It takes a unique person to be a professional mixed martial artist. Often when a person is a success at beating other people up, they don’t have certain life skills required to be a success outside of the cage.
Is it really any surprise that somebody like Chris Leben is constantly running into trouble outside of the fighting world? Leben’s most respected skill set is that he is not afraid to keep moving forward no matter how many times his opponent is punching him square in the face. There are not too many other facets of society where such a skill is productive or respected.
Another factor that causes mixed martial artists to hit rock bottom after their fighting careers are over is the change in career paths. Often mixed martial artists don’t know what to do with themselves when they are no longer fighting, as fighting and training had occupied so much of their lives they become unsure about how to replace those things once they are gone. The end result becomes eccentric, punch-drunk, and depressed fighters searching for not only a way to pay their bills, but also to discover who they are now that they are no longer a fighter.
Of course there are plenty of fighters who have been very successful once their fighting careers are over, such as Matt Hughes, Kenny Florian and others. But for every example of a fighter who has transitioned seamlessly into their post-fighting career there seems to be two who just can’t keep themselves together.
Out of all the fighters who have hit their own personal rock bottom following the end of their UFC careers, here are the top 19.
19 Jesse “JT Money” Taylor
Everything was all set for Jesse “JT Money” Taylor, he had advanced to the finals of The Ultimate Fighter and with one more win would earn a multi-fight contract with the UFC. Even if he were to lose in the finals, he would surely still receive multiple fight offers from the UFC. Only Taylor wouldn’t make it to the finals, becoming the first ever competitor to be removed from competing in the tournament’s final bout due to actions outside of the octagon.
Vegas security footage caught Taylor kicking out the windows of a rented limousine and generally behaving in ways that would make Jason Miller proud. Dana White told Taylor he was being removed from the finals since he demonstrated he did not have the mental toughness needed to be an employee of the company.
White would give Taylor a chance to redeem himself however, when he gave him a fight against CB Dolloway. Taylor would lose to Dolloway and the UFC cut him. He has never been back.
18 Josh Grispi
A lot of people had very high hopes for Josh Grispi when the UFC merged WEC’s lighter weight divisions into their roster, but Grispi failed to live up to the hype.
After going 10-1 in the WEC, Grispi fell apart once he got to the UFC. The once-heralded Grispi dropped four straight fights in the UFC and was released by the company in 2013.
17 Brian Bowles
16 Tank Abbott
Tank Abbott was once one of the most recognizable mixed martial artists in the world. In the early days of the UFC, Tank Abbott won over fans with his unathletic appearance and solid knockout skills.
Since at the time mixed martial arts was not as financially rewarding as it is today, Abbott decided to try his hand at professional wrestling. Other early MMA pioneers such as Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn had done the same, so perhaps Tank would have the same success.
While Shamrock and Severn went to the WWE to do their wrestling, Tank Abbott made the mistake of signing with WCW. Abbott’s brief time in professional wrestling is only memorable for the storyline he participated in where he was an enthusiastic fan of a team of boy band wrestlers named “3 Count.”
15 Luke Cummo
You might remember Luke Cummo as a quirky former competitor on The Ultimate Fighter and as a guy who would later advocate for drinking your own urine. Cummo evidently felt that the act of drinking his own urine gave him an advantage over other fighters. Whatever advantage it gave him still wasn’t enough for Cummo to have a successful UFC career.
14 Paul Kelly
Paul Kelly was one of the better professional mixed martial artists coming out of England when he fought in the UFC between 2008 and 2011.
A veteran of nine UFC fights, Kelly finished his UFC career with a winning record, having gone 5-4. Kelly was released after losing to Donald Cerrone, despite both being awarded Fight of the Night honors. Unfortunately for Kelly, things didn’t go too well for him outside of the UFC, as in 2013 he was found guilty of heroin trafficking and sentenced to 13 years in prison.
13 Melvin Guillard
“The Young Assassin” Melvin Guillard was looking like he was going to become a top guy in the UFC, but it never really panned out. From 2010 to 2011, Guillard went on a five fight winning streak and earned an impressive reputation. But then it just started to fall apart for him the following couple of years, when he lost four out of his next five fights.
Since he was known for having exciting fights, the UFC was not quick to get rid of Melvin, giving him ample opportunities to start getting back in the win column. Eventually there was just too many in the loss column for Guillard however and the UFC cut him.
12 Kyacey “Ice Cold” Uscola
11 Kimbo Slice
Kimbo Slice is a fairly controversial guy on the MMA scene. Originally, Kimbo made a name for himself in a series of videos featuring underground street fighting and some MMA promoters decided they could make some money off him. EliteXC marketed Kimbo as an unbeatable force, even though his skills were limited at best.
