MMA's Ten Most Heated Feuds

In The Godfather , Don Vito Corleone asks Johnny Fontaine if he spends time with his family, proclaiming that a “man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.”

Well, a sport can never be a real sport without a signature feud or rivalry. All the major sports have them.

Major League Baseball has the Red Sox vs. the Yankees; college football has the University of Miami vs. Notre Dame; the NBA has the Spurs vs. the Mavericks; and the NFL has the Jets vs. Patriots.

So where does MMA rate in its lineage of feuds? While it’s yet to experience a feud big enough to rival the ones of some the more “mainstream” sports, it has had its fair share of historic battles that satisfied existing fans and made new ones.

Let’s take a look at the ten most heated feuds in MMA to date:


10. Dana White vs. Jerry Millen

After seeing how much publicity that White was getting for the UFC by taking on more than just a behind-the-scenes role, Dream Stage Entertainment began to encourage Millen to become more of a public figurehead for the company’s U.S. fight operations.

Millen, whose primary role was to direct PRIDE’s television operations in the US, did what his bosses asked of him and started to become more visible in the public eye. He was very outspoken about PRIDE’s status as a fi ght organization around the globe and was very vocal about the failure to make a match between Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva.

UFC president Dana White blamed PRIDE for not making the Liddell/Silva match happen, and Millen took issue. After trading barbs through print, Millen and White faced off head-to-head via phone on The Scott Ferrall Show on Sirius Satellite Radio last fall.

White and Millen exchanged pot shots and hurled insults back and forth in a verbal altercation which has now become legendary. The interview was uploaded to the Internet soon after, where hundreds of thousands of fight fans were able to listen to Millen and White go at it with the same intensity you would expect from Liddell and Silva.

While the feud between PRIDE and the UFC is over, Millen insists that the feud between him and White is still going strong.

“[It] only made it to number ten?” Millen pondered when contacted by FIGHT Magazine. “Well, if the UFC wouldn’t have bought the number one MMA promotion in the world [PRIDE], the feud would have been at number one. The PRIDE battle may be over, but believe me the MMA war with Dana has only begun.”

9. Frank Shamrock vs. Ken Shamrock

Ken is perhaps the biggest reason why adoptive kid brother Frank transitioned from submission wrestling into mixed martial arts. The younger Shamrock trained at Ken’s Lion’s Den and once considered him to be his mentor.

Everything changed in the mid-90’s after philosophical differences arose between the two. Frank felt that Ken’s training techniques and business practices were becoming obsolete, and made his feelings known.

“I voiced my concern about that, and basically I was told to do what I was told,” Frank said during an interview for Sportsline earlier this year. “I was very vocal, and I’ve always been very vocal about what I believed in. I kept on it and said, ‘Look, we’ve got to change, there’s a better way to do business.’ And eventually we came down to Ken telling me, ‘You don’t have what it takes, you’re not going to be a world champion, and I want you to run my gyms for the rest of your life.’”

A cold war has existed ever since. For example when asked about Ken’s 2005 TKO loss to Kazushi Sakuraba, which was considered controversial because of a possible early stoppage, Frank didn’t hesitate to throw Ken under the bus.

“If you’re sleeping with your head through the second rope, you’re in a bad way,” Frank said during an interview with “He got clocked. He went down. According to the rules he was no longer defending himself and that’s the end of the fight.”

Thanks for the support, bro.

8. Don Frye vs. Ken Shamrock

While wrestling for the WWE

According to pro wrestling lore, business eventually mixed with pleasure and the two started dating, despite a sixteen year age difference.

The relationship between Shamrock and Webb was shielded from mainstream attention until Don Frye spilled the beans when he made comments suggesting that Shamrock cheated on and divorced his wife for a younger woman. Shamrock didn’t take too kindly to Frye’s words and a feud was born that culminated with a match at PRIDE 19 in 2002.

