Two influential names in the history of mixed martial arts announced retirements recently.
Dan Henderson said he was hanging up the gloves after his UFC 204 fight with Michael Bisping earlier this month. Urijah Faber announced on The MMA Hour last week that his last fight would be against Brad Pickett at UFC on FOX 22 on Dec. 17 in his hometown of Sacramento.
For different reasons, Henderson and Faber are luminaries and major fan favorites. There's a very good chance both of them will be in the UFC Hall of Fame one day, maybe even soon.
That got me thinking. Who else on the current UFC roster will eventually end up in the promotion's Hall of Fame?
It's certainly an inexact science. The UFC picks and chooses who gets in and who does not. There is no voting done by a media association like in other sports. So, it's impossible to know who will be inducted.
Below is a list divided by category, taking into account what the UFC usually looks for when it's making decisions like this.
There are the sure things, who are almost definitely going to get in barring unforeseen circumstances. Then there are the "getting close," who could get in if they retired today, but it's not certain. After that, there are the "on the bubble" names, who have some question marks and variables attached to them. And finally, there are the "work to do" fighters, the ones who still have a shot at a Hall of Fame berth, but are not quite there yet.
Keep in mind, this is completely subjective and entirely my opinion. Think of this as more a stirrer of debate than any kind of hard-line stance.
Jose Aldo. The Brazilian was one of the top two pound-for-pound fighters in the world for years, went undefeated for nearly a decade, and defended the UFC/WEC featherweight title nine times, one off the UFC mark set by Anderson Silva.
Vitor Belfort. PED whispers throughout his career mar things a bit, but Belfort is a former UFC light heavyweight champion, a former heavyweight tournament champion, and continues to perform at a relatively high level 20 years after he debuted in the UFC. He's also arguably the most popular fighter in the history of MMA in his home country of Brazil.
Michael Bisping. Before he beat Luke Rockhold to win the middleweight title back in June, he was close, but now it seems to be a certainty that "The Count" will get in. Bisping has been in the UFC for 10 solid years, won The Ultimate Fighter 3, and remains one of the most reviled villains in the history of the promotion — more relevant now than ever before with gold around his waist.
Nick Diaz. Factor in his accomplishments in Strikeforce and this is a no-brainer. Diaz has always been more than about just wins and losses, though. He's a cult hero and still one of the most well-known names in MMA. The Stockton bad boy arguably still has the biggest money fights of his career ahead, too.
Frankie Edgar. Every fighter's favorite fighter. Ever the underdog, always the smaller man, Edgar has emerged victorious from war after war in the UFC. He's a former lightweight champion, despite cutting almost no weight to get there, and one of the biggest fan favorites to ever do it. At age 35, he still might take a run at the bantamweight belt.
Urijah Faber. Faber is not a sure thing to some, but MMA is every bit as much about drawing power as it is record at times. "The California Kid" is one of the most popular lighter weight fighters ever and he drew the numbers — an average of more than 900,000 viewers for his WEC fights on Versus — to prove it. Faber is a pioneer for the smaller weight classes.
Dan Henderson. No arguments could be made against "Hendo." Some even consider him on of the pound-for-pound greats, because of his victories at heavyweight, light heavyweight and middleweight, stretching from the UFC to PRIDE to Strikeforce and back to the UFC. He was a champ in every promotion except for the UFC, but always knocking on the door there.
Demetrious Johnson. Joe Rogan will tell you "Mighty Mouse" is the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet, and he might be right. Johnson is a supernova, the best flyweight fighter of all time. He is two title defenses away from tying Anderson Silva's record of 10.
Jon Jones. The only things standing in the way of him being the best of all time are his own outside-the-cage issues. But some believe he's already there and it's hard to dispute. Jones had eight title defenses in five years as light heavyweight champion and did things in the Octagon that are hard to imagine. A relentlessly athletic and skilled talent. One of a kind.
Brock Lesnar. No matter how his doping case plays out, Lesnar has left a substantial mark in the UFC. Set aside his incredible pay-per-view drawing power for a second and consider that he won the UFC heavyweight title in his fourth fight, beating Randy Couture. No small feat for a massive, freakish athlete.