When MMA journeyman Seth Petruzelli defeated Kimbo at EliteXC’s final show, it left Kimbo with nowhere to turn but the UFC. Dana offered Kimbo a spot on The Ultimate Fighter and Kimbo took it, though he was eliminated in the 1st round by eventual tournament winner Roy Nelson.
Slice would defeat Houston Alexander in his first actual UFC fight, but then lose easily to Matt Mitrione. Following the loss to Mitrione, the UFC cut Kimbo Slice.
10 Royce Gracie
From UFC’s 1 through 5, Royce Gracie showed the world that jiu-jitsu was the most dominant martial art in the world. When Gracie defeated much bigger opponents using the style made famous by his family, it was proof that jiu-jitsu was something all martial artists would need to be familiar in. Unfortunately for Royce, his legacy ended up slightly tarnished by his career outside of the UFC.
9 Junie Browning
8 Mark Kerr
Mark Kerr was 7-0 when he left the UFC following his victory in the UFC 15 Heavyweight Tournament. He hasn’t been back since and is lucky to be alive.
The documentary, Smashing Machine: the Life and Times of Extreme Fighter Mark Kerr, tells the story of Kerr’s downward spiral due to his addiction to pain medication. In 1999, Kerr overdosed and needed to be hospitalized, though this would serve as the catalyst for him to go to rehab.
7 Joe Son
The first time anyone saw Joe Son compete professionally inside of a UFC cage was a moment no MMA fan will soon forget. It was at UFC 4 that Keith Hackney reminded everyone that the early UFCs were “anything goes.” Hackney earned a “TKO due to groin strikes” when he defeated Joe Son, ending the fight by punching Son so many times in the groin that it necessitated the fight be stopped.
You might feel sorry for Joe Son because of this, but don’t.
6 Chris Leben
Chris Leben has a cult following of MMA fans that have always appreciated his gritty approach to the sport. Leben was a pivotal part of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, which was in part responsible for the tremendous success the UFC has had since it aired.
Leben turned his performance on the show into a solid UFC career that included 12 victories. It looked as though Leben had retired following his 2013 loss to Uriah Hall, but Bellator decided to make him an offer he was willing to accept.
During pre-fight medical screening for Bellator, it was discovered that Chris Leben was in seriously poor health. His heart was at less than 20 percent capacity, with some doctors stating he would need a transplant.
5 Ken Shamrock
Ken Shamrock is a true MMA pioneer and a member of the UFC Hall of Fame. At UFC 5, Shamrock fought Royce Gracie to a draw, but was clearly the dominate fighter. The super-fight between Shamrock and Gracie ushered in the new non-Gracie era in the sport.
4 Jason Miller
Jason “Mayhem” Miller likes to cause a ruckus. He’s always been a guy prone to getting into “mischief,” but since his last UFC fight in 2012, Miller’s actions have gone from those of an eccentric trouble-maker to those of someone who should probably be in prison.
Miller has been arrested numerous times for domestic assault and also once for breaking into a church, stripping naked, and taking a nap (which is illegal evidently).
Miller was also once engaged in a several hour-long standoff with a SWAT team before finally surrendering. And yes, Mayhem was live-tweeting during the standoff.
He was last arrested in October of 2015 for assaulting police officers.
3 B.J. Penn
“The Prodigy” might be the best Lightweight fighter of all time. Two losses in a row to Frankie Edgar spelled the beginning of the end for Penn however, who would win just one of his next five fights before retiring.
After being gone from the UFC for close to two years, Penn was preparing for a comeback when allegations of sexual assault surfaced.
2 Hermes Franca
At UFC 73, Hermes Franca fought for the UFC Lightweight title against Sean Sherk. Franca would lose via unanimous decision and then test positive for steroids after the fight (so would Sherk). After the loss to Sherk, Franca would only win one of his next three fights and was gone from the UFC.
1 War Machine
Born Jon Koppenhaver, “War Machine” legally changed his name to his longtime nickname to prevent TNA Wrestling from forcing him to stop going by the name. War Machine won a hard fought and bloody battle against Jared Rollins at The Ultimate Fighter season 6 finale, but was fired from the promotion following a loss in his next fight.
Following his departure from the UFC, he would be arrested for assault several times, finally serving two years behind bars before being released in October of 2012.
War Machine is currently in jail awaiting trial for vicipusly assaulting his ex-girlfriend, Christie Mack. The assault on Mack resulted in numerous broken bones, a ruptured liver, and broken ribs. He unsuccessfully attempted suicide in prison.
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