5 dirtiest fighters in UFC history
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a beautifully violent sport. From spinning elbows to flying knees, MMA has it all. Although MMA may be one of the most brutal sports in the world, it is still considered to be a form sporting competition and accorded as much respect as is given to any other sport.
However, from time to time, we get to witness the ugly side of our otherwise beautiful sport. Moments of disagreement, tweaking rules, sneaking in an eye poke, staying a bit longer on the stool, greasing up to avoid grappling, steroid usage, etc.
MMA has its fair share of dirty fighters that provide us with some not-so-sportsmanlike exhibitions. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) being the world’s biggest MMA promotion is no different. Here’s a brief look at some of the UFC’s dirtiest fighters.
#5 Josh Koscheck
Josh Koscheck is one of the best wrestlers to have competed in the UFC’s Welterweight (WW/170 pound) division. He has excellent grappling and also went on to develop a decent striking game in his time at the American Kickboxing Academy, under Crazy Bob Cook and Javier Mendez.
He is also a former UFC WW world title challenger. Although he boasts a great resume with wins over a few notable MMA veterans, his career has been overshadowed by his unsportsmanlike conduct towards his opponents.
On November 21st 2009, Koscheck scored a controversial submission win over fearsome striker Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson. In the first round of their fight, Koscheck appeared to have been struck by two knees while he was on the ground.
With him being a grounded opponent, Johnson was warned for the apparently illegal knees to Koscheck’s head. Now, although that seemed to be the case in real time, the TV replays clearly showed that the couple of knee strikes thrown by Johnson didn’t connect with Koscheck’s head.
In other words, Koscheck was faking an injury in order to catch a break in the middle of the 1st round. Prior to this incident, Johnson was getting the better of Koscheck in the striking exchanges and seemed to be on his way to finishing Koscheck with his powerful striking game.
However, Koscheck’s fake injury gave him time to recover from ‘Rumble’s’ striking onslaught. Furthermore, in the 2nd round Koscheck went on to poke Johnson in the eye, more than once. This prompted the referee to step in and give Johnson time to recover from the eye pokes.
However, the damage was already done. Johnson had issues with his vision and Koscheck capitalized on this. He went on to submit Johnson and secure the victory by way of rear-naked choke at the end of the second round.
On re-watching the fight, it was evident that Koscheck’s eye pokes were clearly intentional. Besides, when probed about the injury-feigning incident in the post-fight interviews, Koscheck claimed innocence and played the victim.
Yet another example of Koscheck’s terrible sportsmanship is his fight against British striking specialist, Paul ‘Semtex’ Daley. In his UFC 113 fight against Daley, Koscheck once again faked a knee impact just like he did in the fight against Johnson.
This served to enrage Daley who fought emotional and got taken down and out-wrestled throughout the duration of the fight. Koscheck outpointed Daley, however, Daley struck Koscheck after the fight was over and when Koscheck had his back turned on him.
This led to the release of Daley from the UFC and a PR statement from UFC President Dana White that Paul Daley will never fight in the UFC again. Koscheck’s cheap tricks destroyed Daley’s UFC career. As of today, Daley still dukes it out in smaller MMA promotions, but MMA fans would never know how far Daley could have gone in the UFC, thanks to Josh Koscheck.
In addition to the aforementioned in-cage antics, Koscheck is also no stranger to disrespectful behavior outside the Octagon. His disrespectful antics on UFC’s popular reality show The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), his constant mouthing of profanities toward Georges St. Pierre and his coaches, his extensive usage of eye pokes, and many other ‘charming’ habits; have landed Josh Koscheck at number 5 on our list.
#4 Nate Marquardt
Nate Marquardt is the poster boy of steroid usage in a sport that sees rampant steroid usage throughout its upper as well as lower echelons. Marquardt has done it all right from nandrolone to Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT).
He is a former Strikeforce Welterweight champion and has a martial arts base in American Kenpo (pronounced as ‘Kempo’). He started training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) and Karate at a young age. Although he boasts an impressive record and he is considered to be a wily MMA veteran, the insane number of times that he has been busted for Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED) usage is downright comical.
Marquardt was busted for Elevated Testosterone levels at UFC Fight Night 1 in 2005. It was later revealed that he had tested positive for the illegal PED nandrolone. Furthermore, in the year 2010, Marquardt began the highly controversial TRT procedure.
