The UFC Hall of Fame recognizes the greatest MMA fighters to ever step inside the Octagon. It’s a good list: Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn, Randy Couture, Mark Coleman, Chuck Liddell, Charles Lewis Jr. (MMA supporter), Matt Hughes, Tito Ortiz, Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar.
Unfortunately, it’s also a list made up of people who at the time were in good favor with UFC President Dana White. It makes sense on many levels. Why would the UFC promote and elevate the status of a fighter who has left the organization, or who has disparaged the company?
From a business perspective, it’s logical that the UFC would shun some fighters who have badmouthed the UFC, or who have never stepped inside the Octagon. The problem, however, with that logic, is that if you are a great fighter, you are a great fighter. And if the UFC Hall of Fame is about great fighters than there are others who should be there. If the UFC is about those who have made tremendous contributions to the UFC and MMA, then there are others who should be there.
Let’s take a look at some people who belong in the UFC Hall of Fame:
5. Brock Lesnar
MMA was big before Lesnar joined the company, but it got really big when Lesnar entered the Octagon. Lesnar brought mainstream attention to the company. He made ESPN, the LA Times and Sports Illustrated pay attention to MMA. The site alone of Lesnar would make any legitimate sportswriter stop. Lesnar was nowhere near one of the great heavyweights of all-time, but he was able to bring the masses to the sport and create a buzz unlike anything since and probably ever. His knockout of Randy Couture to win the UFC heavyweight championship stunned everybody. His annihilation of Frank Mir at UFC 100 is one of the UFC’s best moments. Lesnar, love him or hate him, was a great athlete who helped take the UFC to the next level.
4. Bas Rutten
Rutten didn’t spend a lot of time in the UFC. He won the UFC heavyweight championship in 1999, pre-Dana White days. He fought twice for the company at UFC 18 and 20. Rutten spent most of his career in Pancrase. When he retired in 2006, he left the sport with a record of 28-4, and a winner of 21 out of his last 22 fights. Rutten was a throwback to the early days of MMA. Tough, gritty and fearless. He was a great striker and enjoyed a legendary career in Pancrase, a three-time King of Pancrase champion. On top of his MMA ability, Rutten possesses a rare charisma for MMA fighters. He now works as an MMA analyst. Rutten would only bring positive attention to the UFC.
3. Gina Carano
Before Ronda Rousey and Meisha Tate, there was Gina Carano, the first face of women’s MMA. Against Cris “Cyborg” Santos in 2009, she headlined the first MMA event with two women in the main event, a show promoted by Strikeforce. Carano was one of those fighters who made MMA better. With her attractive face, she brought new eyes to the sport, and those eyes saw that MMA is not a bunch of barbarians fist-fighting. It’s a sport about technique, skill, athleticism, and, of course, raw fighting. Would there be a Ronda Rousey without a Gina Carano? Probably not. Carano was the perfect person at the right time. She was nice, popular and pleasant. People wanted to do business with her, and she paved the way for the female fighters to follow.
2. Fedor Emelianenko
The Last Emperor is arguably the greatest mixed martial artist of all time. He went 10 years undefeated before getting submitted by Fabricio Werdum in the first round with a triangle choke. But during that 10 years, Emelianenko beat fighters much bigger than him, fighters who were supposed to be harder punches than him, and fighters who were supposed to be in better athletic shape than him. Emelianenko was known for his leverage moves and awkward angles to throw his opponents off balance. He slapped submission holds on from just about any position. He was so big that he never needed to sign with the UFC. He became a one-man brand, known as the greatest fighter on the planet. The UFC tried to sign him, but was never able to ink a deal, largely because of the demands of Emelianenko’s management company M-1 Global. Although no numbers were ever discussed publicly, M-1 Global wanted more control and revenue from Emelianenko fights than the UFC wanted to give up. The two sides were never able to ink a deal and Emelianenko never fought in the UFC. Since he wasn’t created in the UFC, it’s not likely that he will ever get the credit he deserves by the biggest MMA promotion in the world.
1. Frank Shamrock
Think about this: He was the UFC’s first middleweight champion (later renamed the light heavyweight championship). He defended the title four times and never lost in the UFC. He was voted the Fighter of the Decade by Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter. He owns the record for the fastest UFC submission victory, 16 seconds, over Kevin Jackson. He is the only fighter to win titles in Pancrase, WEC and the UFC.
Yet, Shamrock is not in the UFC Hall of Fame.
Shamrock and White don’t get a along. Shamrock has been outspoken in his criticisms of the UFC over fighter pay and branding. He believes White puts the spotlight on the brand, over the fighters, which hurts the sport in the long run. White doesn’t believe that Shamrock is Hall of Fame-worthy. He said Shamrock didn’t contribute anything to the modern UFC. However way you slice it, Shamrock is widely respected by his colleagues, and most agree that he belongs in the UFC Hall of Fame.