Babyfaces: Junior Dos Santos and MMA's Nicest Nice Guys
A little bit of hype got started this past week over the UFC 146 lineup. (Did you know it's ALL HEAVYWEIGHTS?!?!!) As you know, then, Junior dos Santos is fighting Alistair Overeem. And all the headlines are along the lines of "Nice Guy Dos Santos Doesn't Mind Being the Nice Guy," or "It's Strange that Junior dos Santos is so Nice, Since He Breaks Everyone's Faces," and things to that effect.
When did being the good guy become so strange? I got to thinking, and I believe it all traces back to "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. In fact, I think most of our problems, as a people, can trace back to "Stone Cold." Do I need to draw you a map? I certainly hope not.
In the meantime, here are the 20 nicest nice guys in MMA today. This covers active fighters, so save the Randy Couture queries.
And while you're at it, save your awesome stories about how you hung out with so-and-so and he's really not as nice as he seems on TV; this list deals with public personas only.
20. Pat Barry
Fans appreciate candor. They also like humor. Those two things, and just generally not being a jerk, are probably the biggest factors that make you a "nice guy" in the public domain. As one of the funniest and most candid fighters out there, "HD" more than makes the grade.
19. Lyoto Machida
Probably the only fighter who can make drinking your own urine vaguely endearing.
Think about it. What if Tank Abbott admitted to drinking his own pee-pee? He'd be ostracized from society.
18. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
One of the preeminent heads of Brazilian MMA, Big Nog is respected across the world, though he loses points on this list for not exactly returning that respect in such a universal fashion.
17. Shane Carwin
The mechanical engineer with bowling balls for hands stays respectful even when he's feuding.
16. Jon Jones
15. Clay Guida
Guida isn't anyone's idea of a goody two-shoes, but he's a genuine guy who seems to make new fans wherever he goes.
14. Vitor Belfort
"The Phenom" earns plenty of affection with his unassuming manner and, more importantly, a crowd-pleasing fight style. But the family man has plenty of devotees outside MMA circles, too, thanks in part to his devout Christianity.
13. Kenny Florian
The former contender at lightweight and featherweight is one of the smartest and most thoughtful figures in the sport.
12. Roy Nelson
Nelson is a people's champion not only because of the physique or the unusual sense of humor, but because he makes a conscious effort to be accessible to fans through the media (both traditional and social).
11. Mark Munoz
He'd also figure prominently on a list of MMA's biggest smilers.
10. Frankie Edgar
It's nearly impossible to dislike the UFC's real-life Rocky.
9. Kazushi Sakuraba
Lately, many of Sakuraba's fans have taken on the role of concerned mothers, born out of a desire to protect the venerable Japanese hero from himself; the 42-year-old has lost four straight, often in grisly fashion.
8. Demian Maia
The world-class jiu-jitsu player is widely recognized as one of the sport's great gentlemen as well as one of the keepers of the flame of traditional martial arts ethos.
7. Wanderlei Silva
Most fighters seem like perfectly normal guys who have a special ability to flip the beast mode switch once they walk into the cage.
But no one has a dichotomy like Wanderlei Silva. A merciless destroyer between the bells, outside the cage Silva has a touching devotion to his fans, whom he consistently refers to as friends.
6. Nate Marquardt
It's easy to be nice when everything is coming up roses.
But Marquardt showed his true good-guy colors during his TRT controversy and release from the UFC, where he stridently stayed on the high road despite others' refusal to follow suit.
5. Rich Franklin
Hey—did you know he's a former math teacher?
4. Brian Stann
The decorated Marine is an articulate ambassador for the military and MMA.
3. Forrest Griffin
The former police officer, light heavyweight champ and best-selling author probably has the easiest charisma of any fighter from this recent era.
2. Junior dos Santos
As noted in the intro, it's funny how dos Santos almost has to defend his nice-guy self in interviews. People just can't seem to wrap their heads around it.
1. Georges St-Pierre
You were expecting someone else?
I love me some GSP, although I will say that he tries a little too hard sometimes. He should embrace his inner goofiness a little more publicly and just be himself, instead of tying himself in knots over every little soundbite.
But that aside, GSP is clearly the sport's biggest worldwide ambassador and white hat. Call me crazy, but I find that commendable.