He gained a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for the usage of TRT, however, the TRT era is considered to be one of the most complicated phases in the sport of MMA. TRT was outlawed in 2013, but by then the damage was done.
Several UFC fighters such as Antonio Silva, Vitor Belfort, Nate Marquardt and others had competed several times inside the Octagon, whilst on TRT. Besides, Marquardt was embroiled in a bunch of controversies with the Pennsylvania and New Jersey State Athletic Commissions, regarding his TRT usage.
Furthermore, ever since the UFC has partnered up with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), Marquardt seems to have gone through a visible, physical decline as well as decline in his in-cage performances.
After the multiple occasions on which Marquardt has exhibited Elevated Testosterone levels in his drug tests, his performances under the USADA testing in the UFC are just another sign of his steroid usage and unsportsmanlike conduct towards his opponents.
What’s ironical is that on being questioned regarding his stance of PEDs in MMA, Marquardt always claims to be a clean fighter and strongly condemns the usage of steroids in combat sports. Marquardt’s steroid usage and hypocrisy lands him at number 4 on our list.
#3 Yoel Romero
Yoel ‘Soldier of God’ Romero is a former World champion wrestler and Olympic Silver medalist in freestyle wrestling. He is one of the most terrifyingly explosive athletes to have ever competed in the sport of MMA. His martial arts base is wrestling but he is no slouch on the feet either.
With all but 2 of his MMA victories coming by way of knockout, Romero’s deadly stand-up skills are more than a threat to anyone in the UFC’s Middleweight (MW/185 pound) division. Inspite of all these accolades, one can’t deny the fact that Romero fights dirty.
And by dirty, I mean dirty to the core.
On September 27th 2014, Yoel Romero faced Tim Kennedy and gave us one of the most controversial moments in the history of the UFC. ‘Stoolgate’ as the incident is infamously referred to as today, took place owing to Romero’s corner-men as well as Romero.
Kennedy hurt Romero with a series of hooks at the end of Round 2 of their three round fight. Romero was visibly rocked and wobbled back to his corner. Before the start of Round 3, Romero stayed seated on his stool even after the referee signaled him to get up and fight.
Furthermore, Romero’s corner-men failed to leave the Octagon well after the 1-minute break had ended, giving Romero more time to recover. Romero went on to catch a visibly frustrated Kennedy with a huge left hand and finished him via ground strikes.
Romero has a habit of breaking the rules and then, feigning ignorance. Another example of Romero’s questionable behavior is his UFC 205 fight against Chris Weidman, where Romero drenched himself in water making him a slippery target for Weidman.
This left Weidman visibly frustrated and as soon as the 3rd round started Romero clipped Weidman with a huge flying knee, knocking him out. Now, it’s essential to note that messing with an opponent’s mind isn’t illegal, but greasing yourself with Vaseline or drenching yourself in water, between rounds is against the rules of MMA competition.
The reason behind this being that the drenched fighter becomes relatively tougher to take down, owing to the slipperiness created by the Vaseline/water all over his body.
On January 13th 2016, Romero was informed of a potential USADA anti-doping policy violation. He reportedly tested positive for ibutamoren, a growth hormone release stimulator. Romero and his team claimed that a supplementary product that he was using was contaminated with traces of the aforementioned PED.
Later on, an unopened version of the said supplement did, in fact, contain traces of the banned steroid. However, the entire situation was re-assessed by USADA and they handed down a 6-month suspension to Romero.
All arguments aside, facts are facts, and Romero is in no way an ideal sportsman. His in-fight greasing antics coupled with his drug-test failure and the infamous ‘Stoolgate’, have landed him at number 3 on our list.
#2 Jon Jones
Jon ‘Bones’ Jones is a former UFC Light Heavyweight (LHW/205 pound) champion and also the former interim-UFC LHW champion. He has a strong wrestling background and is known for his unorthodox Muay Thai striking techniques. He is also known for his trademark ‘Bones’ eye pokes, a maneuver that he proudly boasts about on social media.
Good luck finding those posts though, since Jones has the strange habit of deleting most of his controversial social media posts a few moments after posting them. Furthermore, Jones is also infamous for popularizing the knee-hyper-extending oblique kicks to the opponent’s kneecaps.
