I want to preface this article with a statement from myself, ahem. "There's no way in hell I can get everyone on here!", said as I changed yet another placement on this list. Every fan has a favorite fighter, or at least ones they like watching. I'm not exactly a lifelong fan of MMA, if anything I'm a relative newcomer. But I'm a student of history, and in my short time I've learned a lot. I put off another article because this idea so firmly planted in my mind, I wanna make a list of my favorite fighters. After hours of debating with myself, I've done just that. So I wanted to put it out there on my favorite source for MMA, and get a good conversation with everyone here about the topic. Consider this a "getting to know you" exercise, as I love the conversations with all of you great MMA fans I've had so far. As a fair warning, I couldn't include a lot of favorites, even if I did a top 50 (though if this sparks some good interest I might do a top 25), so some of my top fighters like GSP, Dan Henderson, Rich Franklin, and even Fedor didn't quite make the cut. But I know quite a few will be met with like mindedness and maybe even surprise.
15. David Rickels
Despite only just having come to my notice, I can't get enough of "The Caveman". From his crazy walkouts, odd tendencies and heavy hands, I want to watch his fights again and again. His relative newness landed him at #15, but he's still fast become a favorite.
14. Jens Pulver
From his grungy style, to his heavy hands, Jens Pulver knocked off a lot of competition in making this list. The early lightweight is one tough dude, and his fights are never boring. He originally didn't make it in, but after some consideration #14 seemed right.
13. Matt Brown
Another relative newcomer to my MMA knowledge, I knew "The Immortal" would land early on this list. His aggresive and entertaining style translates well in every fight, and though he isn't the biggest of personalities, his story is one that sat familiar with me and I couldn't help but add him to this list.
12: "The Smashing Machine" Mark Kerr
Pride granted me many of my all time favorite fighters with it's extensive talent pool and unrestrictive rules. One man who flew under my radar the longest time was Mark Kerr, but after watching his fights as well as the documentary about his life titled "The Smashing Machine", his story hit hard, and though his career was never what it could have been, he became one of my fringe favorites.
11. Jon "Bones" Jones
As much as I hate adding him to this list, I knew I couldn't deny him a spot. If ever a polarizing athlete existed, it's Jon Jones. While I may have many issues with him, I can't find myself hating him. His fights are exciting, he's shown he can be very likable and even charming, and he still has room to grow. The #11 spot went to him from the inception of this list, as his attitude, like his reach, kept me a distance.
10. Andrei "The Pitbull" Arlovski
With his encroaching return to the UFC, Arlovski drew my attention after a long time of disregarding him. And rewatching his fights, I found that had really grown to like his style, the big gritty Belarusian with his big punches and surprising groundwork won me over and while he was originally lower on the list. He bumped up to the #10 spot thanks to the fact that we'll be seeing more of him soon enough.
9. Pat Miletich
Originally Miletich had Pulver's spot and Jens hadn't made the cut at all, but my love of the old school guys won out and both men made this list. Not only was he one hell of a tough character, but he had exactly the personality to put him over. Even when he wasn't fighting he got great exposure thanks to the many championship fighters his gym cranked out (many who were considered for this list). Miletich made a leap in the ranks at the last moment, but earned this spot.
8. "The American Psycho" Stephan Bonnar
Honestly, this one surprised even me. Even through every rewrite I made (which was a ton), Stephan Bonnar held this #8 spot start to finish. I couldn't give it to anyone else. Stephan was a workhorse of a Light-Heavyweight, was loveable no matter if he won or lost, was well rounded, deceptively intelligent, and just down to Earth honest to goodness likable. He held his spot even when Forrest Griffin (one of my all time favorites), didn't make the cut. Never the greatest, but certainly a favorite.
