Most sports fans, athletes, former athletes, and anyone who has ever been around sports are familiar with plenty of motivation slogans. Among the most overused is "it doesn't matter how many times you fall, it matters how many times you get up." It is a poetic roundabout way of saying not to be afraid of failure, but instead making it a goal to learn and come back from failure. No matter what sport you're in, dealing with defeat and failure is an essential part of competing, regardless of what level you're at.
Some athletes deal with it better than others. Some let it be known that they plan on working on the weak points in their game, and coming back stronger. Others blame everyone but themselves, calling out the officials, claiming their opponent cheated or used underhanded means to win, or even blaming coaches or someone else. The former are professionals, but those who throw around blame are far more entertaining.
But back to the original point, everyone deals with losses and if you want to advance in your game, learning and being diligent about not making the same mistakes is key. In combat sports, a loss may involve a great deal of pain, and the infrequency of fights often makes a loss much harder to take. Many of the fighters who have made names for themselves in the UFC have only lost to big name fighters. Georges St-Pierre is a prime example. His only two losses are to Matt Serra and Matt Hughes, two well-known and iconic fighters.
Other UFC legends have lost to lesser known fighters. It is usually early in their career and the vast majority of these fights are matchup nightmares for both fighters, and could go either way on any given night. Most of these UFC stars have probably forgotten about their early losses and we the fans have forgotten about the people who beat them. Here are fifteen "where are they now stories" about no-name or lesser known fighters who beat martial artists who would go on to be UFC icons.
15 Rocky Johnson - Beat Benson Henderson in 2007
Back in 2007, Rocky Johnson took on a 23 year old Benson Henderson at Battlequest 5: Avalanche in Colorado, and beat him in 46 seconds via anaconda choke. Henderson, of course, held the UFC Lightweight belt for a total of three title defenses in 2012 and 2013, defeating Frankie Edgar to get the belt, then Edgar again followed by Nate Diaz and Gilbert Melendez, before being defeated by Anthony Pettis. He wound up fighting in Bellator as of 2016, and has lost two bouts for the Lightweight belt in that promotion.
Johnson continued to fight in small promotions, and currently has a record of 21 and 17. He has yet to fight in 2017, but has run his own business, Ugly Ear Gear, which specializes in wrestling and MMA equipment.
14 Kaitlin Young - Beat Miesha Tate in 2007
Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey's feud could be considered the first of it's kind in women's mixed martial arts. While Rousey was able to win both of their meetings, Miesha ended up with the UFC Women's Bantamweight belt around her after choking out Holly Holm, who as we all remember, knocked out Rousey in November 2015. Miesha is now retired and working for Fox as an analyst.
Her first professional loss came at the hands of a relative unknown. If you follow Invicta FC, you will likely recognize this name, but if you're mainly a UFC/Bellator/One FC type of fan, she's not a familiar name. A Taekwondo and Muay Thai specialist, Kaitlin Young met with a twenty year old Miesha Tate back in 2007 at BodogFIGHT's HOOKnSHOOT tournament. The fight took just thirty seconds and Miesha ate several kicks to the head before being knocked out. Kaitlin Young went on to keep fighting until 2014, but after a series of five winless fights with Invicta (one draw and four losses) she hung up the gloves. Since April 2016, she has been working for that promotion as a matchmaker.
13 Jeremy Jackson - Beat Nick Diaz in 2002
Depending on your memory, you may recognize this name for having been one of the only contestants to have ever been kicked off The Ultimate Fighter. He was kicked off the show for having left the house to meet up with a woman. Back in 2002 and 2003, Jackson was involved in three fights with a much younger Nick Diaz, prior to Diaz' time as the WEC and then Strikeforce Welterweight champ.
Jackson won the first of these by TKO in under a minute. Diaz took the next two, including his UFC debut in September, 2003. Jackson was charged with sexual assault in 2008, and pleaded guilty in 2011, receiving a sentence of 25 to life, but some, including at least one juror and his lawyers, think that his choice to do so was done more to end the trial by any means necessary, as opposed to actually admitting guilt.
12 Artur Mariano - Beat Wanderlei Silva in 1997
One of the legends of PRIDE, Wanderlei Silva enjoyed less success in UFC competition but remains one of the icons of the sport and the promotion. He holds notable wins over Quinton Jackson, Michael Bisping, and Kazushi "The Gracie Killer" Sakuraba.
The Axe Murderer's first professional loss came to one of Brazil's Muay Thai legends, but a man who isn't well known to most MMA fans, Artur Mariano. During their fight, Mariano opened a large cut above Silva's left eye and the fight was stopped by the doctor. Mariano continued to compete in MMA until 1999, but stopped with a record of 5-2. He remains undefeated in official Muay Thai fights, and serves as the Vice President of the World Muay Thai Federation.
Aside from that he teaches boxing, BJJ and Muay Thai and has set up a foundation to help at-risk youth obtain access to education and sporting activities. Mariano is also one of the most renowned commentators for combat sports in Brazil.
