MMA: Saddest Moments of 2011
The past year was undoubtedly the biggest in history for the sport of mixed martial arts.
Both the UFC and Bellator held more events than previous years and their long-term futures are bright.
Unfortunately, even with all of the positive things that took place over the last 12 months, there were a number of events that put a damper on the year.
Two past champions retired, a legend of the sport fell from grace and a famed trainer passed away.
The following is a recap of some of the saddest moments from 2011.
Dan Miller's Son Battles Kidney Disorder
As UFC middleweight Dan Miller can attest, not everything that matters in MMA takes place inside a cage.
The New Jersey native's one-year-old son, Daniel Jr., was diagnosed with a genetic kidney disorder known as polycystic kidney disease or PKD. Due to the condition, a kidney transplant is required.
Thanks to the support of the MMA community and the UFC, a number of donations have allowed Miller to schedule the transplant for January.
However, more donations and support are required, as the procedure is not covered by medical insurance.
For more information and to make a donation, check out the Daniel James Miller Foundation.
Chris Leben Suspended for a Year Following Positive Drug Test
Middleweight fighter Chris Leben tested positive for Oxycodone and Oxymorphone following his Nov. 5 loss to Mark Munoz at UFC 138 in Birmingham, England.
As a result of the positive test, Leben was suspended from fighting for one year by the promotion.
Leben was jailed for a DUI in 2008, suspended for nine months after UFC 89 after testing positive for Stanozolol and was again arrested in 2010 for suspicion of a second DUI.
Despite all of the issues, UFC President Dana White made it clear that the promotion stands behind the former Ultimate Fighter.
Japanese MMA Continues Decline
While the death of MMA in Japan has been exaggerated, it's impossible to deny that the state of it and combat sports in general are on life support.
Since the fall of the Pride organization, MMA in the land of the rising sun has never been the same, but organizations like Dream and Sengoku worked to carry the torch alongside smaller promotions like Deep and Shooto.
While Shooto and Deep have largely continued to operate in a similar manner, the World Victory Road owned Sengoku promotion folded after losing its primary financial backing. The promotion failed to hold an event in the past year.
Meanwhile, the Dream promotion continued to operate but only managed to put on four events. Dream parent company, Fields, also owns renowned kickboxing promotion K-1, yet failed to put on any events.
There's hope for the country in the near future, as the UFC will return for the first time since 2000 on Feb. 26 for UFC 144.
Fedor Emelianenko: The Fall of a Legend
When the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix was announced, many felt that it was the opportunity for former Pride champion and MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko to get redemption.
The Russian was defeated by Fabricio Werdum in 2010, marking the first loss in a decade.
However, the tournament spelled disaster for Emelianenko, as he was battered in the quarterfinals by Brazilian Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva.
Following the loss, Emelianenko would lock horns with fellow veteran Dan Henderson. Henderson finished Emelianenko by knockout, giving the Russian a three-fight losing streak and spelled the end of his run in the promotion.
Since his release, Emelianenko has rebounded by winning two straight fights, but his reputation had already taken a hit.
Nate Marquardt Fired from the UFC for Testosterone Debacle
UFC on Versus 4 was expected to be headlined by a welterweight bout between Rick Story and former middleweight title challenger Nate Marquardt.
However, Marquardt was pulled from the bout prior to weigh-ins after failing to receive medical clearance. The UFC subsequently fired Marquardt on the spot.
Following the shocking series of events, it was revealed by Marquardt that he was suffering from a testosterone deficiency and had undergone hormone replacement therapy.
After his UFC 128 bout with Dan Miller, the New Jersey State Athletic Commission requested that fighter see an endocrinologist, but before his next bout, the fighter was unable to get his hormone levels within the acceptable limits.
UFC President Dana White proclaimed that Marquardt would never compete in the promotion again, so the fighter went on to sign with the BAMMA promotion.
BJ Penn Calls It a Career
Former UFC welterweight and lightweight champion BJ Penn has called it a career (for now at least).
The Hawaiian fought Jon Fitch to a draw at UFC 127 in February but was battered in his UFC 137 headlining bout with Nick Diaz.
In his post-fight interview, Penn stated that he didn't want his daughter to see him get beaten up any longer.
Since the bout, the fighter has returned to light training but has yet to make any commitment to a return to the Octagon.
MMA Is Still Not Legal in New York
The sport of mixed martial arts is legal in nearly state within the United States and most Canadian provinces, and yet, one of the biggest markets, New York, still outlaws the sport.
Over the past few years, there have been major pushes to get the ban lifted in the state. The UFC has led the charge, and there appeared to be hope earlier in the year, but the legislation did not go to a vote.
All is not lost for fans on the East Coast as the promotion has filed a lawsuit challenging the ban on the sport, citing the first amendment.
Georges St-Pierre Tears ACL
UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre suffered a torn ACL and will be out 10 months.
The Canadian was forced out of a planned title defense against Nick Diaz at UFC 137 due to what was believed to be a sprained MCL.
Diaz fought BJ Penn at the event, and the fight was rescheduled for Super Bowl weekend.
However, in preparation for the UFC 143 bout, the severity of St-Pierre's injury was realized. Following surgery and rehab, the fighter will likely be out until late 2012.
The UFC has announced that Diaz will take on Carlos Condit for the interim welterweight title at the Feb. 4 event.
Brock Lesnar Retires
Former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar has decided to walk away from the sport.
The fighter has twice undergone surgery in recent years to combat the intestinal ailment diverticulitis.
Lesnar successfully returned after the first surgery to defend his belt against Shane Carwin, but his second bout with the disease took its toll on the fighter.
Retirement talk came from his camp earlier in the year, however, Lesnar did make another Octagon appearance, falling to former Strikeforce and K-1 champion Alistair Overeem at UFC 141.
The performance made it clear that Lesnar was not the same fighter as before, and his retirement was hardly a surprise.
However, Lesnar's resiliency and perseverance should not be ignored.
Shawn Tompkins Passes at Age 37
Former fighter and famed MMA trainer Shawn Tompkins died on Aug. 14.
Tompkins was in Hamilton, Canada with members of his team when he passed away.
The Canadian had moved to Las Vegas, where he ran the TapouT Training Facility.
Fighters under his tutelage included Vitor Belfort, Sam Stout, Mark Hominick and Chris Horodecki.
It was revealed that Tompkins suffered from a heart condition. He was 37 years old.