Mixed Martial Arts has gone through many phases of evolution since the world was first shocked by the spectacle surrounding UFC 1. The sport has come a long way from the days of freakshow fights and unlimited weight classes to its current structure, which includes several promotions, multiple weight divisions, and women having become the biggest names in the sport. Nobody could have predicted that what was once seen as a “human cockfighting” would grow into a multi-billion dollar industry.
To be fair to John McCain, MMA is virtually unidentifiable when compared to the first event. Some fighters stepped into the ring with minimal combat training and the lack of weight classes led to some truly comical size differences between combatants. That is because the sport takes seemingly constant leaps forward in technical evolution and training regimens. Royce Gracie taught the world a lesson about Brazilian jiu-jitsu. But within two years, the sport found him out. Fans have seen that happen to Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell, Anderson Silva, Ronda Rousey, and now Conor McGregor.
However, this list is not dedicated to the legends of the sport. In fact, it is meant for the opposite. For every great fighter in the sport’s history, there is a laundry list of the defeated left in their wake. Among the defeated are the oil cans with soft midsections and street fighters with no ground game. This list is for the fighters that show up to fights severely out of shape and gas before their opponent can finish them. These are the fighters who had the courage to step into the cage and put it all on the line for a paycheck. They may not have been the best, but they did get paid.
25 Dhafir “Dada 5000” Harris
For multiple reasons, Bellator 149 was a night of embarrassment for the promotion. In Dada 5000’s debut for the promotion, the Miami street fighting legend faced Kimbo Slice and it was not a night either will soon forget. It had been five years since Dhafir Harris’ last professional fight and the years had not been kind. Dada and Kimbo slugged it out for the first round, but both appeared to have nothing left in the tank for the second. When the fight stretched into the third, both fighters were completely gassed, but Kimbo was able to finish the fight with repeated punches. Dada ended up much worse for the wear and suffered a cardiac arrest, which required a lengthy hospital stay. Thankfully he is expected to recover, but hopefully he won’t step into the cage again.
24 Emmanuel Yarborough
Emmanuel “Tiny” Yarborough was once considered the largest living athlete when Guinness measured him at 6’8’’, 882lbs. He represented the sport of sumo at UFC 3, coming into the tournament as the 1994 Amateur Sumo Wrestling second place finisher. Billed as the immovable object, Yarborough faced Keith Hackney, who represented kempo. Hackney dropped Yarborough with a huge overhand right and the two scrambled on the ground until the sumo wrestler pushed the much smaller fighter out of the cage. Unfortunately, the fight finished with Yarborough eating 35 consecutive strikes before tapping out. He would fight two fights in Japan four years later, but never showed a real aptitude for the sport.
23 Gabe Ruediger
Gabe Ruediger’s record may not indicate that he’s among the worst. It was his antics on The Ultimate Fighter that sealed his fate with the promotion. After being selected to fight Corey Hill, Ruediger was shown eating ice cream cake before weigh-ins knowing he was going to struggle to make weight. After repeated trips to and from the sauna with teammates dragging him along, he eventually had to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance when he displayed signs of exhaustion. He was dismissed from the show by Dana White, but would have a shot at redemption three years later. However, he lost his first two fights leading to his release.
22 Bob Sapp
For a certain period of time, the stars aligned to give the world Pride. It was an incredible spectacle featuring reverent crowds, several freakshow fights, and a rule set that incentivized action. At the center of this spectacle was Bob Sapp, standing 6’5’’ 350 lbs with a six pack of abs that probably took a team of scientists to create. Sapp had a brief period of success in the sport, starting 2-0 before suffering defeat against Minotauro Noguiera. He eventually would win the K-1 Grand Prix in 2005, but sadly has adopted an approach of promoting fights like a professional wrestler, before quickly capitulating to his opponents. He has lost his last 12 consecutive MMA fights, but did manage a shoot boxing victory over Akebono last year.
21 Sean Salmon
After compiling a 9-1 record fighting with various promotions, Sean Salmon was given an opportunity with the UFC in 2007 against Rashad Evans. Evans knocked out Salmon with a vicious, highlight-reel head kick in the second round. Salmon’s next fight against Alan Belcher didn’t even last a full minute before he was finished with a rear-naked choke. After being dismissed from the UFC, he fought with many short-lived promotions before he retired after suffering 12 consecutive losses.
20 Ross Clifton
Ross Clifton was not a particularly well known fighter, but he was immediately recognizable because he was the only white, bearded, 350lb, fighter with cornrows. Best known for his loss to Ken Shamrock, Clifton fought most of his fights in the Super-Heavyweight division for various promotions and finished his career with a poor record of 6-10. He ran an MMA school called the “Grizzly’s Den” in Cameron Park, California. Clifton was less than two months removed from his last fight when he suffered a heart attack and died at only 32-years-old. His death led several media outlets to question the existence of Super-Heavyweight divisions.