11 Joaquim Ferreira - Beat Junior Dos Santos in 2007
Early on in his fighting career, Junior Dos Santos had much fuller head of hair and a by November, 2007 he was undefeated in the Brazilian promotions in which he was competing. In that month, he took on fellow Brazilian Joaquim Ferreira, who he had beaten in April of that year. Ferreira quickly took the fight to the ground and managed to secure an armbar to hand JDS his first defeat. Since his win over Dos Santos, he has continued to build his fighting career, and last competed in February of this year. The vast majority of his fights have taken place in Brazilian promotions but he has fought a couple of times in M-1. His record sits at 20-12.
10 Tom Erikson - Beat Kevin Randleman in 1997
Newer fans might not know either of these names, but Kevin Randleman was one of the early Gods of mixed martial arts, and won the UFC Heavyweight Championship in 1999, holding the belt for one successful defense. After his time with UFC he moved to PRIDE and kept fighting until 2011 when he hung up the gloves. Randleman died of a heart attack in early 2016.
He had absolute wars against some of the toughest in the business, but one lesser known name defeated him at Brazil Open - 97. Tom Erikson. A former NCAA wrestler Erikson knocked Randleman out, and would keep fighting in PRIDE for a few fights after their meeting, finishing his career with a record of 9-4-1. Since the 1990s when he wasn't fighting he was working as a wrestling coach for Purdue, and more recently took over as head coach for Lyon College in Arkansas.
9 Adriano Abu - Beat Rafael Dos Anjos in 2004
This may surprise some of you, given the career Rafael Dos Anjos is building in the UFC, but after his first four professional fights, he was 2-2. Adriano Abu was his first opponent in a professional MMA fight. This was the first fight for both of them and Abu won a split decision at Juiz De Fora - Fight 1 back in '04. Abu fought once more, and won that bout as well, in 2006 but then quit professional MMA and became a prison guard. He has said that his experience in MMA was a rewarding one, but that he has no regrets about leaving MMA for a more conventional job, claiming that his goal then was stability for his family. Abu has a reputation in his community for being the first man to beat UFC star RDA, and he says that reputation has helped him to maintain order in the prison in which he works.
8 Jutaro Nakao - Beat Pat Miletich in 1999
Jutaro Miletich was the first UFC Welterweight champ, winning that title in 1998 and defending four times, before losing to Carlos Newton. Miletich is also one of the most successful coaches in MMA, having founded Miletich Fighting Systems, which was for some time, one of the most reputable training centers, with names like Jens Pulver, Robbie Lawler and Matt Hughes as fighters who trained there.
It would be unfair to call Jutaro Nakao a "no-name" fighter, but if you remember his two-fight stint in the UFC back in 2001 and 2002, you have an impressive memory. This Japanese judoka, known as the King of the Triangle, for his use of that choke, was the second to beat Pat Miletich, doing so via triangle choke at Superbrawl 11 in Hawaii.
Nakao stuck around the world of MMA until 2014. He was 43 when he retired and fought primarily in Japan's Deep promotion. When he ended his career his record was 25-18-4.
7 Jorge Britto - Beat Rafael Dos Anjos in 2005
We aren't listing guys who beat RDA twice here because of any particular grudge we hold against the former Lightweight champ, but rather because two of his early losses came to guys who have had interesting stories since. Brazilian Jorge Britto is a third degree black belt, with a very impressive list of accomplishments, including numerous international torunament wins. He went 7-5-1 in mostly Brazilian promotions (one fight in Portugal), between 2004 and 2007. Between 2008 and 2012, he fought only in Canadian promotions, with a 4-4 record. Back in 2005, he won a split decision against Rafael Dos Anjos.
Since the end of his MMA career, he has been working as the head instructor at Toronto BJJ in Ontario, Canada.
6 Viacheslav Datsik - Beat Andrei Arlovski in 1999
Now 38, UFC Heavyweight Andrei Arlovski's career started way back in 1999, when he was just 20 years old. He held the UFC Heavyweight Championship back in 2005 but lost it to Tim Sylvia. Arlovski holds impressive wins over Fabricio Werdum, Ben Rothwell, Travis Browne, Bigfoot Silva, and Frank Mir. Each of The Pitbull's last five fights have been decisive losses so he may be on his way out.
Prior to all of this however, was his first ever MMA fight, and he took on Russian kickboxer Viacheslav Datsik, whose post MMA life has been interesting. He continued to fight until 2006, but after his retirement, he has been in and out of prison in Russia and Norway for robbery (among other things), and earned widespread press coverage for breaking out of prison. He's been involved with White Nationalist groups in Russia and has carried out some "raids" on brothels, claiming that they are places of sin (no kidding, right?). He has been arrested again in 2016 for attacking a woman he thought was a sex worker. While he was out of prison, his mother said in an interview that he wanted to get into law school and work to protect human rights, but that goal will likely be put on hold if he keeps up his current nonsense behavior.