7. Chael Sonnen
I know you're probably thinking "Really? Chael Sonnen? Worst list ever!" but give me a chance here. I know Sonnen isn't the most likable of fighters, and is polarizing in his own right. But his coaching roles on the Ulitimate Fighter cinched this for him. As far as his fights go, some people find him boring. But I really like his style, his boxing is steadily improving, he's a wrestler who is wrestling to finish the fight rather than outpoint and beyond that, his personality while abrasive is still very likable. Originally he wasn't going to make the list, but the sheer cajones it takes to call out Anderson Silva and then piss him off before fighting him makes a winner in my book.
6. Chris "The Crippler" Leben
Leben was another late addition to this list, and indeed isn't the greatest of fighters. But after looking back on it, I knew I made a mistake in leaving him out. Tenacity is something that can't be taught, it takes a lot of it to do what Chris Leben did. His style of plod in and kill or be killed, come what may, swinging away isn't what you'd call beautiful. But it was exciting, his harsh abrasive exterior hid a very emotional person, a very relatable person. While he had a lot of moments he wasn't exactly the good guy, you still couldn't help but admire his tenacity, and it won out for him in this list.
5. "The Axe Murderer" Wanderlei Silva
Starting out my top 5 is one of the two men who made me a fan of MMA to begin with. This guy screams intimadating with everything from his looks to his name and his style backed it up. Crushing opponents under a storm of soccer kicks, stomps, and knees. There was a time Wanderlei Silva looked invincible, before getting "Cro-copped" (who also didn't make this list, unfortunately) Silva was that dude you never wanted to meet in a dark alleyway. While he's becoming a joke as of late, he still earned his bragging rights back in the day as one of the men who epitomized Pride.
4. Randy "The Natural" Couture
Randy Couture is an old man, but don't you dare tell him that. The hard nosed old grappler may never be welcome back in the UFC, but while we was there he certainly made it known. Couture was in the octagon until he was 47 years old, at 43 he beat the Heavyweight champion of the world. Before that he upset titans like Chuck Liddell, Vitor Belfort, and Tito Ortiz. Coupled with his personality and sheer mindblowing willfulness, this man made a lot of fans.
3. "The Prodigy" BJ Penn
BJ Penn is alot of things, including kind of a jerk. He loves to trash talk, and stroke his ego. As many fighters as we hate for that, Penn pulls this off so flawlessly that I can't help but love listening to it. At one point, BJ Penn owned the Lightweight divison, and when he got bored beating up Lightweights, he started beating up Welterweights. He held titles in two seperate weight classes, an accomplishment few men can claim. Even when he lost, he still made us believe he could win. It was difficult to place him on this list and took a few rewrites for him to end up at #3 but he couldn't be denied on this one.
For me, Sakuraba is the living defintion of everything that was great about Pride. Even more so than Fedor. Sakuraba doesn't have the greatest record, but he may well have the greatest presence of any man. His theatrical entrances, his indominatble spirit, he would fight any man, of any size. He was respectful, innovative, intelligent, and endlessly tough. And even so, he was an everyman, an underdog, someone that any fight fan could relate to. His battles against the Gracie family were the stuff of legend (even a GJJ student like me respects that), and even as his career waned. Nobody could deny Kazushi Sakuraba his warrior spirit.
1. "The Iceman" Chuck Liddell
There are a lot of reasons Chuck Liddell is my favorite fighter, and chiefly among them is the fact that you don't need to know anything about MMA to know about Chuck Liddell. His face is what someone who has never heard of MMA would imagine of it's fighters. From his broad mohawk, scalp tattoo, walking along throwing his arms up and mean mugging the camera, down to his paunchy beer gut hiding a set of abs. This dude walks the walk, talks the talk, and for years, if you stood in a cage with him, you were going to sleep wether you liked it or not. Chuck Liddell was a wrestler, not that anyone would have ever known that, because rarely did he utilize his skills offensively. Liddell terrified with his striking, and staunch refusal to be on the ground. And god did it work, Liddell spent his time as the uncrowned king of the Light-heavyweight division knocking out anyone they put in the cage with him, and his grungy average joe attitude and rockstar popularity turned him into a sensation. Without Liddell, I never would have given MMA a second glance, or got as into it as I did. And that is more than enough to land the man this #1 spot.