There is still a stigma around mixed martial artists and their fans. Tell the average person that you are planning on watching a UFC event on Saturday night and you may be met with a confused, scared face and an anecdote about the one time that person watched eight seconds of an event and got scared. Even a former Navy boxer and prisoner of war, Senator John McCain, was one of the first to try to eliminate the sport during its infancy because back then it was pretty brutal.
Even with the unified rules that have made MMA a sport rather than a spectacle, there is still the stereotype that mixed martial artists and their fans are all psychopaths who enjoy watching people beat each other to bloody pulps. While there are those guys showing up to events and hoping to see as much brutality as possible, they are in the minority and most fans are there to enjoy the exciting competition, and/or practice martial arts.
Looking at the fighters, there is an interesting duality among cage fighters. While they do compete in one of the most violent sports out there, the vast majority are great people. Anyone who has taken more than five minutes of a class in any martial art has been instructed that the skills they learn exist to strengthen individuals, enable one to practice self defense, and contribute positively to their community. Walk into a martial art class and say you want to learn to fight and beat people up and someone far stronger than you will likely show you the door.
But then again, every once in a while a fighter decides to do something horrible and gives the anti-MMA community more reason to wail "these are violent, bad people!" Here are the mixed martial artists who have committed the worst crimes.
20 Ricco Rodriguez
New Jersey's Ricco Rodriguez retired just last year after an MMA career that lasted over fifteen years. He entered UFC competition in 2001, beating Andrei Arlovski. Three fights later (all won via vicious TKO's) he won the Heavyweight belt in September 2002; defeating legend Randy Couture. He then lost his championship belt to Tim Sylvia and dropped a decision to Pedro Rizzo before leaving the UFC for good. He fought in numerous smaller promotions until his aforementioned 2015 retirement.
Outside of the cage, Rodriguez is well known for his history of substance abuse. His crime was a DUI, and while this is a nasty offense and people should most definitely stop doing it, the circumstances of his are far more despicable than simply driving while intoxicated. While driving high with a suspended license, he got into a nasty wreck that involved a truck and a wall. His girlfriend was unconscious and he dragged her body to the front seat, trying to pin the accident on her. He thought she was dead, so you know, without trying to resuscitate her, he tossed her limp body into the driver's seat. She made it out alive and they have laughed about the incident.
19 Jon Jones
Jon Jones may be the greatest fighter of all time. Through 23 fights he has not been beaten. Yes, you read that right, he lost a fight, but that 2009 loss was his loss due to ignorance and not following a rule, not because Matt Hamill actually beat him. If you remember the pace of that fight, Jones was tearing him to shreds with or without those 12-6 elbows.
Bones had a DUI back in 2012, losing his license for six months after he smashed his Bentley into a street pole. Three years later however, he got into a car accident after a night of partying (he may still have been drunk from the night before) and fled the scene. He admitted to having been very tired, and possibly still intoxicated. This time, rather than a street pole, he hit a pregnant lady, who broke her arm in the accident.
Well, that's two nasty DUIs to start the list, one involving a lady carrying a kid. It is quickly going to get worse.
18 Viacheslav Datsik
Many will not know this name, but his story is entertaining with some very dark parts. Datsik is a Russian Heavyweight with an extensive background in kickboxing. Despite his professional record of 6-9, his claim to fame is knocking out former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski back in 1999. It may be unfair to say that after his professional fighting career ended, Datsik went "off the rails" because there is strong evidence that he was never on any "rails" in the first place.
He became involved with politics after his career, representing a Russian nationalist group (basically Russian neo-Nazis). He was arrested for his part in several violent armed robberies in 2007 and spent nine years in prison (later a mental institution). He was released earlier this year, but has run into legal trouble again after staging a violent raid on a brothel in which he was filmed beating up the ladies who worked there and making them walk naked through the streets.
17 Anthony Johnson
Anthony Johnson is one of the most exciting strikers in the business right now, and his five sub-minute finishes of most notably Glover Texiera and Antonio Rogerio (Little Nog) Nogueira stand as proof of his power. You never know when "Rumble" will throw a punch or launch a kick that will put his opponent's lights out. A couple of years ago it looks as though he was the only Light Heavyweight who stood a chance (slim as it may have been) of taking the belt from Jon Jones. Any such plans were taken from him after Jones' hit and run and Johnson loosing his title fight against Daniel Cormier.
