It's pretty wild to think that the UFC was on the brink of bankruptcy in the year 2000, back when they were owned by SEG. Fast forward 14 years, and the UFC is a multi billion dollar operation. The baldfather (Dana White) had a vision of what the UFC could be, and convinced the Fertitta brothers to buy it for $2 million dollars and invest. Sounds like a pretty sound investment, doesn't it?
Since the UFC's creation, we've seen a lot of great fighters come and go. Many of them have been in absolute slugfests and will forever be adhered by the fans. Take Stephan Bonnar, for example. He took part in the most exciting fight of all time against Forrest Griffin at the TUF 1 finale. This was the fight that officially made the UFC mainstream and put them on the map, as Dana White has billed it "the most important fight of all time." The ratings skyrocketed during the fight, people literally had to be calling their friends, telling them to turn on the fight.
Despite the acclaim, and solid career that Bonnar went on to have, he still never captured UFC gold. Not only that, there is a whole slew of fighters that had much better careers than he did (winning percentage wise) and also did not capture a title during their UFC tenure's. It certainly puts things in perspective, in terms of how difficult it actually is to win a UFC championship. Let's have a look at the top 20 greatest fighters to never win a Championship.
(Keep in mind that some of these fighters didn't actually start their careers in the UFC. They made their claim to fame in Pride Fighting and were supposed to take the UFC by storm upon their arrivals).
20 Joseph Benavidez
Benavidez is one of the reasons why the lighter weight classes have come to fruition. Fighters like him always provide an exciting brand of fighting and are constantly improving each time out. Benavidez is currently at the top of the food chain in the Flyweight division, but is at a bit of an impasse.
19 Yves Edwards
18 Jim Miller
Jim Miller suffers from what some call the "Michael Bisping" syndrome (fine, nobody calls it that I totally made it up). He constantly wins enough fights to put himself in title contention, but then comes up short when he's given a #1 contender's fight.
17 Chris Lytle
The mild mannered Lytle kind of flew under the radar in his UFC career, but he fought all the toughest guys in the Welterweight Division. Still not convinced? Let's rattle off some names; Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, Thiago Alves, Matt Brown, Josh Koscheck and Dan Hardy. He even managed to submit Matt Brown, not once, but twice!
16 Michael Bisping
There's a lot of things to loathe about Bisping. He's pompous, abrasive and kind of a bully. But there's some things about him that are actually admirable, with his natural fighting ability being one of them.
15 Hector Lombard
He's only had 5 fights in the UFC and one can make the argument that he's only 3-2. But the 2 losses were dreadful split decisions. One to Tim Boetsch, and one equally horrendous decision to Yushin Okami (in Japan). Lombard's career record is an outstanding 34-4-1-1 and he's absolutely brutalized some of his opponents, as 26 of the 34 wins have come by stoppage (real cringe worthy ones too).
14 Yushin Okami
Okami fought in the UFC for 7 years, and was rarely outside of the top 5 in the Middleweight Division. He's one of the best fighter's to ever come out of Japan and was fed to the lions right off the bat. He's scored victories over some stiff competition. Notable victories include Alan Belcher (twice), Mike Swick, Jason MacDonald, Mark Munoz, Nate Marquardt and Hector Lombard.
13 Chael Sonnen
Speaking of people that received a title shot after a loss, the self proclaimed "gangster from America" certainly comes to mind. As mentioned above, the disgraced fighter recently got busted for using multiple performance enhancing drugs and one would assume he was using them throughout most of his career. But at the end of the day, he did score some impressive victories over top notch fighters. Similar to Barry Bonds, sure he was juiced, but the home runs are still in the record books and still counted during every game.
12 Nate Diaz
There's just something in the air when a Diaz brother is fighting on a UFC card. They both depict brash behaviour and it is not a case of their bark being worse than their bite, as their resumes are pretty darn impressive. The only thing that's eluding them is UFC gold.
11 Josh Koscheck
Koscheck is one of those guys fans love to hate. He was part of the original Ultimate Fighter cast and it was clear from the beginning that he was there to ruffle some feathers. Regardless of what you think of him, he was a top contender for a long time and if not for Georges St Pierre, he probably would have secured the Welterweight championship at some point.