Frye won the match via split decision, and it was thought that the grudge between the two was put to bed. However, earlier this year the two were at it again when Shamrock submitted a video question for Frye’s “Dear Don” segment on IFL Battleground with the intent of promoting a match between their respective teams.

Shamrock poked fun at Frye’s Tom Selleck-esque mustache and Frye responded with a tongue-in-cheek response that insinuated Shamrock was gay. We think he was joking, but when it comes to Frye, you never know.

Might we see Frye vs. Shamrock II? Neither fighter is retired, so you never know.

7. Jens Pulver vs. B.J. Penn

They made nice following their rematch at the season finale of The Ultimate Fighter 5 in Las Vegas this past June, but it didn’t change the fact that the two have hated each other for years.

So, what was it that caused these two men to despise each other? The two offer different perspectives on their beef neither of which is completely satisfactory.

“After a fight he would try to be real cordial and respectful to my face, and then every time I would read an interview all he was ever doing was talking shit,” Penn began. “After a while it builds up and just gets to you and then you just want to take care of it.”

Pulver had a slightly different take than Penn, but still offered an answer that didn’t fully explain the venom that had existed.

“We’ve been in each other’s heads and in each other’s interviews since he came into MMA,” stated Pulver during an interview conducted in the days leading up to the rematch. “I’ve had to listen to B.J. Penn this and B.J. Penn that. He’s like my archrival. It’s always been the two of us and that’s only because of the success that we’ve had.”

The feud appears to be over following Penn’s dominating win at the TUF 5 finale, with both going their separate ways. Pulver will return to the 14
5 lbs. division when he debuts for the WEC on September 5, while Penn is eyeing an eventual return to 170 lbs.

6. Frank Shamrock vs. Phil Baroni

What do you get when you take two larger than life personalities who know how to market a fight better than Don King?

You get a non-UFC main event that primarily relying on Internet marketing actually got people excited – no easy feat!

Baroni called Shamrock out in several interviews during his fi rst run in the UFC. Some of the “New York Bad Ass’” comments might have been misinterpreted, as Baroni looked up to Shamrock as a fi ghter and simply wanted a shot to prove himself against a man he considered to be one of the best in his weight class.

The war of words escalated and became extremely personal when Shamrock issued a series of YouTube videos that took the feud to a new level. From mocking Baroni’s amateur bodybuilding background, to accusing him of using steroids, Shamrock did whatever he could to build interest in a potential match.

Baroni soon struck back in the press and accused Shamrock of having no heart, coming back simply for the money, being a pussy. He even hurled some homophobic slurs at Frank.

If the feud was ugly the subsequent payoff was beautiful! Shamrock and Baroni’s match in June did what few thought it could do: live up to the pre-fight hype.

Both men entered the fight injured and left the cage looking like victims of a car crash. Shamrock walked out the victor after applying a rear naked choke on Baroni toward the latter stages of the second round.

5. Tito Ortiz vs. Dana White

Do you remember cringing at the utter lack of realism of the WWE during the years it featured an over the top and completely unrealistic feud between “The Chairman of the Board” Vince Mc- Mahon and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin? Who knew we’d get to see a real-life version a few years later between White and Ortiz?

White actually was Ortiz’s manager during the early portion of Tito’s career, before Dana and the Fertittas bought the UFC from SEG. Apparently their friendship couldn’t withstand the change of White going from having worked for Ortiz to Ortiz working for White.

After multiple dustups during contract negotiations, Ortiz negotiated a boxing match against White that was to have taken place this past April. Ortiz never showed. The reason why the glorified sparring session never took place has been open to interpretation from both parties.

The nature of the feud has always been very personal, but White may have outdone himself during an interview with Steve Cofield on Sporting News Radio during the morning of UFC 73:

Dana White: The guy (Ortiz), I’m telling you, he’s not the brightest bulb on the porch. He’s a complete moron and what’s scarier is that he doesn’t think he is. He thinks he’s intelligent; he thinks he’s smart and articulate. So that’s a scary combination.