Outside of the ring, he is no saint and has been accused of threatening and committing acts of violence against three women. The first incident was in 2009, the second in 2012 and the third was back in 2014 and got him a brief suspension from UFC competition.
16 Charles Bennett
Lightweight Floridian Charles Bennett has been competing in MMA since 1999, but has never fought in the UFC. He's best known for a few PRIDE appearances, working with EliteXC and a King of the Cage championship bout that was lost to a much younger Urijah Faber back in 2005. He's 30-30 as of now and despite taking 2012 and 2013 off from competition, has fought five times in 2016, most recently at Rizin World Grand Prix, in which he knocked out kickboxer Minoru Kimura in seven seconds.
He had a troubled youth and was arrested a few times in his late teens. Most of his charges have been for drug offenses, mostly cocaine and marijuana (who cares, right?), but his real terrible moves included a few aggravated battery charges against women; one of whom was pregnant.
15 Lee Murray
Were it not for some complications with the visa process for him to fight in the United States, Lee Murray may not be on this list. The English Middleweight was looking like he had the right skill set and put together a record of 7-1-1 (with a no contest) in smaller promotions. Among his wins were two first minute finishes. His only UFC fight took place in 2004 and he submitted Jorge Rivera in under two minutes at UFC 46. After that he fought just one more time, losing to Anderson Silva via split decision at Cage Rage 8.
Outside of the fighting business, Murray was (still is) a criminal. He started dealing drugs in his teenage years and was also involved in other gang activities. In 2006, two years after the de facto end of his MMA career, Murray was involved in a sophisticated bank robbery. He and his criminal associates kidnapped the manager of the Securitas Cash Management depot in Kent, England. They also took his wife and son, telling him that any false moves on his part could cause harm to come to his family.
When all was said and done, Murray and his gang had emptied the depot of over £50,000,000. He and some of his associates were found in Morocco a few months later, and after a quick trial, they were all sentenced to hefty prison sentences. Murray got 25 years.
14 Julian Wallace
Julian Wallace is the most recent jerk to join the ranks of martial artists who have abused women. He's a Bantamweight fighter who has only participated in Australian promotions XFC and Nitro MMA, and holds a record of 6-4. His girlfriend was Jessica Clark, also an Aussie Bantamweight fighter. As the story goes, she brought home the wrong noodles, and he lost it, attacking her with kicks, knees and finally getting her in a choke hold. She got out of the hold and managed to knock him out with a head kick, and then called the police.
In a Facebook post, "Jessy Jess" indicated that while this was the worst event in their relationship, he was a violent person and had mistreated her in the past.
Of course, there are two sides to every story and Wallace has argued in his own post that he and Clark had been in a violent relationship, in which she was the aggressor more often than not and that she is trying to trash his name.
13 Mike Whitehead
TUF Season 2 participant Mike Whitehead only had one UFC fight, and lost it to Keith Jardine back in 2006 at UFC 57. He had more success in smaller promotions and boasts a 27-8 record. After the UFC. he spent time in International Fight League, Affliction and Strikeforce.
In 2010. however, he was accused of sexually assaulting a woman and pleaded guilty. He started his prison sentence in 2012 and was released in 2015. He fought once last year, in December and lost. There is no telling whether Whitehead will be back in MMA anytime soon, as the time behind bars left him looking out of shape and likely unable to hold his own with a younger fighter.
12 Maiquel Falcao
We can file this under "stupid thing to do even if you're a Middleweight BJJ black belt." Maiquel Falcao started his career in small Brazilian promotions back in 2004 and by 2010 he had broken onto the North American scene. He won a unanimous decision over Gerald Harris at UFC 123, but did not fight in the promotion again. He was released after fans learned of his conviction for assaulting a woman outside a bar back in 2002. While this was a stupid idea, it is not the stupidest that he had.
He rubbed his groin on an underage girl at a gas station in Santa Catarina, Brazil. While this is sexual assault, the even stupider part was hitting her when she tried to get away from him and doing so while she had several relatives around. He and his friend were beaten severely in the ensuing brawl. Falcao's friend Kaue Mena actually took the worse beating during this altercation and is still feeling the effects to this day.
