The UFC is home to one of the greatest mixed martial artists in the world. Professional fighters, whether they come from boxing, kickboxing or MMA backgrounds, are some of the bravest athletes in any sport. It is often said that those who make the way to the cage deserve total respect.
Thus, the idea of fighters avoiding certain opponents is often considered ridiculous. The very suggestion is laughable.
But there have been situations that have called the notion into question. For example, at the height of his success, Fedor Emelianenko was one of the most shunned MMA fighters in the world. The world’s biggest heavyweights were accused of avoiding it at the time.
It’s a phenomenon that has followed incredibly dominant fighters for the majority of their careers. The UFC is no different. Some mixed martial artists have encountered considerable difficulty when it comes to finding willing dance partners. So, this list explores 5 UFC fighters, past and present, who are among the most dodged mixed martial artists in the promotion’s history.
#5. Jon Fitch
Prior to his UFC 87 match against Georges St-Pierre, Jon Fitch was on a 16-fight winning streak. With a record of 19 wins and 2 losses, Fitch was as high level as anyone in 2008. Of those 19 wins, 8 of Fitch’s wins came in the UFC. His matchup with ‘GSP’ remains his only UFC title fight and he earned it after 8 straight wins.
The alleged difficulty the NCAA Division I standout had in winning a title fight stemmed from his opponents ducking it. Prior to 2006, preliminary bouts were not shown. So fighters like Jon Fitch who plied their trade in the foreplay had no visibility. Between 2006 and 2007, the future WSOF welterweight champion was on a tear.
Fitch’s 8-fight unbeaten streak included wins over top welterweights like Thiago Alves and Diego Sanchez. Unfortunately, not being known beating everyone in sight made him a feared match. Opponents came to view a matchup with him as a lose-lose situation, as they would lose to a stranger or defeat someone unknown.
#4. Ryan Room
Ryan Hall being a heavily shunned fighter has become something of a meme in MMA internet culture. However, there is credit behind this claim. The third-degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt’s journey to the UFC came to a sudden halt after his unanimous decision victory over Gray Maynard in 2016. For the next 2 years, Ryan Hall struggled to get a fight.
Finally, in 2018, MMA legend BJ Penn accepted a fight with the grappling sensation. Alas, Penn’s efforts exploded. Hall got a heel hook within 2 minutes of the first round and Penn had no choice but to tap out. Hall submitting a struggling wizard like BJ was proof of why the rising featherweight was so often shunned.
Ryan Hall’s goofy fighting style made him a frustrating match for most. Taking the fight to the mat was reckless due to his dangerous submission game. Meanwhile, his strike is all about striking enemies openly without fear of consequences.
This is due to his opponents’ aversion to parrying his kicks and rushing inside those kicks, as Hall will eagerly draw anyone who gets too close to his guard.
#3. Kamaru Usman
The former UFC welterweight champion is one of the greatest fighters in the promotion’s history. Kamaru Usman’s current MMA record is 20-2, with his last loss to Leon Edwards at UFC 278. Long before ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ was firmly in title contention, he was one of the UFC most avoided fighters.
Prior to securing a top 10 opponent, Kamaru Usman was on a 7-fight winning streak in the promotion. Most fighters don’t need that long to win matchups with top 10 enemies.
The former champion’s victory over Emil Weber Meek was followed by a fight against Demian Maia; recognize the huge leap forward in competition.
The Nigerian only won a top 10 fight after 2 years in the UFC. He was so often dodged that Ariel Helwani claimed he was told by a company representative that Kamaru Usman was the most dodged fighter in UFC history.
#2. Anderson Silva
Very few fighters have been so shunned as Anderson Silva was at the peak of his powers. The fear other fighters had for the Brazilian was so strong that it forced him to briefly drop out of his division in pursuit of fights in the 205-pound weight class. More so, “The Spider” was dodged by fighters while he was the reigning middleweight champion.
The champions avoided by contenders are almost unknown. Typically, fighters are shunned during the youth of their careers when presenting risky matchups due to their tough style while having no name recognition. In 2008 alone, Anderson Silva was reportedly dodged by Thiago Silva, Rashad Evans, Keith Jardine and Brandon Vera.
What made the supposed dodge even more amazing was that Rashad Evans is a former light heavyweight champion and Brandon Vera is a former ONE heavyweight champion. Even then, the threat posed by Anderson Silva in 2008 would have been greater than Rashad Evans facing Jon Jones and Brandon Vera battling for a title in a heavier division.
Even the great Georges St-Pierre avoided challenging Anderson Silva and only sought to win middleweight gold once the title was held by an easier opponent like Michael Bisping.
#1. Khabib Nurmagomedov
Khabib Nurmagomedov’s career will always be followed by a massive amount of guesswork. The Russian’s unbeaten record will always be the subject of intense scrutiny by admirers and detractors alike. What many may not know, however, is how much Nurmagomedov faced trying to find willing opponents ahead of his momentous unified title win over Conor McGregor at UFC 229.
“The Eagle” has been shunned by Nate Diaz, Eddie Alvarez, Anthony Pettis, Gilbert Melendez and even Conor McGregor. In 2014, long before Diaz faced McGregor, he turned down a match with Nurmagomedov. The Stockton legend repeated his rejection of the fight in 2017 when the promotion sought a replacement opponent for Nurmagomedov after Tony Ferguson’s dispute with the promotion led to a stalemate.
While you can’t trust everything Dana White says, let’s hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.
Similarly, Eddie Alvarez avoided a fight with ‘The Eagle’ at UFC 205 in favor of a fight with Conor McGregor (who was not ranked at lightweight at the time) despite Khabib signing the contract. Nurmagomedov. When Nurmagomedov was looking for a replacement opponent at UFC 223, Alvarez once again turned down the offer.
Gilbert Melendez pulled out of his UFC 170 match with the Russian for undisclosed reasons and never looked to book the fight again. Like Eddie Alvarez, Anthony Pettis refused to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 demanding a higher salary than the promotion was willing to offer.
Finally, after a one-sided victory over Eddie Alvarez, Conor McGregor dismissed suggestions that he would fight “The Eagle”. Instead, “The Notorious” then boxed Floyd Mayweather Jr.