Steve Cofield: Maybe it goes back to Rashad Evans and our comments about Jenna Jameson? Maybe Jenna is too good to him? Maybe he needs a battleaxe …

White: That’s two idiots together. That’s even worse, that’s double idiot power right there. That’s his manager, whom I’ve had to talk to on the phone several times and I’d rather talk to this table right here then have a conversation with that moron again.

To date, we have yet to have any “yo momma” cracks but we’re not ruling anything out.

4. Wanderlei Silva vs. Chuck Liddell

There appears to be nothing personal between Silva and Liddell, but a strong professional rivalry has existed between them for years which has, in fact outlived the feud between Pride and the UFC. .

UFC president Dana White tried to facilitate a match between the two by having Liddell enter the Pride Middleweight Grand Prix in 2003

Unfortunately, Liddell spoiled the anticipated payoff of a matchup between the two in the finals after he was TKO’d at 3:10 in the second round against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.

Another attempt to have Silva and Liddell face each other was made last year. White announced at UFC 61 that Liddell would fight Silva in November if Liddell was able to beat Renato “Babalu” Sobral at UFC 62.

Following Liddell’s quick win over Sobral at UFC 62, a made-for-TV stare down between the two took place in the middle of the Octagon, with neither man backing down. However disaster struck once again when Silva was knocked out by a head kick from Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic during PRIDE’s Final Confl ict Absolute last September.

Talks of a match were rekindled following Liddell’s loss to Jackson at UFC 71. However, in a July article by Kevin Iole of Yahoo!, White revealed that the fight was off yet again and claimed that Silva turned down the chance to fight Liddell at UFC 76 on Sept. 22 in Anaheim. Silva responded and claimed he wanted to fight Liddell in November, as his move to the US would interfere with training.

Have no fear, because as we went to press there were rumors that Silva and Liddell could finally meet during the UFC’s event scheduled for Dec. 29. Both warriors want the match to happen and it seems inevitable that this feud will move from the negotiation table and into the cage.

Boxing had Ali vs. Frazier, and MMA needs Liddell vs. Silva.

3. Kazushi Sakuraba vs. The Gracie Family

This was a feud so big that it involved an entire family, and it earned Sakuraba the nickname “The Gracie Hunter.”

At PRIDE 8 in 1999, Sakuraba became the first Japanese fighter to defeat a Gracie since 1955, when Masahiko Kimura was victorious over Helio Gracie in a submission Judo match in Brazil.

Kimura won that match by placing Helio in a reverse ude-garami. When the stubborn patriarch of the Gracie clan refused to submit, Helio’s older brother, Carlos, eventually threw in the towel. The match became so legendary that the move used to win the match was eventually re-named in Kimura’s honor.

In a twist so ironic it caused many to question the outcome of the match, Sakuraba defeated Royler Gracie with a Kimura at PRIDE 8 after the referee stopped the match with just seconds left in the final round.

Unhappy with the decision, the Gracies wanted a shot at redemption and nominated

Royler’s older brother, Royce, to take on Sakuraba in a match intended to restore the Gracie family name. The two would meet during the second round of the PRIDE Grand Prix in 2000.

Sakuraba was victorious yet again in a match with a controversial outcome. At Gracie’s request, there was no time limit to
prevent judges from deciding the outcome. After 90 minutes of action, between rounds another Gracie would throw in a towel. This time it was Royce’s brother, Rorion.

Sakuraba would go on to defeat Royce’s cousin, Renzo, at PRIDE 10 in 2000 and Renzo’s brother, Ryan Gracie, at PRIDE 12, also in 2000.

Royce finally got one back for the family by winning a decision over Sakuraba at K-1’s Dynamite USA!! event in June, but the win was tainted after the California State Athletic Commission claimed that Gracie had tested positive for steroids.

Knowing the warrior spirit of both Sakuraba and the Gracies, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this feud produce one more match.

Rickson vs. Sakuraba, anyone?

2. Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock

No UFC main event in the pre-TUF era garnered more mainstream attention than the first Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock battle.

