While the UFC is an individual sport, over the years we’ve seen a number of fights that the promotion could never put together due to teammates being unwilling to face off in the octagon.
Sure, you can never say never when it comes to teammate vs. teammate bouts – at one point, it was unthinkable that Jon Jones would fight Rashad Evans, for instance – but it’s fair to say that fans have definitely missed out on a few intriguing fights over the years.
Here are five teammate vs. teammate fights that UFC fans would’ve loved to have seen.
#5. UFC featherweight bout: Urijah Faber vs. Chad Mendes
While neither man ended up claiming gold during their UFC careers, it’s fair to say that Urijah Faber and Chad Mendes, who both trained with Team Alpha Male, were amongst the best fighters in their respective weight classes in their prime.
Both men initially competed as featherweights, with Faber rising to fame as the WEC’s 145lbs champion, but when Mendes began to rise in prominence in 2010, ‘The California Kid’ was swift to drop to 135lbs, where he remained for the most part for the rest of his career.
Had Faber not lost his WEC title in 2009, though, it’s easy to envision a scenario that would’ve put him on a collision course with ‘Money’, particularly given the rapid way that Mendes climbed through the ranks during that time.
Who would’ve come out on top in this prospective clash? It’s hard to say. While Mendes was probably a better fighter in his prime, had they met in 2010, Faber would’ve possessed far more well-rounded skills as well as superior experience.
Either way, it would’ve been a fascinating bout to watch, particularly when you consider how good the other all Team Alpha Male fights between TJ Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt turned out to be.
#4. UFC welterweight bout: Josh Koscheck vs. Jon Fitch
One teammate vs. teammate clash that was often talked about by Dana White in particular would’ve pitted welterweight stars Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch against one another.
While both Koscheck and Fitch – who trained together for years at the American Kickboxing Academy – came up short against longtime welterweight kingpin Georges St-Pierre, between them they also defeated a who’s who of 170lbers, including Thiago Alves, Matt Hughes, Diego Sanchez and Anthony Johnson.
However, despite White even suggesting the two could face off with a title shot on the line, both men were always reluctant to go through with it.
Fitch once stated that if Koscheck were the only available fight for him, he’d rather move to 185lbs, while in turn, the TUF 1 star outright claimed he’d rather leave the UFC altogether than face his teammate, who he’d trained with for almost a decade.
In all honesty, given the reputation of both men for putting on less-than-exciting fights at times, it’s debatable as to whether a fight between them would’ve been a good one to watch.
However, it definitely would’ve been fascinating to see, and given the overall skills of both – particularly in the wrestling department – it would’ve been a near-impossible clash to call, too.
#3. UFC featherweight bout: Jose Aldo vs. Renan Barao
Trained by veteran Andre Pederneiras at the Nova Uniao camp, both Aldo and Barao fought in a similar way – eschewing their Brazilian jiu-jitsu to beat their opponents up with snapping combinations and vicious leg kicks – and at their best, it felt like both were unbeatable.
It was hardly a surprise, then, when many fans began to call for a fight between them to take place. Interestingly, most fans figured that if it did happen, it’d be at 145lbs – despite the fact that Aldo ended up dropping to 135lbs and finding success years later.
Of course, the bout never happened, as Barao stated in 2014 that he and Aldo were as close as brothers, and the fight would never take place in the octagon.
In this case, interestingly, footage of the two men sparring at Nova Uniao did leak out onto the internet, and while the Brazilians were clearly going at one another lightly, it was enough to suggest that a fight between them could’ve been excellent – meaning it would’ve been well worth the price of admission for the fans.
Watch them training below:
#2. UFC lightweight bout: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Islam Makhachev
While it was never outright discussed by the UFC, it’s probably fair to say that had lightweight king Khabib Nurmagomedov stuck around rather than retiring in 2020, fans would’ve been salivating over the idea of him facing off with his teammate and protégé Islam Makhachev.
At the time that ‘The Eagle’ stepped away from competition, Makhachev was an impressive 7-1 inside the octagon, but since then, he’s added a further four wins to his ledger, finishing all four of his opponents, and many fans now believe he’s the best 155lber in the world.
Would Khabib and Makhachev have ever faced off with the title on the line? It seems unlikely, as the two men are reportedly as close as brothers, with Khabib’s late father acting as Makhachev’s original trainer.
However, interestingly, Javier Mendez – who coaches both men at the American Kickboxing Academy – has recently given a surprising insight to their training sessions, suggesting that Makhachev was the only fighter to ever get the best of ‘The Eagle’ in sparring.
With that considered, if Makhachev can defeat Charles Oliveira for the vacant UFC lightweight title this month, it’s highly likely that some fans will call upon Khabib to return and face off with his protégé – even if it’ll never happen.
#1. UFC heavyweight bout: Cain Velasquez vs. Daniel Cormier
Probably the biggest teammate vs. teammate fight that fans would’ve loved to have seen is Cain Velasquez vs. Daniel Cormier. Given that both men held the UFC heavyweight title and are widely considered amongst the greatest in the division’s history, a fight between them would’ve been truly titanic.
At what point could the two men have logically fought? Either 2013 or 2014 would’ve worked, as Velasquez held the title at that point while Cormier, the reigning StrikeForce heavyweight champion, was just making his way into the promotion.
However, as his teammate held the title, ‘DC’ followed wins over Frank Mir and Roy Nelson by dropping to 205lbs to pursue Jon Jones and the light-heavyweight title rather than a bout with Velasquez.
In fact, Cormier only moved back up to heavyweight in 2018, by which point Velasquez was in the midst of a stint on the shelf with various injuries having lost his title years prior.
Had the two men faced off, though, it definitely would’ve piqued the interest of the fans hugely. Who would’ve won? It’s nearly impossible to say.
On one hand, Cormier had better wrestling credentials and probably possessed the slightly heavier hands. On the other hand, Velasquez appeared to have better cardio, and was naturally the bigger man.
However, ‘DC’ has always stated that Velasquez was the better fighter of the two, and that he was unable to get the better of him in training, which probably settles the argument.
Either way, were these two not friends and teammates, it’s likely they would’ve fought for UFC gold at least once, meaning the fact that fans never got to see them square off is more than a little gutting.