Major League Baseball has Cooperstown. Rock and Roll has Cleveland. MMA has FIGHT! Magazine. Ok, ok, so we’re not quite as prestigious as Neil Diamond belting out “Forever in Blue Jeans” this year, but great mixed martial artists needed a place where they could be lauded with the recognition they deserve, appreciated by fans around the world, and honored for their accomplishments… and that’s why we created the FIGHT! Magazine Hall of Fame.
The process for inclusion into the Hall is simple: if you kick ass, come on in. Actually, it’s a little more complex. Voting is based on a fighter’s accomplishments, fighting ability, contributions to the evolution of MMA, impact on MMA, and record. To create our list of nominees, we polled a select group of MMA journalists from around the globe. Once our catalog of candidates was generated, journalists were asked to vote up to six times. Nominees needed to receive approval from at least 75% of the voting body.
When the votes were tallied for the 2011 Class, three names reigned supreme. Congratulations to Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, and Pat Miletich, living legends and members of the 3rd Annual FIGHT! Magazine Hall of Fame.
UFC 13 HEAVYWEIGHT TOURNAMENT WINNER
THREE-TIME UFC HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION
TWO-TIME UFC LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION
“That guy is my hero.” You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again. Randy Couture is a living legend in the sport of mixed martial arts. He’s made a career out of defying the odds, the bosses, and geriatrics. Since defeating up-and-comer Vitor Belfort at UFC 15.5 in 1996, 15 of Randy’s 21 fights in the Octagon were for the UFC Heavyweight or Light Heavyweight Championship. Couture’s focus, determination, and cerebral approach to the sport were known to make oddsmakers stroke-out on numerous occasions.
After a stellar career wrestling for the Army and Oklahoma State University, Couture cornered the market on dirty boxing, combining his ability to strike in the clinch with takedowns and dominant positioning to grind his way to one title after another. Sharing coaching duties for TUF 1 with Chuck Liddell, Couture’s mild demeanor and quiet confidence helped newcomers see the sport as legitimate. Serving as the anti-WWE stereotype to those expecting barbed wire cages and broken glass hand wraps, Couture was the shining example of normalcy in a sport not yet understood by mainstream America.
After dropping the last two fights of his trilogy with Liddell, Randy walked out of Mandalay Bay as a retired former champion, leaving behind an extraordinary career and a Hall of Fame legacy. Not even a year into retirement, 43-year-old Couture dusted off the four-ounce gloves to return for a heavyweight championship bout against massive Tim Sylvia. Seconds into the fight, Couture landed an inside leg kick followed by an overhand right that sent the giant tumbling to the canvas. Couture spent the next 24 minutes pummeling Sylvia and claimed yet another title in the UFC. Couture defended the title one more time against Gabriel Gonzaga before losing it to Brock Lesnar, after a well-documented yearlong dispute with UFC brass over the details of his contract.
“The Natural,” “Captain America,” “My Hero”—these are the names we have come to use when talking about our champion Randy Couture. Finishing his career with a string of wins, including a one-sided spanking of boxing great James Toney, before dropping his final bout in dramatic fashion to Lyoto Machida, Couture retired for the second time at the tender age of 48 with plans to move on to bigger and better things. Having gained traction with his acting career after a significant role in The Expendables, Couture will again be coming to a theater near you, having roles in five major motion pictures currently in pre- and post-production. In addition, his clothing line and MMA training facility Xtreme Couture are keeping fighters and pacifists clothed in designer threads.
UFC WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPION 10/16/98–5/4/01
UFC 16 LIGHTWEIGHT TOURNAMENT CHAMPION
In a small, nondescript building on the outskirts of Bettendorf, Iowa, Pat Miletich built a mixed martial arts empire around a hard-nosed style of training and plenty of sparring. Churning out champions like an assembly line, “The Croatian Sensation” racked up titles with Miletich Fighting Systems (MFS) fighters Matt Hughes, Tim Sylvia, Jens Pulver, and Robbie Lawler. Before Greg Jackson, before Firas Zahabi, before “Crazy” Bob Cook, there was Miletich—and he was laying it down.
Born and raised in Davenport, Iowa, Miletich began training for MMA at 26 years old. Undefeated in 15 fights, a broken nose at the hands of Matt Hume gave Miletich his first loss. However, it’s hard to keep a good man down, and eight fights later, Miletich defeated Mikey Burnett at UFC 17.5 to become the first UFC Lightweight Champion (200 lbs and under). It wasn’t until five fights later, and a name change for the weight class (welterweight), that Miletich relinquished his UFC title to Carlos Newton at UFC 31.
Switching gears to focus on developing his stable of up-and-coming fighters, MFS became the premier training location in the country. Fighters flocked to train with The Croatian Sensation, and for good reason. As many as three UFC champions could be found training with Miletich on any given day. His coaching dominance led to a head-coaching job for the IFL Quad City Silverbacks, where Miletich and his stable won two team championships.
Since the recent explosion of popularity within mixed martial arts, Miletich has made a name for himself as one of the premier commentators in the sport. Years of fighting and coaching experience give him a level of insight and a knack for predictions that few analysts possess. Miletich has called fights for a number of promotions, and he has been a frequent host for ESPN’s MMA Live, as well as a guest commentator for HDNet’s Inside MMA.
Miletich has served as one of the Founding Fathers of mixed martial arts. His tenure as UFC champion laid ground for Team MFS, which helped bring team training camps to the forefront of the industry. His work as one of the pioneers of the sport should never be forgotten, and for that, we are proud to include The Croatian Sensation in our Hall of Fame.
UFC LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION 4/16/05–5/26/07
UFC EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF BUSINESS FC DEVELOPMENT
So, you wanna be a Hall of Famer? There’s the signature mohawk, the head tattoo, the iconic “Iceman” victory pose, and the storied career that includes 13 brutal KO and TKO wins over the likes of champions such as Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, Alistair Overeem, and Vitor Belfort… and that’s just Chuck Liddell’s fighting career.
Liddell’s fighting style represented another step forward in the evolution of mixed martial arts. A wrestler from an early age, Liddell used brilliant takedown defense along with BJJ fundamentals and a highly developed kickboxing game to masterfully execute his single-focus gameplan of Sprawl-n-Brawl. Over the course of his 10-year career, Liddell kicked and punched his way to the top of one of the toughest divisions in the short history of the sport.
After coaching The Ultimate Fighter 1 reality show, Liddell became a household name when he separated Randy Couture from consciousness to claim the UFC Light Heavyweight Title. With mainstream America still spinning from the excitement of the reality show, the media frenzy that followed was more than Dana White could have imagined. Fast-forward six years to the present and you’ll find that Liddell’s rocker-like status is cemented into pop culture. Highlights include
appearances on HBO’s Entourage and MTV’s Punk’d and a stint on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars. Liddell made guest appearances on every late night show known to man, and he performed numerous interviews with 24-hour news networks about the safety of mixed martial arts. His time as the UFC LHW Champ was split between training, promoting, and speaking as an advocate for his sport.
Loved by most and feared by all, Liddell’s arch nemeses include Tito Ortiz, Vernon “Tiger” White, late-night clubbing, and Nyquil (YouTube “Chuck Liddell Good morning Texas”). Many years from now, when our grandchildren are talking about the greatest fighters to ever step into the Octagon, you can rest assured that if Liddell is not listed in that debate, then those who are will still be thanking the Iceman for all that he did to bring MMA to mainstream America.