The 13 Biggest Scandals in MMA History
The sport of mixed martial arts has come a long way since its early inception so many years ago.
Now, MMA is governed all across the world and has nearly reached full, authoritative acceptance in the United States.
Despite the hurdles that we have overcome, there are moments in the history of the sport that are better left unmentioned and forgotten.
At UFC 94 in January of 2009 in Las Vegas, Georges St-Pierre was looking to settle a score with rival BJ Penn.
The duo originally met some years ago when the Canadian took home a contentious split-decision win over the former world champion and when their paths crossed years later, St-Pierre dominated the Hawaiian from start to finish.
The bout was eventually stopped in between the fourth and fifth rounds when Penn was unable to continue after fatigue set in, coupled with the accumulated amount of punches taken.
Following the match, St-Pierre came under fire when it was discovered that corner man Phil Nurse applied Vaseline to his face, chest and back—though it was later dubbed a breathing technique gone awry.
Since then, in Nevada only cutmen have been allowed to apply Vaseline in between rounds and said cutmen are always accompanied by an official from the NSAC.
Sean Sherk and Hermes Franca Test Positive
At UFC 73, then-champion Sean Sherk was looking to defend his lightweight title for the first time against formidable opponent Hermes Franca.
"The Muscle Shark" took down Franca at will, though the Brazilian proved to be game thanks to several knees that buckled Sherk on several occasions.
In the end, Sherk was the winner by decision, though the fight only really reached widespread attention when it was announced that both men had tested positive for PEDs and following the incident both men were fined, suspended and Sherk was stripped of his belt in the process.
Lee Murray Bank Heist
Granted, this is a scandal that occurred outside of a ring or a cage but it involved one of the most alluring and enigmatic figures to ever enter the sport: "Lightning" Lee Murray.
The UFC veteran was one of the sports leading middleweight fighters, possessing speed and punching power that rivaled any man in the division.
Couple with his boxing skills, Murray was a slick and underrated jiu-jitsu practitioner, though the Brit will probably be more so remembered for his connection to the infamous Securitas Depot Robbery in 2006.
Murray allegedly stole over £53 million, which translates today to roughly $70 million.
Now, the London native is spending 25 years behind bars.
After UFC Hall of Famer Ken Shamrock had to bow out at the last minute in a battle against Kimbo Slice under the EliteXC banner, 205-pounder Seth Petruzelli was tapped to fill in for Shamrock and take on the backyard brawler in the main event of the CBS broadcast event.
In a shocking turn of events, Petruzelli knocked out the heavy-hitting Slice inside of the first round in just a matter of seconds.
Following the bout, Petruzelli stated in a candid interview that "(the promoters) didn’t want me to take him down, let’s just put it that way. It was worth my while to try to stand up and punch with him."
Though he later retracted his statements shortly thereafter, the damage was already done.
Many notable sponsors left the EliteXC brand, which went bankrupt shortly thereafter.
Josh Barnett Stripped of Title
After bouncing back from a devastating knockout loss to Pedro Rizzo, Barnett was granted a shot at the UFC heavyweight title in March of 2002, taking on then-champion Randy Couture.
Barnett dominated the Olympic wrestler, taking him down in the second round where he mounted and pounded away a TKO victory which earned him the belt in the process.
The performance of his career was later stricken with controversy when the young up-and-comer tested positive for steroids following a post-fight drug screening.
He was stripped of his title and the 34-year-old hasn't been inside the Octagon since.
Josh Barnett Tests Positive Again; Yields End of Affliction
While Affliction was in the MMA business as a viable promotion, they put out the big bucks to acquire big-named talent to their talent-laden roster of fighters, which included the deepest heavyweight division at the time.
Fighters like UFC veterans Andrei Arlovski, Pedro Rizzo Gilbert Yvel, Paul Buentello, Ben Rothwell, Tim Sylvia, Fedor Emelianenko and Barnett himself were all under the Affliction banner, though the promotion was biting off way more than they could chew.
Barnett eventually earned his shot at Emelianenko, who at the time was coveted as the sport's premier heavyweight star. In the lead-up to the bout, both men were tested for PEDs as is per usual with the California State Athletic Commission.
