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.
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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.
Since being cut from the UFC, Taylor hasn’t done much other than fight in small independent promotions around the world. He did receive a chance in Strikeforce, but that didn't last very long either.
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.
As bad as things were for Grispi in the UFC, they just got worse once he was outside of it. Grispi has been arrested on numerous charges regarding guns, domestic abuse, and drugs. He is currently awaiting sentencing for a domestic assault incident that allegedly involved sicking his trained attack dog on his wife. He has denied all the allegations regarding domestic abuse.
17 Brian Bowles
Brian Bowles was supposed to be one of the top stars of UFC’s Bantamweight division when the company merged the WEC’s roster of lighter weight fighters with their roster. His only loss in the WEC was a title fight with Dominick Cruz via doctor’s stoppage due to Bowles’ sustaining a broken hand. After winning his first two UFC fights, Bowles lost to Urijah Faber and then again to George Roop at UFC 160. Even worse for Bowles, however, was that he tested positive for elevated testosterone levels after the fight and hasn’t been back in the UFC since. Things just continued to go downhill from there for Bowles, as he was arrested in early 2015 for possession of methamphetamine and an illegal firearm.
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.”
After that debacle, Abbott decided to go back into mixed martial arts, where the sport had evolved without him. After five years away from the sport, Tank was never able to get back to his old form. Since leaving the UFC in the late 90s, Abbott’s MMA record is 2-8 including a loss to Kimbo Slice.
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.
After going 3-4 during his UFC career, Cummo vanished and hasn’t been back since 2008. Cummo only resurfaced in 2013 when there was a warrant out for his arrest. He was in the middle of a custody battle with his ex-wife when he was charged with domestic assault (which he denies). Cummo was sending out very cryptic and bizarre YouTube videos while on the run.
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.
Since Kelly will be 42 years old at the time of his release, it’s probably safe to assume his mixed martial arts career is over.
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.
Shortly before the UFC Guillard was found guilty on counts of aggravated battery for an incident where Guillard allegedly fought four security guards at the same time. He was not sentenced to prison time. Since leaving the UFC, he won his one fight but was unable to make weight and now he has promptly dropped three fights in a row.
12 Kyacey “Ice Cold” Uscola
Well you can’t say this guy doesn’t live up to his nickname. The former Ultimate Fighter Season 11 competitor Kyacey “Ice Cold” Uscola, could be sentenced to as many as 13 years in prison due to the extreme nature of the domestic violence incident he was involved in. The mother of Uscola’s child is the victim in this case, and she suffered a broken orbital bone as well as a punctured lung in the attack. Following his time on The Ultimate Fighter, the UFC never offered him a fight, leaving him to compete in various small promotions. He currently has a 23-25 record.
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.
Slice wouldn’t return to MMA until offered a contract by Bellator, but by this time Kimbo had been exposed. While he has brought in some interest for Bellator, Kimbo’s fights have been lauded as laughable, especially his recent fight with Dada 5000, where both fighters gassed out early and could barely stand in the later rounds. Maybe this is more of a case of MMA hitting rock bottom?
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.
Competing in Pride, Royce would lose to Sakuraba on May 1st 2000 via corner stoppage. Sevem years later Royce looked as though he had avenged the loss at a K1 Dynamite show, but post-fight drug testing would reveal that Royce had used anabolic steroids to help earn the victory.
9 Junie Browning
In 2008, it looked as though Junie Browning was going to be a star in the world of MMA, even if he wasn’t all that good. Browning was a rather noticeable cast member of The Ultimate Fighter. Shortly after Cole Miller destroyed him in the first round, Browning was arrested for assaulting nurses that were treating him at the hospital he was rushed to after taking various pills in a possible suicide attempt. The UFC cut Browning, who continued to deteriorate. He was involved in a similar incident in Thailand in 2011, where he was being treated in a hospital following a bar fight. Browning, hearing that the local mafia had put a hit out on him, fled the hospital where authorities had attempted to arrest him. He would turn himself in a few days later. Junie Browning had lost five straight fights when he stopped fighting in 2012. Last anyone heard, he was coaching MMA at a gym in Kentucky.
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.
Kerr was never really the same fighter following his overdose and rehab however, going 4-11 over his last 15 fights in different promotions.
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.
Joe Son is currently serving a life sentence for torture and murder in a 1990 gang case. In 2008, Son had to turn over a DNA sample due to a public vandalism charge and that’s how they matched him to the near 20-year-old crime. Since he's been in jail, he's been charged with murdering his cell-mate, which is still under trial.
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.
Despite the time he spent in the UFC, Leben evidently did not save his money. He is now studying to become a real estate agent.
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.
Shamrock’s career would take a hiatus while he pursued a career in pro wrestling. Following his pro-wrestling run Shamrock suffered several ego-deflating losses to Tito Ortiz and hasn’t been back in the UFC since. Since leaving the UFC, Shamrock has tested positive for steroid, as well. He's still fighting today, but he looks like a shell of himself.
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.
Needless to say, it hasn't been pretty for Miller.
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.
At the time of this writing, the police were said to be investigating accusations that Penn sexually assaulted a 29-year old female. The UFC put Penn’s comeback on hold pending the results of the investigation.
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.
His post-UFC life will always be known for his conviction of first degree sexual abuse and unlawful penetration involving a minor. The crimes stem from Franca’s actions with a young student. Franca was sentenced to 42 months in prison, must register as a sex offender, and was deported back to Brazil.
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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