Now although oblique kicks are legal in MMA competition, their usage is considered to be disrespectful and unsportsmanlike by many martial arts practitioners and MMA fighters all over the world.
On July 6th 2016 it was revealed that Jones had failed an out-of-competition drug test in the lead-up to his UFC 200 rematch against Daniel Cormier. Jones has been suspended for one year, retroactive to the date July 9th, thus making him eligible to return to the Octagon on July 9th 2017.
Jones tested positive for clomiphene (an estrogen blocker) and letrozole (an aromatase inhibitor). Jones went on to claim that his failed drug tests were the result of tainted sexual performance enhancing pills, and that he had never used steroids in his life.
Jones, being the huge draw and fan-favorite fighter that he is, UFC President Dana White jumped to his defense; repeatedly stating that he strongly believes that Jones is innocent.
Well, regardless of what White or Jones say, the facts stand as they are. Jones has tested positive for multiple PEDs. Add to it the fact that Jones’ in-cage antics ranging from eye pokes to oblique kicks aren’t doing him any favors in his attempts to portray himself as an ideal sportsman.
In fact, Jones has claimed multiple times that he loves the eye poke maneuver and has mocked his opponents as well as MMA fans on the ‘eye poke’ issue. These wonderful exhibitions of sportsmanlike behavior, land Jones at number 2 of our list.
#1 Rousimar Palhares
This brings us to the Undisputed king of dirty fighters, not only in UFC history, not only in combat sports history; but in the history of the entire sporting world. Rousimar Palhares is a BJJ wizard. His grappling techniques have seen him defeat several notable MMA fighters including great grapplers such as Jake Shields and Jon Fitch.
Palhares trained in BJJ from a very young age and reached the pinnacle of BJJ, taking the 2nd place in the 88 kg category at the Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) in 2011. He is a great grappler with serviceable striking. However, he is also the butt of jokes for the MMA community owing to his pathetic habit of cranking on to submission holds way after the fight has been stopped.
At UFC 111 Palhares beat Tomasz Drwal by way of heel-hook. However, he was suspended for 90 days after he was caught cranking the submission way after his opponent tapped out. Palhares refused to let go of the heel-hook even after the referee stepped in and stopped the fight.
In December of 2012, Palhares lost his fight against Hector Lombard, and then it was revealed that he failed his drug test for the fight. Palhares received a nine-month retroactive suspension for his PED usage. Apart from these misgivings, Palhares submitted Mike Pierce at UFC Fight Night 29 via heel-hook.
However, once again he held on to the submission well after the fight had been stopped, thereby causing unnecessary harm to his opponent. The UFC then went on to release Palhares from the organization, stating that Palhares’ three strikes (against Drwal, the drug test failure in 2012 and his unethical behavior against Pierce) were responsible for his ousting.
Palhares, on his part, always claims to be innocent regardless of the intensity of the accusations against him and the gravity of the situation. He is extremely manipulative and almost always plays the ‘victim card’ even in cases where his lies are blatantly obvious.
Furthermore, Palhares went on to submit Jon Fitch and Jake Shields in World Series of Fighting (WSOF), once again holding on to his submissions way after the fights ended. His recent run outside the UFC is yet another example of his dirty tactics and unprofessional behavior.
After being declared as an outcast by several top MMA promotions in the US, Palhares now fights in other continents such as Asia and Europe. However, his terrible antics and bad sportsmanship are still a part of his otherwise decent MMA game.
MMA is a wonderful sport. It is, truly, one of the most pure forms of combat sport competition and a great test of one’s martial arts skills. However, fighters who resort to dirty tactics and questionable training strategies inside as well as outside the ring; unfairly endanger the lives of their opponents.
The eye pokes, the intentional groin shots, the mid-round corner trickery, the rampant usage of illegal steroids and PEDs, only serve to taint our beautiful sport. Aspiring fighters must understand these illustrations and strive to compete in a clean and sportsmanlike manner.
A dirty fighter’s questionable tricks may help him reach the top of the fight business, but like they say- what goes up comes down. The way down for such fighters is almost always terrible and serves as a come-uppance for their misdeeds.
Nevertheless, most of the aforementioned fighters are popular UFC personalities and loved by fans regardless of their tactics. That said, no amount fanfare would change the fact bad sportsmanship and dirty tactics will always be condemned in the world of sporting competition.