Fights often sell more due to grudges and bad blood between fighters, but is MMA really all about violence? Over the years, there have been many fights in the UFC, where the stakes were at an all-time high. Mixed martial arts is often termed 'bloodsport' or 'the fight game'. These are words one usually doesn't associate with the expression of mutual respect or brotherhood.
But what happens after these modern-day gladiators battle it out inside the Octagon in championship fights? True martial artists respect their opponents, both in victory and defeat.
In the recent welterweight clash between Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns at UFC 258 for the title, the former teammates put all differences aside after the fight. They showed that they love and respect each other and all the animosity in the buildup to the fight means nothing afterwards.
Over the years, we have seen some heartwarming moments of respect among fighters in the aftermath of important championship fights. We look at five instances of mutual respect and admiration among fighters after UFC championship bouts.
5) Conor McGregor vs Jose Aldo
At UFC 194, Conor McGregor fought Jose Aldo for the featherweight title in a fight that grabbed eye-balls like no other. Ahead of the fight, McGregor's trash talk took the press conferences to a whole new level and Aldo was clearly affected by the Irishman's antics.
When it was time to fight, McGregor slept Aldo in just 13 seconds of the first round, sending the crowd into a frenzy. Aldo and his team were visibly shell-shocked at how the fight panned out. During the official announcement, McGregor showed a different, much warmer side to his personality.
The Irishman went over to Aldo and apologized to him. McGregor also assured the former champion of another shot at the UFC featherweight title.
4) Georges St-Pierre vs Michael Bisping
GSP and Michael Bisping formed a heated rivalry heading into their much-anticipated middleweight title encounter at UFC 217. At the time, Bisping held the UFC middleweight title and GSP was returning to action after spending four years away from the sport.
The bout turned out to be a firefight with Bisping getting the better of St-Pierre on the feet while GSP capitalized on the ground. However, towards the end of the third round, GSP managed to land a right hook that sent Bisping crashing to the canvas. St-Pierre's ground-and-pound forced Bisping to give up his back and GSP put the champion to sleep via a rear-naked choke at 4:23 of the third round.
Following the fight, the fighters displayed great respect and admiration for each other. The two hugged each other, exchanged smiles and a few kind words. When Joe Rogan came forward with the microphone to conduct the customary interviews, GSP was heard telling Bisping he's the best fighter he's ever fought inside the Octagon.
3) Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Dustin Poirier
Khabib Nurmagomedov's fight against Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 was one of the best examples of what MMA truly represents. Although Poirier was soundly beaten via a rear-naked choke, he and Nurmagomedov shared a camaraderie before and after the fight that was undeniably heart-warming.
The fighters embraced each other following the fight and Khabib also spoke about how he and Poirier represented the sport in its true spirit. Following his win, Nurmagomedov wore a customized Dustin Poirier T-shirt. The Russian said he would put it up for auction and donate the proceeds to Poirier's charity, The Good Fight Foundation.
2) Tyron Woodley vs Kamaru Usman
Kamaru Usman shocked the world by dominating and defeating Tyron Woodley in the main event of UFC 235 to become the UFC welterweight champion. Before the fight, things got heated between the pair as Woodley said Usman wasn't even half as good a fighter as he was. Woodley even claimed he was better than Usman in every single aspect of the sport.
However, the fight told another story as then-champion Woodley was thoroughly dominated and beaten over five rounds, leaving no doubt as to who the winner was. However, following the fight, Woodley behaved like a true sportsman and congratulated Usman on the deserved win.
Woodley's mother was also seen hugging and congratulating Usman on the huge win in a backstage interaction following UFC 235. The heartwarming moment went viral on the internet as people couldn't stop gushing about the amazing display of mutual respect between the fighters and their families.
1) Max Holloway vs Dustin Poirier
Max Holloway and Dustin Poirier fought each other for the interim UFC lightweight title at UFC 236. This was the second time that the pair fought each other and the stakes were high because the winner would go on to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov for the undisputed title.
The fight turned out to be a back-and-forth slugfest as two of the best strikers in the game threw down in the centre of the Octagon. It was Poirier who got his hand raised via decision at the end of what was an amazing fight.
Following the fight, Poirier and Holloway embraced each other for a long time and appeared to be telling each other how much they enjoyed the scrap. Holloway even raised Poirier's hand after the fight in a beautiful gesture of sportsmanship and respect.