On a recent episode of the Joe Rogan Experience, the UFC's longtime commentator said that mixed martial arts is much more than a sport. His words couldn't have been truer. Just training for MMA is self-flagellation, but which other "sport" leaves its athletes with broken bodies and blood-drenched faces?
Mixed martial arts is a duel between the fearless. It takes immense strength of will for fighters to master their emotions and remember that regardless of the damage they absorb, they're in a game of human chess. And most of the time, they do.
We've heard many tales of fighters suffering broken bones early in fights and still soldiering on. But sometimes, even the hardiest of fighters suffer injuries so frightening that fights have been stopped to save them from further harm or they are left screaming in agony. Here are some of those instances:
#10 Jose "Pele" Landi-Jons snaps his lower leg in two
Jose "Pele" Landi-Jons made his MMA debut in August 1993 - that's even before UFC 1! The Brazilian Chute Boxe is a veteran of 45 fights and despite all of them being in smaller promotions, he has crossed paths with noted UFC fighters and even knocked out Matt Hughes early in the UFC Hall of Famer's career.
In February 2008, Landi-Jons faced American Brian Gassaway at TKO 32 in Montreal, Canada. A minute into the second round, the Brazilian threw a leg kick that was checked by Gassaway and his shin split in two. The fight was immediately called off. Landi-Jons took more than a year off but made an impressive comeback, winning six of his next eight fights.
9 Frank Mir breaks Minotauro Nogueira's arm
Frank Mir is one of the best MMA Heavyweights of all time and his performance at UFC 140 just might be his greatest.
In a clash between former UFC Heavyweight Champions, Mir faced Brazilian legend Antonio Rodrigo Minotauro Nogueira in the penultimate bout of the event. There was some friction between the two, as Mir had become the first man to knock out Minotauro, at UFC 92.
In the rematch, Minotauro looked as though he would avenge the loss when he rocked Mir with a right hand in the first round. Turtled up with Minotauro hammering away at his head, Mir looked all but out when he managed to reverse position on the ground and lock up a Kimura.
Despite being in obvious pain, the battle-hardened Brazilian refused to tap until Mir actually snapped his arm. With this win, Mir had become the first man to knock out and submit Minotauro Nogueira. At the post-fight press conference, Dana White called it "the submission of the century".
8 Jon Jones' broken toe
After Dan Henderson pulled out of UFC 151 at the last minute due to an injury, Chael Sonnen was willing to fight Jon Jones. But the champ's refusal to face Sonnen resulted in the whole card being scrapped.
The two coached opposing teams on season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter and as per tradition, were pitted against one another at UFC 159. None of Sonnen's trash talk could get a rise out of Jones, who did not believe the American Gangster was a worthy challenger and refused to even meet his eye at the face off.
Come fight night, Jones proved himself right by making quick work of Sonnen, finishing him on the ground in the first. Despite the easy win, Jones wasn't unscathed, as he nearly tore his big toe off his foot stuffing a takedown. When Joe Rogan pointed it out after the fight to Jones, all he did was stick his tongue out in a cheeky grin. It goes to show how powerful adrenaline is if it keeps you fighting despite having a toe nearly severed.
7 Shinya Aoki breaks Mizuto Hirota's arm
Shinya Aoki has been accused of poor sportsmanship and being disrespectful to opponents and audiences many times in his career. But the most disgraceful instance of this behavior came at K-1 Dynamite in 2009, when he faced Mizuto Hirota. Halfway through the first round, Aoki had Hirota trapped in a hammerlock but the latter refused to tap. Aoki twisted Hirota's arm until it broke, forcing the referee to step in and call an end to the bout.
As the referee attended to Hirota, Aoki stood over him and gave him the finger. He then danced around the ring and did the same to the crowd. Needless to say, his repulsive actions enraged not only the K-1 brass but Aoki's own coach, who fired him as a coach in his gym.
6 Windy Tomomi's ankle
Rosi Sexton versus Windy Tomomi was perceived as a classic grappler versus striker contest when it was announced for Bodog Fight in Costa Rica. Little did those watching know what they would eventually witness.
