The UFC is undoubtedly the world’s largest MMA promotion. So, it stands to purpose that discovering success there isn’t at all times that straightforward for even one of the best fighters.
Over time we’ve seen quite a few wonderful fighters who did not make it to the highest of the UFC, however had been capable of grow to be legends in rival promotions as an alternative.
A few of these fighters made a return to the octagon, and whereas others might do the identical sooner or later, whether or not they’ll discover success on the large stage a second time round is at all times up for debate.
Listed here are 5 fighters who didn’t win gold within the octagon however turned legends elsewhere.
#5. Ryan Bader – former UFC gentle heavyweight contender, double champion in Bellator MMA
When he received the sunshine heavyweight bracket on the eighth season of The Final Fighter, it seemed like Ryan Bader was completely destined for stardom within the promotion. A standout collegiate wrestler who additionally possessed explosive knockout energy, ‘Darth’ appeared to have all of the instruments to get to the highest of the promotion.
Nevertheless, whereas he did decide up some big wins throughout his eight-year stint within the octagon, Bader may by no means fairly recover from the hump to grow to be a real contender for the sunshine heavyweight title. ‘Darth’ misplaced a complete of 5 fights with the promotion, however solely his 2011 defeat by the hands of the ageing Tito Ortiz might be thought-about disappointing.
Exterior of that, he suffered setbacks towards Jon Jones, Lyoto Machida, Glover Teixeira, and Anthony Johnson. Apparently, three of these 4 fighters fought for the sunshine heavyweight title of their subsequent bout, displaying how shut Bader was to the highest.
In 2016, although, ‘Darth’ determined to make a career-altering determination. After choosing up two last wins within the octagon, he determined to go away for pastures new, on this case, Bellator MMA.
The outcomes had been fast, as Bader received the Bellator gentle heavyweight title from Phil Davis in his promotional debut. He then went onto seize their heavyweight title, too, knocking out the legendary Fedor Emelianenko for the vacant title in early 2019.
Since then, whereas Bader has misplaced the sunshine heavyweight title, he stays Bellator’s heavyweight kingpin and remains to be the one fighter in Bellator historical past to carry two titles concurrently. Primarily, whereas he’s a footnote in UFC historical past, he’s grow to be a legend of their rival promotion.
#4. Mike Brown – former UFC light-weight contender, featherweight champion in WEC
When highly effective featherweight Mike Brown signed with the WEC, the sister promotion of the UFC, in mid-2008, few followers, even hardcore ones, remembered his profession as a light-weight within the octagon.
That was hardly stunning. Brown had solely fought on the large stage as soon as, albeit beneath the big highlight of UFC 47, one of many promotion’s largest pre-TUF pay-per-views. Nevertheless, the truth that he was submitted by Genki Sudo within the first spherical of that combat, and didn’t return to the promotion, meant that he was instantly forgotten.
Following the loss to Sudo, Brown put collectively a powerful run of 9-2, defeating former octagon star Yves Edwards alongside the best way. That was sufficient to earn him a shot within the WEC, the place he beat former featherweight title challenger Jeff Curran in his debut.
No one foresaw what would occur subsequent, although. Promoted as a ‘challenger of the month’ sort towards longtime WEC featherweight champion and poster-boy Urijah Faber, Brown shocked everybody by knocking out ‘The California Child’ within the first spherical, cementing himself because the world’s finest 145lber.
Brown went onto defend his title towards Leonard Garcia and towards Faber in a rematch, earlier than shedding it to Jose Aldo in late 2009. By that time, his legacy as one of many Zuffa-era WEC’s legends was already full.
2011 noticed Brown transfer again to MMA’s premier promotion, together with the remainder of the WEC roster. Nevertheless, he was much less profitable there, placing collectively a file of 2-3 earlier than hanging up his gloves in 2013. He now acts as one in every of American High Workforce’s fundamental coaches, however remains to be fondly remembered for his run within the WEC.
#3. Wanderlei Silva – former UFC gentle heavyweight contender, middleweight champion in PRIDE
Japan’s PRIDE promotion produced quite a few legends, nevertheless it’s debatable that none had been greater than Wanderlei Silva, who ran roughshod over their middleweight (205 kilos) division from 2001 by means of to 2007.
‘The Axe Assassin’ made his debut there in 1999, defeating pro-wrestler Carl Malenko. However it was his victories over PRIDE’s largest star, Kazushi Sakuraba, that turned him into essentially the most feared fighter in Japan. From there, Silva victimized everybody he fought, from Yuki Kondo to Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, often knocking them out along with his trademark stomps or soccer kicks.
