One of the most noteworthy pieces of news regarding the UFC this week involved current Lightweight contender Kevin Lee.
‘The Motown Phenom’ hasn’t fought since his March loss to Charles Oliveira due to injury, but made the headlines yesterday after revealing a pretty insane new tattoo. Lee has always sported plenty of ink, but his latest piece spreads across the back of his head and neck, giving him one of the wildest looks in UFC history.
However, Lee won’t be the first UFC fighter to sport bizarre or wild tattoos inside the Octagon. The majority of the UFC’s stars sport ink, but some of them have become pretty well-known for having questionable ones.
Here are ten of the worst tattoos in the UFC’s modern history.
#1 Alan Belcher
Alan ‘The Talent’ Belcher was once considered one of the best and most exciting Middleweights on the UFC’s roster. Debuting back in 2006 with a tight loss to Yushin Okami, Belcher went on to put together a UFC record of 9-6, beating notable opponents such as Rousimar Palhares, Denis Kang and Patrick Cote.
However, fans will probably remember Belcher – who retired in 2013 due to an eye injury – more for a strange tattoo on his left arm than his fighting skills. And considering the heights he reached inside the Octagon, that’s saying a lot.
The tattoo in question? A portrait of legendary singer Johnny Cash. The only problem? The tattoo – which appeared to have stretched somewhat due to Belcher’s bulging biceps – didn’t exactly look like the country and western superstar. In fact, a Reddit thread from 2015 suggested the piece looked more like North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, Otho from Beetlejuice, or former WWE wrestler the Honky Tonk Man.
Belcher’s questionable ink even garnered abuse from his fellow fighters. In a 2011 quip, Michael Bisping – who would eventually beat Belcher in 2013 – suggested ‘The Talent’ should sue his tattoo artist for “that abomination on his arm”.
#2 Darren Elkins
Featherweight veteran Darren Elkins is a highly underrated fighter who sports a UFC record of 14-8 and has wins over the likes of Dennis Bermudez, Michael Johnson and Hatsu Hioki. However, he’s probably best known for his toughness and ability to take a lot of punishment from his opponents.
It’s that ability that clearly earned him his nickname, as he’s known as ‘The Damage’. But while plenty of fighters have their nicknames tattooed on their body somewhere, it’s probably fair to suggest that Elkins has gone a little too far.
The Featherweight contender sports a tattoo of his nickname in the middle of his chest, and if that wasn’t enough, ‘The Damage’ is written in a pretty crazy font that makes it appear to have been stitched onto his skin.
Many fans were horrified when they saw this artwork, but Elkins clearly doesn’t care what the doubters think. In fact, he said exactly that in a 2018 interview with MMAJunkie:
“If you see my fights, I’m always stitched up, cut up, bleeding – I’m embracing who I am. I really don’t give a (expletive) what anyone else thinks, thank you. I’m comfortable with who I am, and that’s all that matters”.
#3 Brock Lesnar
In his prime, from 2008 to 2010 when he held the UFC Heavyweight title, it was hard to dispute the idea that Brock Lesnar was one of the most intimidating figures in MMA history. A hugely muscled figure who looked more like a 1980’s cartoon character, Lesnar also sported one of the coolest tattoos in UFC history too in the form of a demonic skull complete with horns on his back.
Unfortunately, Lesnar didn’t stop there in terms of his ink, and instead, he arrived in the UFC sporting one of the most questionable tattoos in the promotion’s history, too.
The tattoo in question is of a fist holding a sword, positioned just underneath Lesnar’s neck and going down his body onto his midsection. Unfortunately, at a glance, the tattoo doesn’t exactly resemble a sword all that much.
Instead, it’s been compared to all sorts of more unsavoury things. Most notably, famed internet personality Adam Blampied once described it as looking more like “a knuckleduster glued to a dildo”.
And while it’s almost certain that nobody would want to say such a thing to Lesnar’s face, it’s probably fair to suspect that plenty of UFC fans would agree with the assessment.