11 Brandon Saling
This Welterweight gent hasn't fought since 2012 and what can loosely be called his claim to fame was his final professional fight. It was at Strikeforce: Rousey VS Tate back in 2012. He faced Roger Bowling, who would go on to fight three times (unsuccessfully) in the UFC, at that event and lost via TKO in the second round. It was monumentally unspectacular on Saling's part.
The other reason he is famous is his "political beliefs" and his behavior. He is a neo-Nazi and sports an "88" tattoo. If he were a hockey fan, one might guess he was a fan of Eric Lindros, but that is not the case. The 88 refers to the eighth letter of the alphabet, "H/" In this case, "88" is "HH"; Heil Hitler. While his personal beliefs may be incredibly idiotic, they don't amount to a crime. His conviction for first degree sexual assault of a minor and his domestic violence conviction, however, were serious and the fact that he did not tell Strikeforce officials about said legal issues, got him barred from future MMA competition.
10 War Machine
This was one of the most publicized instances of a mixed martial artist doing something awful. Jon "War Machine" Koppenhaver looked like a solid contender after his time on TUF, which he capped off with a great knockout victory over Jared Rollins. His time in the UFC was cut short after he refused a fight and made unfortunate comments after the death of Evan Tanner.
He floated around some other promotions for a while, and fought three times in Bellator, going 2-1. One of his side projects was a brief adult film career. Through this endeavor, he met popular adult actress Christy Mack. They dated for a while but in August 2014 he beat her and her friend mercilessly, leading to a manhunt that ended with him being caught by federal agents in a motel in Simi Valley. He's being held in prison now, awaiting a trial that was originally supposed to start in July, but has been postponed to February 2017.
9 Patrick Smith
An early star of the UFC, Patrick Smith lost to Ken Shamrock back at UFC 1 and lost to Royce Gracie in the finals of UFC 2, two absolute legends of the industry. The rest of his career was basically an exercise in wailing on no-namers until his retirement in 2009, where he finished with a 20-15 record.
In 2008, he was arrested for eluding police and, while they were looking over his information, it was discovered that he had failed to register as a sex offender after being convicted of sexual assault on a minor in 1999. He was arrested in Texas for eluding police on his motorcycle, but that conviction was handed down in Colorado, after he forced himself on a 14-year old.
8 Harold Howard
A Canadian holding multiple black belts in different disciplines, Harold Howard fought just four times professionally. For those who don't remember, he was the mullet-wearing, goatee'd guy at UFC who got torn apart in the finals by Steve Jennum. His four fights lasted less than five minutes altogether and he went 1-3. Outside of MMA, he was actually one of Canada's most accomplished martial artists throughout the 1980s, representing the country in both karate and jujutsu.
After his brief pro career, he ran a self defense school in Niagara Falls, but in 2009, he ran into some serious legal trouble. He was arrested for attempted murder, assault with a weapon and a pile of other charges after a brutal attack on a couple of family members and trying to break into his ex's house. He went to prison for five years.
7 Hermes Franca
Former WEC Lightweight champion and UFC Lightweight contender Hermes Franca finished the likes of Caol Uno, Jamie Varner, and Nate Diaz in his prime (knockout and two submissions respectively). A gifted wrestler who could also throw a great punch, Franca was one of those guys who spent the best part of his career just outside of the elite in the UFC. After losing four straight in 2009 and 2010, Franca looked like he was down and out, but came back with three wins in 2011, but in that same year he was charged with a series of sexual violations. Rather than bothering with trial, he pleaded guilty to unlawful penetration (the charges were brought down from sexual battery) and was in prison for four years.
6 Jason Miller
Mayhem Miller recently made a return to MMA, after retiring back in 2012. He got submitted at Venator FC 3 in Italy back in May. His career was an entertaining one, and his notable victories include submitting Kazushi Sakuraba (although the Gracie Killer was in his forties by that time), along with Tim Kennedy and Robbie Lawler. During his retirement, he was up to no good more often than not.