Nevertheless, longtime UFC followers tended to argue that the fighters competing in that promotion’s gentle heavyweight division had been nonetheless superior to the Brazilian, regardless of his fearsome nature. The reason was a easy one, Silva had did not make an affect within the MMA chief previous to his transfer to PRIDE.
He’d debuted within the octagon with a well-known 44-second loss to Vitor Belfort. Whereas he did rebound with a knockout of the unheralded Tony Petarra, he was then totally overwhelmed by Tito Ortiz in a bout for the vacant UFC gentle heavyweight title.
On condition that Ortiz, after which Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell, held that title concurrently ‘The Axe Assassin’ was on his nice run in Japan, the derisive perspective of UFC followers in direction of him did make sense.
Finally, Silva did return to the UFC, however to be truthful, by that stage he was previous his prime. He did placed on a couple of epic bouts, most notably with Liddell, Keith Jardine and Brian Stann, however by no means got here near recapturing his PRIDE kind.
Nevertheless, it’s secure to say that regardless of his failure within the octagon, he stays a legend of MMA on account of his success in Japan, and remains to be famend in the present day.
#2. Jorge Santiago – former UFC middleweight contender, middleweight champion in Sengoku
When the UFC out of the blue exploded in recognition in the course of the preliminary TUF growth of 2005 and 2006, the promotion rapidly wanted to signal a variety of fighters to bulk their roster out for the additional occasions they discovered themselves placing on. One such fighter was Brazil’s Jorge Santiago.
A longtime veteran of smaller promotions like King of the Cage, Santiago held a powerful file of 11-5 when he was inked by MMA’s premier promotion in 2006. When he knocked out Justin Levens in vicious trend in his octagon debut, it seemed like he had the potential to make some actual noise.
Nevertheless, Santiago’s fragile chin rapidly betrayed him. A pair of knockout losses to Chris Leben and Alan Belcher despatched him tumbling out of the promotion as 2007 started.
Quite than cease combating, although, the Brazilian regrouped in outstanding trend. First, he received a much-hyped 4 man, one-night event in Strikeforce, after which moved to Japan with the up-and-coming Sengoku promotion.
Out of the blue, it appeared like Santiago merely couldn’t cease successful. He reeled off 5 wins in a row in Sengoku, all through finishes, ending in a win over PRIDE veteran Kazuo Misaki to assert the Sengoku middleweight championship.
A loss to Mamed Khalidov adopted, however Santiago rapidly avenged the defeat to reclaim his title. He made yet another protection in a rematch with Misaki earlier than the promotion largely crashed.
It was no shock when the UFC then introduced him again. Whereas he had no extra success there than in his earlier run, dropping two fights in a row, his run in Japan had made him a a lot greater deal than he’d ever been earlier than, making him a primary instance of a fighter who thrived outdoors the UFC.
#1. Nick Diaz – UFC welterweight contender, welterweight champion in Strikeforce
Nick Diaz is undoubtedly one of many largest stars that the UFC has seen, nevertheless it’s most likely truthful to say that his run contained in the octagon hasn’t fairly been as profitable as his drawing energy may recommend. The truth is, the Stockton-based fighter really holds a shedding file of 7-8 within the promotion.
So how precisely did Diaz grow to be one in every of MMA’s largest stars with out producing large success within the UFC? It’s secure to say that his drawing energy was largely developed throughout his run in Strikeforce from 2009 to 2011.
Diaz’s preliminary run within the UFC wasn’t dangerous by any means, nevertheless it wasn’t sufficient to show him into a real star. His clashes with Diego Sanchez, Karo Parisyan and Joe Riggs, in addition to his uncommon charisma, made him a cult favorite of types, however he by no means actually got here near title rivalry.
When he left the promotion in 2006, although, that every one modified. Diaz’s first post-UFC bout noticed him shock the world by submitting PRIDE poster-boy Takanori Gomi, nevertheless it was his transfer to Strikeforce in 2009 that actually cemented him as a star.
The promotion, the second-biggest on the planet behind the UFC on the time, instantly pushed him as an enormous deal. When he defeated Frank Shamrock, he rapidly positioned himself because the organisation’s poster-boy.
When he went onto defeat the likes of Scott Smith, Marius Zaromskis and Paul Daley in thrillers, it was onerous to not be impressed. Out of the blue, he was seen as one of the best 170lber not within the UFC and the most important risk on the planet to the dominance of UFC welterweight king Georges St-Pierre.
Unsurprisingly, then, when Strikeforce’s roster was slowly absorbed into the UFC following the promotion’s buyout in 2011, it was Diaz who the entire followers wished to see again within the octagon. That hasn’t actually modified within the decade that has adopted.
Would Diaz have achieved the identical success had he stayed within the octagon from the beginning? It’s truthfully uncertain, and it reveals that in some situations, leaving the world’s largest promotion is usually a good factor.