For the third time in his career, the Pride vet in Barnett tested positive for banned substances. The scandal came too close to fight time and after shelling out millions in marketing for the event, the pay-per-view never came to fruition and the organization folded shortly thereafter.
Thiago Silva Cheats Drug Test
Following a dominant performance at UFC 125 in January of last year, Thiago Silva was in line to become a top contender in the light heavyweight class when he was pitted against former champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at UFC 130.
However, the bout never came to be as Silva was shuffled after NSAC was still undergoing tests for urine samples handed in by the Brazilian post-fight.
The American Top Team fighter later released a statement after acknowledging that his samples handed in were not his own:
I used a urine adulterant when giving a sample following my fight with Brandon Vera. I did so in an attempt to alter the results of the test and knowingly broke the rules of the Nevada (State) Athletic Commission. This was a terrible decision on my part for which I will be punished. I am prepared to accept this punishment, learn from it and move on. I apologize to the commission, the UFC, Brandon Vera and the MMA fans
Silva was suspended for one year and fined a percentage of his purse.
Kevin Randleman Cheats Drug Test
Former UFC heavyweight champion Kevin Randleman was looking to make a statement in his bout with 205-pound stud Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.
The duo met under the Pride banner in 2006, where the Brazilian deftly submitted "The Monster" with a first-round kneebar.
Following the bout, Randleman came under fire when samples of his urine provided no traces of hormones, indicating that the Team Hammer House fighter had provided a fake sample, which yielded a lengthy suspension and fine.
Chael Sonnen Fiasco
Where to begin...
First, after his five-round battle with Anderson Silva—which safe for a late-rally submission from the Brazilian, Sonnen was guaranteed a win—the Team Quest fighter was linked to a possible failed post-fight drug test, which came as a result of elevated levels of testosterone.
Sonnen was later fined and suspended for his actions, which were only that of sheer negligence after some faulty paperwork.
Then, Sonnen was again in the news when he was linked to a money-laundering scheme, to which he was convicted of, paying a fine and having his realtor license revoked in the process.
Tim Sylvia Stripped of Title
After his upset victory over Ricco Rodriguez to earn the UFC title, Tim Sylvia successfully defended his belt when he knocked out fellow heavy-hitter Gan McGee with first-round strikes.
Sylvia's joyous occasion was short-lived, as the Miletich fighter had tested positive for Stanozolol—a synthetic anabolic steroid. Afterwards, Sylvia was stripped of his title though he was granted an immediate shot at the vacant belt opposite of Frank Mir, who broke "The Maine-Iac's" arm and claimed the title.
Mark Coleman vs. Nobuhiko Takada
In Pride's fifth installment, former UFC champion Mark Coleman made his debut with the organization taking on pro wrestler Nobuhiko Takada, who was a large draw in Japan at the time.
In the second round, the submission-savvy Takada stopped Coleman when he cinched up a heel hook which elicited the tap.
Over the years, the bout has drawn the ire of the fans as it has been linked to a possible fix, which veteran Gary Goodridge could attest to and Coleman himself indirectly confirms as well.
Pancrase Fixed Fights
Former UFC heavyweight champion Bas Rutten took a lot of pride in being a fighter of integrity and morals. Still a notable figure in the sport after years spent away from the cage, Rutten is still as respected as he was at the height of his career, if not more.
He's a relatively easy go lucky guy but if there's anything he can't stand, it's getting poked in the chest and being apart of fixed fights.
Rutten has stated that he never partook in anything of this nature and even ousted the now-defunct Pride organization for doing so, however he also stated that Pancrase, the organization which Rutten cut his teeth in, regularly produced fixed fights over the years.
Yakuza Dipping Hands in Pride
Once the now-defunct Pride organization came under scrutiny thanks to their link with the Yakuza—Japan's most well-known mafia—sponsors and television partners fled, leaving the organization bankrupt and with no choice but to sell to their largest competitor in Zuffa, the subsidiary of the UFC.
President Dana White claimed to have intention to keep the organization around and alive in the Land of the Rising Sun, though the Yakuza certainly made things difficult.
"We had plans for Pride, we were going to do Japanese shows, but the mafia runs that place and it is very hard to do business over there," said White.
“That basically killed the brand.”