19 Rocky Batastini
Heavyweight fights are usually a good draw for smaller promotions, which means that the services of journeymen Heavyweight fighters are constantly in demand. Rocky Batastini has taken advantage of that fact and stretched it into a decade long MMA career, before retiring with an 8-22 record. Rocky suffered notable losses to Heath Herring, Seth Petruzelli, and a pair of them to Bo Cantrell. Batastini lost 16 of his last 17 fights before retiring in 2009. Thirteen of those losses came in the 1st round.
18 Mariusz Pudzianowski
Most are probably familiar with Mariusz Pudzianowski from his time as the World’s Strongest Man, a title he earned five times. After conquering the world of strongman competitions, he decided to set his sights on MMA, signing a four-fight deal with Polish promotion KSW. Despite boasting a decent record in the promotion, Pudzianowski has shown significant cardiac problems during his time in the cage. His record currently stands at 9-4-1, but the legitimacy of KSW remains in question.
17 Shannon Ritch
Although he claims his career began in unsanctioned fights in 1991, Shannon Ritch’s first professional MMA fight took place in 1998 against Ramonne Monserrate where he earned a win. This would be increasingly rare as his career would continue. Ritch’s record now stands at an incredible 53-79-4. He fought 16 times for the promotion King of the Cage, but only managed two wins during those bouts. Many have questioned why Ritch continues to take fights, but his spirit is undeniable.
16 Art Jimmerson
Most MMA fans know Art Jimmerson as the guy from UFC 1 who decided it was a good idea to enter the Octagon wearing a single boxing glove. Jimmerson had actually won fifteen consecutive fights as a boxer and was considered among the favorites to win UFC 1 when he stepped into the Octagon against Royce Gracie. He planned on boxing Gracie, but the Brazilian shot a clean double leg takedown and proceeded to dominate in the mount. The helpless Jimmerson submitted and quickly took his talents back to boxing.
15 Joe Son
Joe Son is an infamous figure in MMA circles and not for his habit of wearing leopard print thongs in fight promos. Joe Son fought at UFC 4, where he lost to Keith Hackney by submission in the first round. After landing a role as a parody of the Bond villain Oddjob in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, he returned to the sport in 2002 fighting for Pride. He would put together an 0-4 record before he was arrested for vandalism. As part of his probation, he submitted a DNA sample which linked his participation to a 1990 gang sexual assault. After being found guilty on one felony count of torture and sentenced to life in prison, Joe Son killed his cellmate, a convicted sex offender. He remains one of the darkest figures to ever participate in the sport, while also being one of the worst.
14 Sherman Pendergarst
Sherman “The Tank” Pendergarst boasted one of the best nicknames in the sport, but unfortunately didn’t have the firepower to live up to it. He had an 8-3 record when he stepped into the Octagon for his first and only time against Antoni Hardonk at UFC 65. To date, he remains the only fighter to suffer a knockout by leg kick. After the UFC, Pendergarst would fight at various promotions, but only win three of his remaining fights. His last fight occurred in 2012 after he had learned of his colon cancer diagnosis, which he sadly succumbed to later that year.
13 Ross Pointon
Ross Pointon is best known to MMA fans for his appearance on season 3 of The Ultimate Fighter. He was defeated by Kendall Grove on episode three by rear-naked choke, but still managed to secure an invite to the The Ultimate Fighter 3 Finale, where he faced Rory Singer. Pointon lost that fight inside the first minute to a triangle choke. His final UFC fight ended with another loss, but Pointon continued fighting at various promotions until 2013, ending his career with a record of 6-17.
12 Kimbo Slice
Kimbo Slice deserves a great deal of credit for making a massive career transition in his 30s. Kimbo was able to parlay his status as an internet street-fighting sensation into multiple contracts from the biggest MMA promotions in the world. Despite his undeniable crowd appeal, Kimbo has never displayed a true interest in developing a ground game, something he has struggled with since his street fighting days. He lost his first fight on The Ultimate Fighter to Roy Nelson and had another loss to Matt Mitrione before bouncing to Bellator. His recent fight with Dada was a disgrace and Kimbo continues to be a “freakshow” style draw.
11 Giant Silva
Paulo Cesar da Silva, better known as his nickname, Giant Silva, was a consistent participant in Pride fight cards. Able to draw in Japanese crowds thanks to his enormous 7’2’’, 385 lb. frame, Giant Silva was another figure of the sideshow era of MMA. Famous for his participation in NJPW, his skill set never transitioned well to MMA. Giant Silva managed only a 2-6 MMA record over the course of his career before retiring back to the professional wrestling circuit.
