Combat Sports Are Notoriously Unforgiving… You Can be on Top of the World One Day And in a Downward Spiral the Next…
Many UFC champions will tell you that it is much harder to maintain your status as a champion than it is to actually win the belt in the first place. Becoming a champion puts a mark on your back that makes everybody want to beat you. Sometimes the pressure is just too much and it’s impossible to ever get back to where you were before.
Many fighters go into downward spirals after losing their titles. That can cause them to lose multiple fights or go crazy in their public lives. It’s truly incredible how difficult the transition from hero to zero can be.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at ten of the biggest falls from grace the sport of MMA has ever seen. Who are we missing?
10. Eddie Alvarez
It might seem harsh to put ‘The Underground King’ on this list, but his loss to Russia’s Timothy Nastyushkin has earned him a spot. Alvarez lost his UFC lightweight title to Conor McGregor after getting dissected in 2016. The 35-year-old has only won one of his last five. His signing by ONE was regarded as a massive coup, but after getting knocked out on the debut, he’s already being regarded as an expensive flop.
9. Conor McGregor
‘The Notorious’ has infamously never defended any of the belts he’s won in the UFC or his former promotion, Cage Warriors. For many fans, this puts an asterisk beside his achievement of becoming the first fighter to hold two titles at the same time in the UFC.
Unlike other’s on this list, McGregor’s problem is that he was so successful so quickly. All that money went to his head and he’s been arrested twice in the last three years, with multiple lawsuits. Now, with allegations of sexual assault hanging over him, a bizarre retirement, and the UFC’s ESPN deal reducing his value, the only way is down for the Irishman.
8. Chuck Liddell
Who doesn’t love ‘The Iceman?’ A true icon of the sport and one of the major reasons why it entered the mainstream, Liddell’s all-action ferocity made him one of the most feared fighters in the world on his day. However, his age and chin would catch up with him.
He would lose five of his last six UFC fights between 2007 and 2010. Then, in 2018, he made the ill-advised decision to return against Tito Ortiz at the age of 48 and would get knocked out in the first round, while Oscar De La Hoya filled his pockets with dollars. It was a sad night for all diehard MMA fans.
7. Quinton Jackson
The former UFC light-heavyweight champion looked to have the world at his feet at one stage. But if you’re going to plummet from those lofty heights, you might as well slap your face on the side of a lifted truck and go on a hit-and-run, and then tell the judge that God was talking to you.
Sure, “Rampage” would end up with a second title shot, and forge a solid career across two spells in the UFC and Bellator, where he remains today, but he could have been a superstar. There’s a reason he was in The A-Team movie. The potential bubble truly burst.
6. Mirko Cro-Cop
His name was made by his reputation for PRIDE and K-1, but it’s fair to say Mirko Filipovic never hit those lofty heights in the UFC. A heavyweight grand prix open championship winner in three major combat sports organizations, his left leg is infamous for its ferocious power.
While he would end his career on a 9-fight win streak, it was still in relative obscurity. 3 wins in 7 in the UFC says a lot about his inability to adapt to the world’s biggest stage. While his final fight was a victory for Bellator, he was forced to retire after suffering a stroke.
5. Anderson Silva
The Brazilian should realistically be on the shortlist for the greatest ever fighter in the history of the UFC, but multiple positive drug tests combined with 1 win in his last seven fights have ended that discussion. Silva was a revelation in his prime. That slick movement and unbelievable striking was absolutely box office viewing.
It’s too bad that he’s tarnished his own legacy, even if he did win back some goodwill in his most recent appearance against Israel Adesanya.
4. Cody Garbrandt
Cody Garbrandt was meant to be the UFC’s next big thing and for a while he really was. Young, good-looking, charismatic, and with a devastatingly violent fight style, he looked like he had everything. When he took apart Dominick Cruz to win the bantamweight title, it looked like he was going to be there to stay.
Unfortunately whatever is going on at Team Alpha Male looks to have damaged the emotional ‘No-Love’ who clearly needs smarter coaching if he’s ever going to get back to those lofty heights. Three losses in a row have badly tarnished his status. He has time to turn it around, but he’s still fallen a long way.
3. BJ Penn
While it might seem harsh to put Penn on this risk, the problem is that he keeps fighting and losing, and so keeps tarnishing his legacy. Sometimes, like Georges St. Pierre for example, you have to know when to walk away and the Hawaiian just doesn’t.
The second man to win two belts in two different weight classes, he’s only won one of his last ten, stretching back as far as 2010. Since his return in 2017, he’s lost three in a row. It’s a massive fall for the former lightweight and welterweight champion, with many younger fans bemused by why he’s still on the roster.
2. Johny Hendricks
Imagine how different things could be if ‘Bigg Rigg’ had been given that decision over Georges St. Pierre back in 2013. While he would win the vacant title a fight later against Robbie Lawlor, he would lose it in a rematch and from then on went on one of the biggest downward spirals the UFC and MMA have ever seen. He would lose 6 of his next 8 fights, missing weight 3 times. Then after signing for Bare Knuckle FC, he was knocked out on his debut.
1. Ronda Rousey
For a while, she seemed absolutely invincible, and no wonder. The queen of MMA is an icon of the sport, but her ending leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of many fans. Her trademark armbar helped her a 12 fight win streak. Dana White practically created a women’s division just to sign her.
After that shocking night in Australia where she was taken apart by Holly Holm, she’d return to get smashed asunder by Amanda Nunes. Fame and riches turned her head, alongside notoriously bad coaching under Edmond Taverdyan. Now she’s got a new lease of life with the WWE, but she’s fallen down the MMA ladder.