Hilariously, he broke into a church back in 2012 and was found naked, sleeping on a couch. Hoever, his other run-ins with the law were not funny. He has had multiple instances of getting violent with police and has been less than kind to the women in his life. Along with a few nasty domestic disturbances, there were charges of corporal injury to a spouse after he kicked, choked and urinated on his girlfriend. He also had a lengthy stand-off with a SWAT team after he was accused of stalking a woman who wanted nothing to do with him.
5 Jeremy Jackson
The single highlight of Jeremy Jackson's mixed martial arts career was his TKO of Nick Diaz back in 2002. He was scheduled to compete in the fourth season of TUF but violated the rules of the show before even showing up and was sent home.He only fought twice in the UFC and lost twice via TKO and submission. He finished his entire MMA career with a record of 9-5.
In 2008, he was accused of breaking into his ex-girlfriend's home, threatening her with a firearm (it was a BB gun) and sexually assaulting her. Rather than even try to fight the charges, Jackson admitted that he had done the deed while in the process of robbing the poor girl. He is currently serving a 25 to life sentence for his crime.
4 Steve Skinner
Between 2006 and 2010, Canadian fighter Steven Skinner fought five times in small promotions in Eastern Canada. He went 3-2 with two of his wins coming by TKO and the third a rear naked choke submission. In 2009, Skinner and a friend allegedly tortured a man in his sixties with hot spoons and knives over an issue with the man's son. He fled the country before his trial could take place, but not before he committed another despicable act. He is accused of killing Stacey Adams, a young man from the province of Nova Scotia. He was found in Venezuela earlier this summer and brought to Canada to stand trial for both of these crimes. Adams was twenty years old, a few months away from becoming a father and was gunned down. Police have overwhelming evidence that Skinner was the shooter.
Note that while both of these still stand as accusations and not convictions, the same can be said of War Machine. In both cases, however, the evidence is substantial.
3 Amar Suloev
Russian Middleweight Amar Suloev fought just twice in the UFC, losing a unanimous decision to Chuck Liddell and getting TKO'd by Phil Baroni. He fought from 1999 to 2008 and finished his career with a record of 24-7, which is no small feat. In 2000 and 2001, he went on a twelve fight winning streak.
Soluev died back in June of this year, and while we will not slander the dead, he was accused of being involved with organized crime after his MMA career and there is significant evidence that he was a part of several killings during his years of involvement.
As the story goes, Suloev joined a security firm after he retired from fighting and met a gang who were active in the world of politics. The state argued, after his arrest, that Suloev and several accomplices were guilty of murdering several politicians in Krasnodarskiy Krai, a region in Russia. His health quickly deteriorated while his trial for these crimes was taking place and he was eventually allowed to see a doctor (it was far too late). He was diagnosed with stomach cancer but it was in a late stage and he died at age forty.
2 Jarrod Wyatt
Not a whole lot is known about Jarrod Wyatt other than the grisly details of the crime he committed. He didn't have much of a career (1-0 amateur, 1-0 professional, according to Sherdog) but both his fights have been forgotten because he couldn't handle his drugs. Wyatt and his training partner Taylor Powell did mushrooms together back in 2010 and they hit Wyatt like a freight train. He apparently thought that Powell was possessed by the devil and proceeded to attack him, and rip out his heart and tongue. According to the trial records, doctors have said that it is likely that these events happened while the victim was still alive.
Wyatt plead guilty and was sentenced to 50 to life. The moral of the story here, kids, is that hallucinogens are dangerous.
1 Joe Son
Remember this guy? Joe Son, the man whose groin was brutally pummeled by Keith "I'll do anything I have to, including render someone sterile, in order to win this fight" Hackney at UFC 4 in 1994? That was Joe Son. He went on to have a brief but entertaining film career, most notably playing Random Task, the Oddjob parody in the first Austin Powers movie. He was the stalky Asian fellow who threw his shoe (who throws a shoe, honestly?).
He was arrested for vandalism in 2008 and but a DNA sample actually linked him back to a vicious sexual assault that happened back in 1990. He and an accomplice were convicted of a series of sexual crimes and torture.
Son was sentenced to life in prison for those crimes. While in prison, Son's cellmate was found dead one day, killed by what doctors would determine were a series of brutal kicks and punches. His trial was expected to begin earlier this year, but may have been delayed, as no updates have been issued.