be the first one to take a shot. I guarantee you’ll be the first one to take a shot, 'cause I’m going to put those hands on you worse than that dude did to them other kids at Penn State." This was a comment referencing the infamous Penn State sex scandal involving football coach Jerry Sandusky.
As a fan of edgy, offensive comments, I find this brilliant and almost fell off the couch laughing when I heard about it years ago, but a subject like that need not be joked about in public; lives were ruined.
14 Phil Baroni
The New York Bad Ass had some early success in the sport of MMA, but after 2008 he went very downhill, so thank God he could talk. He was (is) about as full of himself as his nickname would indicate and frequently ran his mouth. With regard to Brazilians, he viewed them as little more than a nuisance, stating once that "I can't stand Brazilians, they live in a third-world country anyway, so they’ll go anywhere if there’s a little money. I live in America. I want to be a champion of an American organization.”
When gearing up for his rematch against Matt Lindland, he strategized: "I plan on knocking him out and punishing him. Making him quit. Making him say, you know, ‘Phil, you’re the better man. I’m sorry. I tapped out, please let me get out of here with my life.’" Because we'll never pass on a chance to remember a journalist getting shot down, he was once asked why he fights for a living, answering “Because I can’t sing and dance, and it beats f*****’ workin’ every day. Now ask me a question that doesn’t sound so f*****’ stupid.” He's New York honesty in a nutshell, folks.
13 Dan Hardy
Before being essentially forced into what looks like a de facto retirement, Hardy was a great contender who was at one point, one of the best in the Welterweight division. His title shot against Georges St-Pierre featured plenty of anticipation due to loads of smack-talk on the part of himself, while Rush essentially responded with pleasantries and his usual calm, cool and collected demeanor. The beating that would follow was one of the most impressive fights of GSP's career.
Hardy had always talked a big game prior to his title shot and would continue to talk trash through his next three losses. He, like other fighters from the British isles, had a sharp wit, and could generally back it up, as one of the best Welterweight contenders of his time.
12 Muhammed Lawal
"King Mo" is a former wrestler and he talks like one too. The former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight champion is currently signed to Bellator and he's fought ten times since he joined the promotion back in early 2013. His loss to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson a year ago sparked some controversy when the two continued to argue and insult each other after the bout had ended.
Later in 2014, Lawal called out Tito Ortiz, saying Ortiz was scared and would find excuses not to fight: "You ain’t going to fight me, I know that. You’re going to be, ‘my neck, my back, my knee."
11 Nick Diaz
Another gifted fighter who was never able to earn a UFC belt, Nick Diaz at least makes the list of all time MMA smack-talkers. His most recent fight against Anderson Silva was one of the few times he didn't partake in much chit-chat in the weeks before the match.
Throughout his career Diaz has made a name for himself as a witty but also aggressive and uncompromising talker. Some examples include calling out K.J. Noons before both of their fights, making fun of Rich Franklin for being a high school teacher and "not a fighter" and of course, poking fun at Frank Shamrock before beating him when the two were in Strikeforce.
10 Ronda Rousey
Women's MMA needs at least one entry on this list, and there can be none other than "Rowdy" Ronda. She talks a big game and backs it up to the tune of 11-0 with her last two fights taking a combined total of thirty seconds to finish.
She makes no secret about being all business and wants no part in getting friendly with the other female fighters. She has a particular hatred for Miesha Tate and Bethe Correia. Correia recently made a suicide comment toward Rousey (regarding their upcoming fight in August), apparently ignorant of the fact that Rousey's father took his own life when she was a child. Correia apologized but Ronda is no doubt seeing red right now.
Miesha Tate has received the most trash talk of anyone from Rousey, who argued that Tate's biggest problem is her boyfriend. She also insinuated that she is responsible for Tate's fame: "Me beating the crap out of her is the best thing that has ever happened to her, because she's made a whole career and a living out of it."
9 Quinton Jackson
"Rampage" has always been that awesome breed of aggressive, in-your-face, brawler since he started fighting over 15 years ago. Before his fight against Chuck Liddell at UFC 71, Rampage was asked if he had any concerns heading into the fight; he said he hoped the ref stopped the fight in time, so Liddell didn't die.
Back when they were both fighting in Pride, Jackson commented leading up to a fight with Wanderlei Silva, in Muhammad Ali fashion: "when I beat Wanderlei I’m a take his belt pull his pants down and spank him for being so ugly," possibly one of the funniest things to have ever been said by a fighter.
8 Frank Mir
Mir has been in the UFC since 2001 and is thought to be one of the sharper, more intelligent fighters in the league. Watch him in an interview, he speaks fairly well and clearly has a couple of brain cells rubbing together up there. But when he no longer wants to talk strategy and wants to get into specifics, he is a ruthless talker who describes hatred and blood lust when anticipating a fight.
Recently after Todd Duffee tried to start the smack talk, Mir commented that disrespect like that helps him remember that MMA isn't just a sporting event; it's a fight, and his job is to "dismember the person in front of him." Years ago, after UFC 107, Mir told a radio host (when asked about Brock Lesnar): "I want to fight Lesnar. I hate who he is as a person. I want to break his neck in the ring. I want him to be the first person that dies due to Octagon-related injuries. That's what's going through my mind." There was some controversy about him fantasizing about murder, but at the end of the day he's saying what most athletes in contact/combat sports are probably thinking. At least he didn't drop a Tyson and try to eat Lesnar's kids. Mir was forced to apologize, which is an absolute travesty.
