One of the UFC's biggest strengths is that it pits elite opponents against each other repeatedly. Giving fans fights like Conor McGregor vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov, Israel Adesanya vs. Robert Whittaker, or Max Holloway vs. Alexander Volkanovski makes UFC the most followed mixed martial arts promotion in the world.
But in addition to that, fighters also participate in gym bouts, which are held behind closed doors. These legendary fights largely remain hidden from UFC and mixed martial arts fans.
On that note, we look at three gym fights behind closed doors that would have been spectacular for UFC fans to watch.
#3 Cory Sandhagen vs. TJ Dillashaw
Cory Sandhagen is the rising star of the UFC's bantamweight division. He is coming off two spectacular knockout victories against Marlon Moraes and Frankie Edgar. TJ Dillashaw, on the other hand, is coming off a two-year suspension after testing positive for EPO.
The two stars are scheduled to collide on July 24 on UFC Fight Night. However, this is not the first time these fighters will meet each other in the octagon.
Sandhagen and Dillashaw used to be training partners before the former made his debut in the UFC. According to Dillashaw, Sandhagen gave him a tough time in the gym and even made him doubt himself.
In the video above, Dillashaw mentions:
"One of my buddies, Cory Sandhagen, that I train with now...he'll get the better of me. He's not even in the UFC yet but he'll be a great fighter and you're just kind of like 'damn, i can't beat this guy. What's going on?'"
Although we will soon see the two fighters sharing the octagon, the excitement would have been even greater if footage of their gym fight was released.
#2 TJ Dillashaw vs. Cody Garbrandt
TJ Dillashaw vs. Cody Garbrandt was one of the ugliest rivalries in the UFC, a classic story of friends turning into foes. Dillashaw and Garbrandt used to be training partners. However, 'No Love' felt betrayed when Dillashaw left Team Alpha Male.
Dillashaw's decision started a war of words which eventually led to a UFC fight against Garbrandt.
In the build-up to the fight, 'No Love' claimed he possessed footage of him knocking Dillashaw out cold. 'Lieutenant Dan' denied the existence of any such video, saying it never happened. Dillashaw challenged Garbrandt to release the video or withdraw his claims. The tape never saw the light of day.
TJ Dillashaw beat Cody Garbrandt by knockout in the first round of their fight.
#1 Conor McGregor vs. Paulie Malignaggi
Although this is not an MMA fight, it made a big splash in the world of combat sports.
Conor McGregor chose Paulie Malignaggi as a sparring partner for the former's boxing match against Floyd Mayweather.
During the build-up to the fight, partial footage of the sparring match between McGregor and Malignaggi was released online. In the video, 'The Notorious One' was seen toying with his sparring partner.
This did not sit well with Malignaggi, who then confronted the Irishman about it. Watch the public encounter between the two below:
To this day, fans are curious about the result of the sparring match between Conor McGregor and Paulie Malignaggi.