10 Gray Maynard
Ahh Gray, you were so close... Poor Maynard will be having nightmares about Frankie Edgar for the rest of his life. At UFC 125, Maynard rocked Edgar early in round 1 and put a savage beating on him. The fight was seemingly a fraction of a second away from being stopped on several occasions but Edgar somehow kept recovering, just enough for referee Yves Lavigne to let the fight continue. The crowd looked on in disbelief as to how Edgar could possibly still be conscious. The problem for Maynard was he had gassed himself out from punching so much and was kind of in a state of shock himself. Edgar managed to rally for a draw. The two re-matched, and it was the same result. A Maynard barrage of punches early, only to be thwarted by another Edgar comeback, but this time with a loss for Maynard at the end.
9 Jon Fitch
The unofficial most boring fighter in UFC history (until they signed Jake Shields) boasts an incredible record. His fights always go to decision, but to his defense, most of them were clear 30-27's on the judges score cards, as he would just smother his opponents and grind out win after win. Between 2005 and late 2011, he only lost one fight and that loss came at the hands of Georges St. Pierre in a title fight at UFC 87.
8 Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
When "Lil Nog" came over to the UFC, he brought a tremendous record from PRIDE along with him. He is a pioneer of the sport and boasts wins over Dan Henderson, Alistair Overeem, Kazushi Sakuraba, Guy Mezger, Tito Ortiz and, perhaps most impressively, Rashad Evans. The fight itself was rather dull, but most pundits had completely written Nogueira off as he was a 6-1 underdog.
7 Nick Diaz
Time to give the more polarizing Diaz some love! He seemed to be just an average fighter until he hit his stride in 2006. Since then, he's been on a path of destruction. For the fans, he's an absolute joy to watch because of his "in your face" style of fighting. He's constantly applying pressure, and had a unique relentless brand of striking where he hits in volume, and overwhelms his opponent, rather than look for a single knockout blow.
6 Pedro Rizzo
Now we go old school! He was one of the first legitimate Heavyweight's in the UFC. The division was full of sideshows and was starved for a big man that could actually fight. Rizzo was one of those big men that put the division on the map, along with Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman and Dan Severn.
5 Urijah Faber
Remember before how we talked about the "Michael Bisping syndrome?" The syndrome occurs when you constantly lose the #1 contenders bout. Now we're going to talk about the "Urijah Faber syndrome." which is far more severe.
4 Kenny Florian
Florian is another man with title fight deficiencies as he stands at 0-3 in title fights. Nevertheless, the unassuming Florian was one of the nastiest fighter's of the past decade. His most powerful weapons were his razor sharp elbows. If he connected with a solid elbow, his opponent would immediately be wearing the crimson mask (fancy term for a lot of blood).
3 Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic
"Right kick, hospital. Left kick, cemetery." Those are the words of a very scary man. His trademark was the head kick in the majority of his victories (if you're not an avid MMA fan, it's worth youtubing, folks). Much like Nogueira, he created his legacy in PRIDE, basically defeating everyone as his only 2 stumbling blocks were Fedor Emelianenko and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (Rogerio's big brother). He avenged his loss to Randleman, and his loss to Mark Hunt was a terrible decision, so who even cares?
2 Dan Henderson
We hear the term "pound for pound" tossed around a lot. It basically means, if all things were equal, who would be the toughest?
It's always a hypothetical debate, because who truly knows? At the end of the day, there's multiple weight divisions and people are different sizes. But Dan Henderson truly encompasses the spirit of the term "pound for pound." He is a fighter that truly doesn't care about weight, as he's walked around at essentially the same weight throughout his entire career. But he's fought at Heavyweight, Light heavyweight and Middleweight. In an era where everyone is so caught up about weight cutting and performing at an optimum level, Hendo just wants to scrap, and he's had a wonderful career with that mindset.
1 Wanderlei Silva
If you look at Wanderlei Silva's recent body of work, it's pretty laughable. Him and fellow steroid user Chael Sonnen filmed The Ultimate Fighter Brazil this year, and squared off as coaches. A hilarious brawl ensued between the two, and that's all the fight we're going to see from them because they both failed their drug tests and got removed from the card.
But, let's focus on the positive! He may go down as the most exciting mixed martial artist in history. He's inflicted a lot of damage, but he's also received his fair share as he is a brawler. He has so many fans because he has the guts to stand in the pocket and just throw bombs. He holds the record for the most wins, knockouts, title defenses and longest winning streak in PRIDE history. It's just too bad that he came over to UFC after he passed his prime as he's one of the best fighters of all time.
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