7 Tito Ortiz
As the first real villain of MMA, I wish I could put the Huntington Beach Bad Boy a bit higher, but he lost points because a lot of what he said leading up to fights never made sense. We could always tell that it was working and that he was pissing people off, but his comments sometimes were incoherent.
His two major feuds were of course with Ken Shamrock, who he beat three times, and of course Dana White, who had been Ortiz's manager prior to his becoming President of the UFC. Nothing he ever said was particularly memorable, but he did wear a shirt that read "Gay Mezger is my Bitch," which originally started the rivalry with Shamrock. Rather than focusing on catchy one-liners though, Ortiz was always more of an "insult the guy in every way possible, no matter what" kind of talker.
6 Ken Shamrock
Some might disagree with putting Shamrock ahead of Ortiz, given that Ortiz won all three of their fights, but Shamrock is the more gifted talker of the two. Shamrock is still considered to be one of the greatest ever to fight in MMA and with good reason. His fight against Kimbo Slice later this week should be interesting to say the least.
Two Shamrock quotes that are among the best of his career include (though slightly nonsensical) "I'm going to beat him into a living death" and "I will knock your hair black," both in reference to Ortiz.
5 Conor McGregor
Right now, despite having been in the UFC since 2013, Conor McGregor is making a name for himself as the new Chael Sonnen (more on him later). He tore through Cage Warriors FC in Europe and is currently on a thirteen fight win streak. Number fourteen is his chance at winning the UFC Featherweight Championship.
Since he started in the sport, he has presented himself as a great striker with a surplus of confidence to say the least. He's been saying that he will beat anyone in his division since his first day in the division, and has made good on those promises so far. Jose Aldo is the last one standing between the young Irishman and the belt. His best comment so far was telling number one contender Chad Mendes "I can rest my b***s on your forehead" in response to a jab about his wrestling ability. McGregor generally doesn't viciously attack other fighters with his talk, but has mainly found creative ways to say he's the best and he's on his way to the belt.
4 Michael Bisping
The Count, while incredibly exciting to watch, was one of those fighters who was always on the cusp of being one of the best in the world. After going 10-0 in English promotions, he won The Ultimate Fighter in 2006. Since then however, he's lost both of his title eliminators. He just can't seem to get past truly top tier fighters. With that said, his trash talking game is among the best out there.
Being a Brit helps, as the accent amplifies any amount of wit. Along with wit however, is that whether he truly is or not, Bisping carries himself like a confident but truly unkind person and combines malice with a sharp intellect to attack people. Accusing Hector Lombard's mother of smoking while pregnant and saying Brian Stann "won't last as long as a virgin on prom night" are just two examples of his hilarious cruelty.
3 Josh Koscheck
Starting out on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, we all got to know Josh Koscheck's personality early on. When he started fighting in the promotion shortly after his loss to Diego Sanchez on TUF, his fan base already knew him as a polarizing loud mouth. For years he was one of the most entertaining Welterweights in the UFC, but he is currently riding a five fight losing streak; a sign that Kos might be on his way out.
While he can usually be relied upon to try to get under the skin of an opponent leading up to a fight, his best work in the talk department was when he was a coach on TUF Season 12, against Georges St-Pierre. Koscheck implied that GSP had a poor striking game, made fun of his tactics, and his French Canadian heritage during their time as coaches. GSP commented that Koscheck's trash talk was third best of his competitors, saying Dan Hardy was more clever and B.J. Penn was better with personal attacks. Also keep in mind that St-Pierre broke Koscheck's orbital bone during their fight.
2 Chael Sonnen
One of the greatest talkers in the history of the sport is Chael Sonnen, who competed in various promotions but had two very notable stints with the UFC. He had three title shots, two at Middleweight and one at Light Heavyweight, but got beaten by Anderson Silva and Jon Jones.
While he never was able to grasp a UFC belt, his chirping (forgive my use of a hockey word) was brilliant. He was always particularly critical of Anderson Silva and all of the Brazilians at Light Heavyweight, including Wanderlei Silva and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (Little Nog). While his jabs toward other fighters including implying that the Nogueira brothers are stupid and calling out Anderson Silva repeatedly, his best line ever was aimed at the card girls: "We only had one [ring girl] and that was Chandella. The other was the IQ card girl. Arianny kind of walks around and holds up her latest test score. One time when there was a title fight, she got all the way up to five and we were very proud of her."
1 Dana White
Alright, I just pissed some of you off and I apologize. But if you bear with me for just a second and think about it, Dana White is the biggest mouthpiece in all of MMA. It doesn't matter who you are, whether a fighter in the UFC, another promoter, a ref, a fighter in another promotion or a journalist; Dana White will come after you and he will let you know what's what.
He's not like other promoters, league presidents or commissioners, who generally look and act like politicians. Dana White knows his fighters, knows the business and when he sees something he doesn't like, the world hears about it. He's the only president in sports whose existence actually makes his product better. His most notable hatred is that which erupted with Tito Ortiz, which continues to this day. White recently took aim at Ben Askren, the current ONE Championship Welterweight Champ, saying that Askren is essentially just a dumber Tito Ortiz, after Askren criticized the UFC's signing of Phil "CM Punk" Brooks.