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.
This impasse goes by the name of Dimetrious Johnson. Benavidez is only 30, and has been beaten twice by the current champion. The last outing was ugly, as Johnson KO'ed him 2 minutes into the fight. Perhaps he'll have better luck next time as the Team Alpha Male curse officially ended when TJ Dillashaw won the Bantamweight Championship.
19 Yves Edwards
Edwards' MMA career commenced in 1997. It's safe to say that he was fighting before it was considered cool. At 37 years old, it's easy to look at his past few fights and wonder what he's doing on this list, but it's his volume of work that took place in his prime that stands out. He has 2 wins against Hermes Franca, and a victory over Josh Thompson, both former #1 contenders at one time. Edwards' is a game fighter, even to this day, as he savagely knocked out Jeremy Stephens only a year and a half ago. Sadly, he's never been able to make it over the hump and win a title.
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.
Between 2009 and 2011, Miller rattled off 7 consecutive victories pitting himself against Benson Henderson. "Bendo" beat him soundly, in a fight that some considered an upset. Miller rebounded with an impressive submission victory of Melvin Guillard, catapulting himself back into a #1 contender's matchup with Nate Diaz, to which he got decimated. Nevertheless, he's beaten some very tough guys in the Lightweight division and has had a more than solid career.
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!
Fighting is a young man's game but Lytle went against the norm as he seemed to age like fine wine, winning 5 out of his last 6. That one loss was the "Fight of the Night." Lytle was no stranger to picking up bonuses as he's already amassed ten. He was always looking for the finish or to put on a show.
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.
Yes, the anecdote on Bisping is that he always blows it in #1 contender fights, and that may be true, but let's have a look at his work. Three of his four losses since 2010 have come at the hands of Wanderlei Silva, Chael Sonnen and Vitor Belfort. Recently the athletic commissions have gotten stricter in regards to drug testing, and all 3 of them have tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. One has to wonder, had they not been "pharmaceutically enhanced," would they have achieved the same result? Chael Sonnen was basically a walking chemical as they found testosterone, EPO and human growth hormone in his system. Until recently, there were no such tests for substances such as EPO and human growth hormone (all substances Lance Armstrong used to cheat with). We can't help but feel that "the count" got shafted a bit.
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).
At 5'9, he's always been a fighter that's been too short for the Middleweight Division. He's recently dropped to Welterweight and has scored victories over Nate Marquardt and Jake Shields, looking poised for a title shot in the near future. Hendricks vs. Lombard, who wouldn't want to see that?
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.
Incredibly, Okami has been relieved of his UFC duties. The reasoning behind it was because he was in no man's land. He was a fighter that would always be in the top 10, but couldn't beat anyone in the top 3 at this point, so they figured they'd dispose of him. Another instance of warped logic by the UFC, almost as warped as giving someone a title shot after a loss.
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.
Sonnen has defeated the likes of Paulo Filho, Yushin Okami, Nate Marquardt, Michael Bisping, Brian Stann and Maurico "Shogun" Rua. But his claim to fame will always be at UFC 117 when he decimated Anderson Silva for 4.5 rounds before being submitted, a feat that seemed impossible at the time. Sonnen has done well for himself and a win is a win. But unfortunately, they will all have asterisks next to them.
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.
Nate put himself in title contention when he rattled off victories Takanori Gomi and Donald Cerrone. The Cerrone win was particularly impressive because Diaz beat him at his own game and out boxed him for 3 rounds, and flipped him a few birds in the process. He then blitzed Jim Miller in a #1 contender's bout, winning via submission. Unfortunately the kryptonite for the Diaz brothers has always been wrestlers (don't believe me? Just ask them). This was demonstrated again as Benson Henderson soundly defeated Diaz in their title match at UFC on Fox.
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.
Koscheck's most impressive run came between 2008 and 2010 when he went on what appeared to be a demolition spree. He knocked Yoshiyuki Yoshida out cold, sent Frank Trigg into "la la land," and somehow managed to submit Anthony Johnson (sidenote, how Johnson ever managed to fight at Welterweight is beyond me). He also soundly beat Paul Daley in Montreal at UFC 113. After the fight, Daley infamously sucker punched Koscheck.
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.
Maynard has had a fantastic career and has beaten the who's who of the Lightweight division. Unfortunately for him, he's on the "back 9" of his career and another title shot seems improbable.
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.
Like Okami, Fitch has been relieved of his duties as the UFC cut him after his loss to Demian Maia at UFC 156. It seems ridiculous to cut a fighter that had a 14-3 record, but the issue was Fitch's high salary (in comparison to other fighters), and despite his winning ways, people were simply not interested in seeing him fight. Those 2 factors forced him out, along with Jake Shields.
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.
Nogueira had enjoyed immense success, but he unfortunately came over to the UFC when he was passed his prime. He's also had a huge issue with staying healthy.
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.
He's put the old Stockton beat down on Gleison Tibau, Josh Neer, Scott Smith, K.J Noons, Paul Daley, Frank Shamrock and BJ Penn. Can he add Anderson Silva to his resume come January 31st?
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.
Rizzo's ferocious leg kicks were a huge trademark of his. Randy Couture claims his leg is still indented from a kick he receive from Rizzo. His biggest wins came against Vernon White, Mark Coleman, Dan Severn, Josh Barnett, Andrei Arlovski and Ricco Rodriguez. Rizzo's biggest flaw was bad timing. Despite defeating so many former champions, he could never secure a belt for himself.
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.
Faber constantly beats the top contenders, time after time. No one can deny that he deserved his title shots as he always soundly defeats the #2 or #3 ranked fighters. The problem is that he always lost the title fight. Despite his tremendous record against top notch competition, UFC gold still eludes him. If you go all the way back to his WEC days, he's 0-6 in his last 6 title fights.
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).
If Florian wasn't hammering you with elbows, he'd surely take your back and submit you. He was not one who liked to take it to the judges scorecards as he boasts an 86% finishing rate in his fights.
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?
He also joined the UFC fray after his prime and delivered a few lackluster performances. But to "Cro Cop's" defense, whenever a former UFC champ would crossover to PRIDE, Mirko would blast them. Name's that come to mind are Josh Barnett, Mark Coleman and of course, Kevin Randleman. Had he been in the UFC during his prime, it's a safe bet he would have worn gold.
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.
Henderson was the UFC 17 Middleweight tournament winner (many moon's ago), PRIDE Middleweight Champion, the 2005 Pride Grand Prix Champion as a Welterweight. Last, and certainly least, he was the last ever Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion (I know, I had to throw it in there though).
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.