#4 Joey Beltran
Mexican-American brawler Joey Beltran fought in the UFC from 2010 to 2013, putting together a record of 3-6 with one No Contest in the process. And while ‘The Mexicutioner’ never threatened the UFC title picture, he was definitely a notable fighter at one point – even welcoming future UFC Heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic into the Octagon for his UFC debut.
Unfortunately, Beltran also sported one of the most unintentionally hilarious tattoos in UFC history, too.
In this case, it’s difficult to blame Beltran for his questionable artwork. The piece in question was written in an almost unreadable curly font, and states ‘You’ve got you’re fools mixed up”. This wouldn’t be so bad – had Beltran’s tattoo artist had a better grasp of grammar.
Thankfully for ‘The Mexecutioner’, the font used for the tattoo was so wild that it was difficult to make out anyway. Regardless, hopefully Beltran didn’t return to the same tattooist for any of his other pieces!
#5 Conor McGregor
Love or hate Conor McGregor, it’s hard to dispute that ‘The Notorious One’ is probably the biggest star in UFC history. While the majority of his fame has come from his fighting ability and his willingness to talk trash, it’s also fair to say that his unique, marketable look has helped too.
McGregor’s tattoos are a great part of that look, and they’ve developed over the years that we’ve seen him in the UFC. Initially sporting a crucifix piece on his back and his surname on his midsection, ‘The Notorious One’ has over time added two major pieces.
Those pieces – on his upper chest and stomach - show a crowned gorilla eating a heart and the face of a tiger. The whole combination would definitely be cool, if it were not for a 2016 news piece that seemed to suggest McGregor’s tattoos were almost a direct copy of those sported by Canadian model Josh Mario John.
Given that John also sported the same hairstyle and beard as ‘The Notorious One’, it was hard not to believe that something fishy was going on. McGregor has never really dealt with the accusations – but during the build-up to their eventually cancelled fight, Rafael Dos Anjos made reference to it on Instagram.
His post was quickly deleted by McGregor – perhaps suggesting there’s some truth to the whole idea.
#6 Kimo Leopoldo
When Kimo Leopoldo debuted in the UFC way back at UFC 3 in 1994, he looked every bit the star. His head covered with a towel, the Hawaiian carried a huge crucifix to the Octagon and essentially appeared to have stepped right off the set of a Jean-Claude Van Damme flick.
Kimo lost his debut fight to Royce Gracie, but despite the defeat, he’d made enough of an impact to be remembered as a legend of the early days of the sport. However, the less said about his choice of tattoos, the better.
Initially, Kimo looked relatively ink-free, simply sporting the word ‘Jesus’ across his abdominal area. But when he returned to the UFC in 2003 after the best part of a decade away, he’d added to his collection of artwork substantially. Kimo now sported wild tribal tattoos across his shoulders and chest – still pretty cool – but he’d also added a map of Hawaii to his body as well.
Unfortunately, whoever decided on the placement of Kimo’s Hawaiian map tattoo made a pretty grave error. They placed half of it directly across the ‘J’ in the older ‘Jesus’ tattoo, making it look like the Hawaiian now had a tattoo reading ‘Esus’ instead – hardly a good look for a fighter known for his overtly religious nature!
#7 Junie Browning
Despite only fighting in the UFC twice, Junie Browning remains one of the most infamous fighters in the promotion’s modern history. His wild reputation of course stemmed from his appearance on Season 8 of The Ultimate Fighter, where he terrorised his housemates with his angry, drunken antics.
Browning’s UFC career saw him defeat David Kaplan by submission before he was defeated by Cole Miller, and that was enough for the promotion to release him from his contract. However, wild behaviour on TUF isn’t the only thing that Browning will be remembered by UFC fans for.
He also sported one of the most questionable tattoos in UFC history – not that it was visible when he was actually fighting – in the form of a hand grenade on his right hand. The obvious suggestion was that Browning had explosive knockout power in his punches, but was that really the case?