5 Joao Paulo Rodrigues De Souza - Beat Renan Barao in 2005
The last four years have been tough for former UFC Bantamweight champ Renan Barao. He's gone two and four since May 2014 with two tough TKO's at the hands of T.J. Dillashaw, and two UD losses to Jeremy Stephens and just a few days ago, Aljamain Sterling. His two wins have been against Mitch Gagnon and Phillipe Nover.
Prior to that he racked up 32 straight wins (and a single no contest). His first fight however, resulted in a loss to fellow Brazilian Joao Paulo Rodrigues de Souza, in what was the first professional fight for both of them back in 2005. Since then, de Souza has been very active in Brazilian promotions, but little outside of his home country. He holds a record of 38-16-2, and holds a notable win over current UFC fighter and TEF: Brazil winner Rony "Jason" Bezerra.
4 Scott Ferrozzo - Beat Tank Abbott in 1996
While he did end his career with a 10-15 record that isn't particularly impressive, Tank Abbott was one of the early warriors of the UFC and remains one of the reasons for the success of the promotion in it's early days when it was a more raw, brutal affair. He wasn't the most technically sound fighter in the octagon, but he was vicious and always put on a good show.
Most of the people who beat him in his prime, throughout the 90's and early 2000's were big names, but among them stands Scott Ferrozzo. Ferrozzo, a massive Minnesotan, fought just six fights throughout his MMA career, between UFC 8 in 1996 and UFC 12 in 1997. He went 4-2, and lost to a young Vitor Belfort in the finals of UFC 12, retiring after the fight.
Since then he returned home to Minneapolis where he has sold cars for the last twenty years. It was what he did to make a living during his fighting days, and has continued to put food on his table since then.
3 Jorge Patino - Beat Jacare Souza in 2003
With numerous medals from both submission wrestling and the World Jiu Jitsu Championship, Ronaldo Souza is one of the most impressive submission artists in the sport of MMA right now. He held the Strikeforce Middleweight belt back in 2010 and has wins over Tim Kennedy, Robbie Lawler, Gegard Mousasi, and a post-TRT ban Vitor Belfort that we aren't sure is something to brag about (poor post-TRT Vitor). Four of his five professional losses came at the hands of well known, elite fighters, Luke Rockhold, Gegard Mousasi (in their first meeting), Yoel Romero, and most recently, Robert Whittaker.
Back when he was just transitioning from BJJ to MMA, Jacare lost his first professional fight to Jorge "Macaco" (monkey) Patino. Patino knocked him out in the first round of their bout at Jungle Fight 1 in Manaus, Brazil. Like a few others we have listed here, calling Patino a "no-name" fighter is somewhat inaccurate, and fans who witnessed the late 1990s UFC events may remember him unsuccessfully challenging Pat Miletich for the Welterweight belt. Other than that, Patino had a single match in Strikeforce, a few in Legacy FC, a brief stint in World Series of Fighting, and tons more in smaller Brazilian promotions. Now 44 years old, with over two decades fighting, he's still going strong and is currently riding a two fight win streak in promotions in Asia, with an overall record of 38 wins, 19 losses, a pair of draws and a two no-contests. He's also a fourth degree black belt in BJJ, with a black belt in Judo as well, and trains other fighters as well.
2 Artemij Sitenkov - Beat Conor McGregor in 2008
The Notorious' MMA career started professionally back in 2008, and between March and June of that year he fought three times. The third was against Lithuanian Artemij Sitenkov. According to his own recollection, Sitenkov says he was brought in by John Kavanaugh to be an easy win for Conor, as Sitenkov was small in frame and not much of a striker. Accordingly, he decided at the start of the fight to do everything he could to get McGregor on the canvas. Once there, he dealt with Conor's ground and pound and eventually got a hold of a knee, secured a kneebar, and won the fight.
While we all know what happened to Conor (and yeah, he still isn't much of a wrestler, ask Nate Diaz), Sitenkov has also stayed in the world of MMA. He's competed in many different European promotions and holds a record of 15-16 and all of his wins have come via submission. In his last ten fights however, he's 1-9, but having beaten McGregor may still have him as enough of a draw to keep booking him for fights.
1 Erica Paes - Beat Cris Cyborg in 2005
Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino, the current UFC Women's Featherweight champion after last weekend's beatdown of Tonya Evinger, is the most intimidating woman in the sport. She got caught a few years ago for having used an anabolic steroid (stanozolol), and ever since, fans and critics alike have speculated that musculature and aggression in the ring may be partially due to training with PED's. Regardless, until she gets caught (again), it's all just speculation. Her only professional loss came in her very first fight against Erica Paes.
In their fight, Paes did much of the same as Artemij Sitenkov did to Conor, and all a grappling specialist can do when they're up against a punishing striker. She took Cyborg down multiple times, and eventually managed to lock in a kneebar (both knees in this case), for the win. Since then, Paes has spent most of her time in the world of BJJ, training, competing and coaching. She has returned to MMA a few times, but left combat sports to build a career as a singer. She has also done some acting. Paes returned to MMA from 2013-2015, going 2-1 with two submission wins and a unanimous decision loss to Bethe Correia at Jungle Fight 54 in 2013.