Conor McGregor. The book is far from closed on McGregor's legacy, but he's already arguably the biggest financial draw in UFC history, piling up records just about every time he competes. If he beats Eddie Alvarez next month, he'll be the first UFC fighter to ever hold titles in two weight classes at the same time. "The Notorious" has been nothing short of a phenomenon.
Ronda Rousey. She was the first UFC women's fighter, the first UFC women's champion and will almost surely be the first woman inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. Rightfully so. There still might not be women's MMA in the UFC without her and her string of dominance over a two-year stretch, beating opponents in just seconds, may never be matched. That doesn't even factor in that she's the biggest mainstream star MMA has ever known.
Anderson Silva. Many would argue that Silva is the greatest of all time and all the statistics back that up. Silva held the UFC middleweight title for seven years, defended it a UFC record 10 times and won 16 straight bouts, also a UFC record. "The Spider" was also a consummate showman, finishing fights with flair. He's never been boring, that's for sure.
Georges St-Pierre. Comeback or no comeback, St-Pierre is one of the greatest to ever do it. He held the UFC welterweight title for six years, including nine title defenses. GSP was also the most consistent top draw in UFC history and made MMA wildly popular in his home country of Canada almost singlehandedly. A legend through and through.
Cain Velasquez. For about a five-year stretch, Velasquez was the most dominant heavyweight in the UFC. Injuries have been his bugaboo, but he's still a two-time champion and tied with three others with two title defenses at heavyweight. Velasquez, at age 34, is still going strong and closing in on another title shot.
Donald Cerrone. UFC president Dana White has dubbed him inconsistent and maybe he has not always won the big fights, but "Cowboy" is one of the best brands in UFC history, wildly popular, and a guarantee to be exciting just about every time out.
Daniel Cormier. Cormier is the current UFC light heavyweight champion, the former Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix winner, and has excelled in both weight classes. He has just one blemish on his incredible record: a loss to Jon Jones.
Dominick Cruz. To come back from having just one fight in five years due to injury to regain the UFC bantamweight title against the very talented T.J. Dillashaw still boggles the mind. Cruz has not lost a fight since 2007.
Nate Diaz. His big brother Nick had drawn the majority of the headlines until this year. Nate fought Conor McGregor twice, beat him once, and they were two of the best drawing bouts in UFC history. What's next for Nate Diaz? Whatever he wants.
Robbie Lawler. It's incredible to think Lawler's first UFC fight was all the way back in 2002 and just earlier this year he was the UFC welterweight champion. His career resurgence has been epic, made most memorable by the violent, bloody wars that seem to follow him around.
Alistair Overeem. If you take into account what Overeem has done in Pride, Dream, and Strikeforce, this is easy — he's a Hall of Famer. The talented Dutch big man had a chance to cement it and win the UFC title last month, but fell to Stipe Miocic. He's still one of the top heavyweights in the world.
Fabricio Werdum. Wins over Fedor Emelianenko and Cain Velasquez alone have Werdum in the Hall of Fame conversation. If he can beat Velasquez again in December, there will be no doubt of his place. One of the very best heavyweights to ever do it.
ON THE BUBBLE
Andrei Arlovski. One of the most well-known heavyweights of the last two decades and a former UFC champion. Recent run in the UFC raised his stock.
Josh Barnett. Former UFC and Pancrase champion, had great success in Pride and Strikeforce, but has not always had the greatest relationship with UFC brass. A pioneer.
Cris Cyborg. The most dominant female fighter in UFC history and she's been doing it 10 years. The only thing that might keep her out is her frosty relations with the UFC.
Rashad Evans. For seven years, Evans was nearly unbeatable. Since then, the former light heavyweight champ is 2-4 and recently moved to 185. Still has lots of big wins on his résumé.
Lyoto Machida. There was a time when Machida in the Hall of Fame was a foregone conclusion, but a recent rough stretch and a pending doping case have made things murkier.
Gilbert Melendez. Mr. Strikeforce helped build up that promotion under Scott Coker, holding the lightweight title for most of four years. His UFC run has been lackluster, though.
Frank Mir. Held the UFC heavyweight and interim heavyweight titles and took part in the UFC 100 main event against Brock Lesnar. A rough late stretch and failed drug test hurt his chances.
Mauricio Rua. "Shogun" was a terror in Pride and has long been a beloved name in MMA. He's a former UFC light heavyweight champion, but faced bouts of inconsistency and injury.
WORK TO DO