In truth, no. Even before arriving in the UFC, Browning had just one knockout victory to his name – and that was via a head kick rather than punches. And even after his UFC career had ended, he struggled to win by KO, instead submitting opponent Scott Cornwell before going on a five-fight slide.
Browning did finally pick up a TKO win via punches in 2016 – but that was almost a decade after we’d seen him first sporting his grenade tattoo! ‘The Lunatic’ hasn’t fought since.
#8 Joe Riggs
Arguably one of the more underrated fighters of the early TUF era of the mid 2000’s, Joe Riggs picked up some impressive wins in the UFC. Some of his victims included Chris Lytle, Nick Diaz and Joe Doerksen.
However, Riggs also sported some of the most hilarious tattoos ever seen in the UFC, too. As we saw in the case of Darren Elkins, it’s often not a good idea to have a nickname tattooed onto your body. Riggs though clearly didn’t get that memo, as he sported his nickname – ‘Diesel’ – in a loud, green font across his stomach.
But that wasn’t the only questionable tattoo sported by Riggs. The Welterweight contender also had a large green tattoo on his arm reading ‘NHB’ – a reference to MMA’s previous moniker of ‘No Holds Barred’, hardly the best image for a sport attempting to break into the mainstream at the point Riggs was in the UFC.
Thankfully, ‘Diesel’ also had a couple of cool tattoos – one of which reads “if you’re not fighting for something, you’re dying for nothing”, a quote he came up with himself. That alone almost makes up for his worse ones.
#9 Christian Morecraft
While it’s highly common to see UFC fighters have their nickname inked onto their body, it’s also almost just as common to see them sporting their surname, too. Quite why this is remains somewhat of a mystery – it’s hardly something anyone is going to forget, after all.
However, we’ve seen fighters such as Frank Mir, Joe Riggs and even Conor McGregor sporting tattoos of their surname. Usually these tattoos are relatively inconspicuous – McGregor’s and Riggs’ names are almost unnoticeable amongst the rest of their artwork – but that wasn’t the same for former UFC fighter Christian Morecraft.
Heavyweight Morecraft, who fought in the UFC on four occasions from 2010 to 2012, had his surname inked across his stomach in a similar fashion to McGregor. However, rather than having the tattoo in a plain-looking font, Morecraft’s was instead written in a gothic font reminiscent of something you’d find on the WordArt options in Microsoft Word 1997.
The fact that Morecraft was hardly the sveltest UFC fighter didn’t help, meaning fans were treated to the gothic-style font stretched across a somewhat flabby stomach. Essentially, this tattoo was a pretty bad look in every possible way, despite being one of the less outlandish ones on this list.
#10 Paulo Filho
We end this list with a fighter who, technically speaking, didn’t actually fight in the UFC. Paulo Filho was undoubtedly good enough to fight in the world’s top MMA promotion in his prime, of course – he had an unbeaten 8-0 record in PRIDE – but instead he moved to the UFC’s sister promotion, the WEC.
However, his tattoos are simply too bizarre and downright terrible to not mention him here. In his PRIDE days, he actually looked quite cool – sporting a pair of pitbull dogs on his stomach and various other random tattoos on his arms. However, during his WEC days, things didn’t go so well for the Brazilian.
Filho became addicted to various substances and washed out of the promotion, becoming a journeyman of sorts in his native Brazil in the process. During these troubled times, to say that he added some questionable artwork to his body would be an understatement.
First came the odd dollar bill piece – complete with a pitbull bursting through – on his chest, and then came the bizarre piece reading ‘REWARD HUNTER’ on his right pectoral muscle. Finally, Filho channelled his inner Mike Tyson – and had a strange tribal piece tattooed onto his face.
He may not have set foot into the UFC’s Octagon, but as far as questionable tattoos in MMA go, Filho is the undisputed champion.