While 2000-2009 was MMA’s breakout decade, every ying has its yang. Here are some of the worst moments of the decade.
Tito Ortiz Retains Belt in Sudden Blackout at UFC 33, Sept. 28, 2001
Tito Ortiz’s unanimous decision title defense against Vladimir Matyushenko never saw television. The pay-per-view cut out near the end of the first mixed martial arts event to be sanctioned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission making this card one of Zuffa’s worst memories from its early days of UFC ownership.
Gilbert Yvel Gouges Don Frye’s Eye at PRIDE 16, Sept. 24, 2001
There is a reason that some thought Gilbert Yvel’s application to fight in Nevada would be denied leading up to UFC 108, and that is that the kickboxer is known more for unsportsmanlike antics than his devastating striking. That side of Yvel was on display when he was disqualified for eye gouging “The Predator” at PRIDE 16.
Ken Shamrock Comes Up Short Versus Kazushi Sakuraba at PRIDE 30, Oct. 25, 2005
Ken Shamrock’s tangle with Kazushi Sakuraba was everything his war with Don Frye wasn’t—a strange affair signaling the UFC Hall of Famer’s rapid downfall. Sakuraba connected with punches early and earned a TKO. Shamrock claims he ducked through the ropes, which caused the fight to end abruptly because of heart palpitations and not the punches.
Honorable Mention: On Feb. 13, 2009, Shamrock armbarred an unknown, out-of-shape superheavyweight named Ross Clifton, snapping a four-year, five-fight losing streak. “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” was popped for steroids immediately after the bout.
James Thompson Pummels Hidehiko Yoshida at PRIDE Shockwave 2006, Dec. 31, 2006
PRIDE referees had a reputation for encouraging Japanese fighters to victory; however, there was never such a gross display of negligent favoritism like there was when James Thompson battered Hidehiko Yoshida. The massive Brit beat Yoshida into the ground but rather than stop the fight, the referee restarted the bout in the center of the ring, dragging Yoshida so he could continue, if only for a few more punches.
Marlon Sims and Noah Thomas’ ‘TUF’ Street Fight, 2007
The Ultimate Fighter has featured horrendous insults (“fatherless bastard”), the unwanted and unsanitary exchange of male-to-male body fluids and Junie Browning’s famed tirades, but nothing represented mixed martial arts worse to the general public than an in-house fight between Marlon Sims and Noah Thomas on season five of The Ultimate Fighter.
The two fighters drunkenly battled in the reality show pad’s backyard. Sims slammed Thomas on the back of his head on the cement in a full-on street fight. It was a gut-wrenching moment. UFC President Dana White rightfully booted them from the show and pointed out that was everything the image the sport has fought so hard to shed.
Chuck Liddell / Wanderlei Silva Face Off Fail at UFC 61, July 8, 2006
Fans salivated when storied champions and rivals Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva stared each other down center Octagon at UFC 61, teasing a fight between the two best 205-pounders in the world. When Liddell disposed of Renato “Babalu” Sobral, he was meant to meet the “Ax Murderer,” according to UFC President Dana White. The deal never happened though as the Japanese promotion failed to come to terms with the UFC on an exchange. The UFC had previously sent Liddell to Japan in a talent exchange, only to never receive any talent back.
Kimbo Slice Cut Down on CBS, Oct. 4, 2008
Kevin Ferguson, known as “Kimbo Slice,” has an amazing story. From homeless ex-athlete to porn industry bodyguard to backyard brawler and finally an MMA neophyte, Slice capitalized on his YouTube fame en route to major paydays on EliteXC cards. After a 3-0 start, Slice was scheduled to face Ken Shamrock on CBS, but “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” suffered the world’s most mysterious cut before the fight and was replaced by journeyman Seth Petruzelli. Fourteen seconds into the first round, EliteXC’s cash cow lay slaughtered on the floor, and the ensuing controversy surrounding Petruzelli’s claim (later retracted) that he was paid to keep the fight standing led to the shaky promotion’s demise.
Thales Leites Refuses to Fight Anderson Silva at UFC 97, April 18, 2009
Anderson Silva, one of the greatest fighters of the last decade and FIGHT!’s current reader’s choice pound-for-pound champ, will forever have a black mark on his career and it’s hardly his fault. Silva was unusually tentative against his Leites at UFC 97, but the Nova Uniao black belt refused to engage the champ for the bout’s 25-minute limit. The fact that the boring bout played out in front of a raucous, North American attendance record-breaking crowd of 21,451 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada only made fans and UFC brass angrier.
Honorable Mention: Kalib Starnes spent a large portion of his UFC 83 match versus Nate Quarry running backwards and refusing to engage. He later claimed that he broke his foot early in the fight, but one would think that would hamper his ability to flee Quarry as quickly as he did throughout the fight.
Brock Lesnar’s Shenanigans at UFC 100, July 11, 2009
After demolishing Frank Mir to retain the UFC Heavyweight Championship, UFC star Brock Lesnar cursed at an absent, recovering Mir. He also threw up his middle fingers, made a tacky allusion to having sex with his wife, and worst of all, trashed Zuffa’s biggest sponsor, Bud Light. It was a public relations nightmare on the most watched UFC pay-per-view in history—a landmark event commemorating the UFC. The incident was on ESPN and overshadowed Lesnar’s own excellent performance and welterweight king Georges St. Pierre’s dominant display over number one contender Thiago Alves.
FIGHT! Fans: Do you agree with my list? Are there low-lights that you think I left out?