In the lung-opener, the English grappling expert took the Japanese karateka down, latched onto her back and pounded away for most of the round. In the last minute, Sexton attempted an armbar but Tomomi managed to slip out and finished the round on top. The toughness that sustained her in the first didn't matter what came next.
As soon as the bell rang to ring in the second round, Sexton started to close the distance in search of a takedown. About a minute into the round, Sexton got Tomomi's back and dragged her to the ground. Tomomi landed awkwardly angle and almost instantly, her screams rang out through the venue.
The referee rushed forward to investigate and what he saw forced him to call an end to the bout without wasting a second. Tomomi's right ankle was sticking out at a sickening angle, perpendicular to it's natural, forward-facing position.
Tomomi spent four months in the hospital to make a full recovery from surgery, which had complications and a subsequent infection. She returned to the sport almost a year later and won her next three fights.
5 Frank Mir breaks Tim Sylvia's arm
At UFC 34 in 2001, a 22-year-old Frank Mir announced his arrival in the UFC by tapping out BJJ black belt and 1999 ADCC champion Roberto Traven in the first round of their fight. Mir gained a reputation as one of the most feared submission experts in the UFC.
At UFC 48, he faced 6'8" Tim Sylvia for the vacant Heavyweight Championship. 50 seconds is all it took for Mir to break the giant's arm in 4 places with a straight armbar. In the video, you can actually hear referee Herb Dean say "Oh s***!!!" before yelling a halt to the fight. After the win, Mir was awarded his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu by his guru, Ricardo Pires.
4 Razak Al Hassan's arm
The first edition of UFC: Fight for the troops was significant because it helped raise a reported $4 million to support severely wounded veterans and families of those lost in the war. It also had the dubious distinction of witnessing not one, but two gruesome injuries to fighters on the card.
The last WEC Light Heavyweight Champion Steve Cantwell was booked to face former Marine Brian Stann, but because of an injury to the latter, Razak Al-Hassan stepped in on three weeks notice.
With under a minute remaining in the first round, Cantwell locked in an armbar on Hassan. Despite all the horsepower Cantwell was cranking with, Hassan did not tap, forcing the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt to break his arm. Thankfully, referee Mario Yamasaki waved an end to the fight seeing the broken arm.
3 Corey Hill's leg
As mentioned in the previous slide, the inaugural UFC: Fight for the troops saw two stomach-turning injuries, this being the more gruesome of the two. Standout collegiate wrestler and former The Ultimate Fighter contestant Corey Hill faced Dale Hartt on the undercard.
In round two, Hill threw a leg kick which Hartt checked. Hill's shin split in half and unable to support his weight, he went down. Neither fighter noticed and it took Joe Rogan's screams to get the referee's attention and stop the fight.
Hill's horrific injury kept him away from the sport for over a year. He died in 2015, aged 36, due to a collapsed lung stemming from complications following a lung transplant.
2 Rob Evans' shin snaps
In October 2003, the fourth edition of long-defunct UK-based promotion Cage Rage was held at Caesar's Nightclub in London. One of the 13 fights was a bout between submission specialist Ross Pettifer and brawler Rob Evans, who was making his professional debut.
The fight was over in just four seconds. Evans snapped his shin in two with the first leg kick he threw and as you can see in the video, that part is almost at a right angle to the rest of his leg. Rob Evans never fought in MMA again.
#1 Mike Florio's leg
In November 2013, the Orleans Hotel and Casino played host to Tuff-N-Uff: Future Stars of MMA. One of the fights on that card was between Mike "The Jersey Devil" Florio and debutante Jim Elmer. In the first round, after a few exchanges, Elmer managed to pull Florio's legs out from under him and dump him on the floor.
What the crowd saw next is easily the most nauseating and gut-churning MMA injury of all time. Due to the force of the takedown, not only had Florio's leg broken, but his shin bone had pierced the skin and was visible. Neither man fought again after that terrifying experience. The picture below doesn't show Florio's whole body, just the leg, but its veracity is proven because it has the same doctor who's seen in the video.