10 Dan Lauzon
Despite holding the honor of being one of the youngest combatants to ever step foot in the Octagon, Dan Lauzon did not have the same aptitude as his brother, Joe. He joined the UFC after going 4-0 in his first four fights, but was quickly dispatched by Spencer Fisher in his debut. Three years later, he returned to the UFC at 8-1, but lost his next two fights to Cole Miller and Efrain Escudero. While billing himself as The Upgrade and throwing shade to his brother, Dan Lauzon has never fought up to his potential.
9 Seth Petruzelli
After making his debut in 2000, Seth Petruzelli fought for several promotions, earning wins over Keith Fielder, Rocky Batastini, and an old Dan Severn, he signed for the UFC. In his debut against Matt Hamill, he was soundly defeated by unanimous decision. It was still a good enough performance for Fight of the Night, but in his second UFC fight, he suffered the same fate against Wilson Gouveia. Petruzelli then signed for Elite XC, where he was expected to serve as an oil can for Kimbo Slice, but managed a shocking victory. Petruzelli would earn a third shot in the UFC, but would go on to lose both of those fights before taking his talents to Bellator and finally retirement.
8 Yoji Anjo
Yoji Anjo is another former Japanese professional wrestler that attempted to bridge the gap between the NJPW and MMA. He lost his MMA debut in a 35-minute marathon against Sean Alvarez, but impressed the UFC enough to earn a shot. He lost his UFC debut against Tank Abbott after taking the match the distance and followed that up with two more losses before leaving the promotion in 2000. He retired from the sport with a record of 0-5-1 and took his talents back to pro wrestling.
7 Jan Nortje
Jan “The Giant” Nortje is a South African boxer, kickboxer, and MMA fighter that has participated in fights against several of the sport’s legends. After making his debut against Gary Goodridge, he would go on to fight several “freakshow” style bouts against Bob Sapp and NJPW star Shinsuke Nakamura. Best known for his status as a frequent participant in K-1 events, he returned to focus on kickboxing after fighting his last MMA bout in 2009, suffering defeat to Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou.
6 Alexander Otsuka
Alexander Otsuka is one of several fighters to transition from Japanese professional wrestling to mixed martial arts. After making the switch in 1998, he earned his first win over Marco Ruas, but is best known for suffering losses to Renzo Gracie, Ken Shamrock, Anderson Silva, Rampage Jackson, and Wanderlei Silva. Otsuka would retire from the sport with a win in 2006 over Masada Masada, bringing his all-time record to 4-13. He could serve as a cautionary tale for other looking to make the switch, like CM Punk.
5 Scott Blevins
In MMA, a nickname is usually given to promote a fighter’s fearsome nature and abilities, but Scott “Lionheart” Blevins earned his out of sheer determination. Despite his continuous efforts, Scott Blevins was never able to earn his first victory in the sport. After 17 attempts, Blevins decided to hang up his gloves, but his commitment and effort were never in question. Along the road to 0-17, Blevins suffered losses by submission, knockout, and referee stoppage. All of these losses occurred in the 1st round, with the shortest lasting only 11 seconds.
4 Sean Gannon
Sean Gannon is most famous for being the Boston cop that defeated Kimbo Slice in the only loss of the Miami streetfighting legend’s internet career. Their bout was an ugly affair in which Gannon utilized a standing choke to great effect. It featured a lot of wildly thrown punches, leaning, and interference from the crowd. The UFC signed him based on his internet hype, but Gannon wasn’t able to live up to his billing in his only UFC bout against Branden Lee Hinkle. He finished his career at 1-2 and returned to the line of duty as a Boston police officer.
3 James Toney
As a boxer, James “Lights Out” Toney was a fearsome opponent, holding IBF belts at three different weight classes. In 2010, Toney decided to take a chance and attempt to make the change from boxing to MMA. At the age of 42, Toney was signed to a two-fight contract and his UFC debut was scheduled against the then 47-year-old UFC legend Randy Couture at UFC 108. Fifteen seconds into the fight, Couture took Toney to the floor and a couple minutes later, forced the boxer to submit by arm triangle.
During the glory days of Japanese promotions, almost every fight card had one “freakshow” fight and Chad Rowan, better known as Akebono, was a famous participant. He was the first non-Japanese sumo wrestler to ever earn the title of Yokozuna, but his skills in MMA were never up to par. His first bout in K-1 saw him easily dispatched by Royce Gracie and Akebono has managed to never win a single fight in his four attempts. His official MMA record stands at 0-4, but he now mostly competes under modified rules.
1 Kenneth Allen
Kenneth Allen is not a very well known 170 lb. fighter based out of Chicago, and it is unlikely that many out there are familiar with his body of work. That is because Kenneth Allen boasts an MMA record of 1-37. Allen frequently takes fights on short notice, filling in for promotions that need fighters that pull out due to injury or other unforeseen circumstance. Despite being mocked on internet message boards, Allen continues to answer calls and take fights for paychecks. His sole MMA victory came against Cory Simpson in 2006.