The bad blood between Shamrock and Ortiz didn’t spill publicly until after Ortiz did his grave digging routine following his TKO victory over Lion’s Den fighter Guy Mezger. Shamrock took issue with Ortiz’s antics and Tito responded by flipping him the bird with both hands.

The first match between the two took place at UFC 40, and ended after Shamrock’s corner threw in the towel in the third round. Ortiz had taken over the fight and pummeled Shamrock, turning his face into hamburger meat.

The sequels in this trilogy were about as necessary and compelling as the follow- ups to The Matrix. However the box office gods couldn’t be ignored and the pair had two more fights in which Ortiz manhandled the faded Shamrock both times stopping him well inside the first round.

1. PRIDE vs. UFC

There is no MMA-related feud more responsible for heated arguments than the rivalry that existed between PRIDE and the UFC. For years, MMA fans argued as to which promoter was the premier fight organization.

Verbal salvos were fired from each side of the globe for years, prompting calls for head-to-head matches to decide once and for all which promotion was tops.

There was some PRIDE vs. UFC crossover, such as Liddell competing in the Middleweight GP, and former UFC heavyweight champion Ricco Rodriguez competing in the PRIDE Heavyweight GP in 2003. However, without a definitive head-to-head challenge, a conclusive answer to which promotion was stronger was never provided. As such, the debate lives on.

This feud came to a literal end on March 27 when press conferences were held in Japan and in the United States to officially announce that Dream Stage Entertainment had sold PRIDE to Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta. While the purchase wasn’t completed until May, 3/27/07 is a date that will live in MMA infamy for many diehard fans.


Some feuds we’d like to see, just so we could watch the fights:

Wanderlei Silva vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua

For years the two had been teammates with Chute Boxe in Curitiba, Brazil, making any matchup between the two impossible. While still unlikely to happen, the fact that Silva is now based in the U.S. has at least opened the window a little.

Dan Henderson vs. Matt Lindland

Yes, we know that Henderson helps run the Team Quest franchise in California while Lindland helps run the franchise in Oregon. But what if the two Olympic silver medalists weren’t affiliated and had a beef? That would be one hell of a showdown between two dudes with some serious cauliflower ear.

Anderson Silva vs. Paulo Filho

Another forbidden matchup between friends. But what if they weren’t training partners and didn’t have the same manager, Eddie Suarez? It would feature the best Muay Thai striker in the middleweight division against the best Jiu-Jitsu practitioner at 185 pounds. With both now fighting for Zuffa, there could be a lot of public pressure for the two to fight if Silva cleans out the UFC middleweight division and Filho accomplishes likewise in the WEC.

Brock Lesnar vs. Fedor Emelianenko

Many still have questions about Lesnar following his quick win over Min Soo-kim at Dynamite USA!! on June 2, but we dare you to name a heavyweight out there with more upside potential. If Lesnar reaches that potential, he’ll be a legitimate challenger to Fedor and a match between the two could be epic.

Kid Yamamoto vs. Urijah Faber

There are a lot of people who consider Urijah Faber the top 145-pound fighter in the world, and there are those who claim that distinction belongs to Kid Yamamoto. Despite Faber being in the WEC and Yamamoto being in K-1, the best two featherweights in the world seem destined to fight.

The IFL vs. EliteXC

Despite a team-based format, the IFL will have champions in every weight class following the completion of its first-ever Grand Prix on December 29. IFL co-owner and commissioner Kurt Otto has gone on the record as saying he’s serious about having the respective winners of the IFL’s division GPs challenge another fi ght promotion in an IFLstyle best-of-five team showdown.

EliteXC live events president Gary Shaw is the only other major MMA promoter to express a willingness to work with competing fight promotions, so how about a head-to-head battle between them? If marketed right, the attention generated could help elevate both in the eyes of the mainstream, and could feature potential matchups such as Nick Diaz vs. Chris Horodecki, Jake Shields vs. Jay Hieron, and Murilo “Ninja” Rua vs. Benji Radach.

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