Nick Diaz and the 10 Fighters with the Most Loyal Fanbases
Nick Diaz has had a hell of a year so far. The former Strikeforce Welterweight champion lost the biggest fight of his career, got popped (and suspended) for failing a drug test, and no-showed a BJJ "super fight."
But don't expect to see a swarm of fans migrating off the Diaz bandwagon. The Stockton-based fighter is one of many that have truly die-hard fans that never waver in their support.
Through thick and thin, these guys can always count on having fans rush to the keyboards to defend their honour.
Stop me if you've heard this before, "The old Vitor is back."
Indeed, it seems every time Vitor Belfort wins a fight we are quick to assume the 19-year-old that shocked the MMA world with his fast hands is returning to take the middleweight division by storm.
I believe that other than the manner in which Belfort entered the MMA scene, it is his personal story of tragedy that has gravitated fans toward the Brazilian. It doesn't hurt that he's also one of the nicest guys in the sport.
He may be in the twilight years of his career, but Belfort continues to perform at a high level and will always be the subject of cheers from MMA fans.
Alistair Overeem didn't do himself any favors by failing a drug test, but he still can count on his legions of fans that have been proclaiming him to be among the heavyweight elite for years.
Overeem competed in numerous kickboxing matches outside of his MMA career, and all his MMA bouts except for the fight against Brock Lesnar were competed outside the Octagon.
Yet his fans continued to argue that Overeem belonged in the upper echelon of the heavyweight division. I'm not saying "UberReem" doesn't have skills, but he's faced a lot of questionable competition the past few years.
Chael Sonnen's UFC run began on a sour note when he lost to Demian Maia, but Sonnen quickly turned things around with three straight impressive showings.
The victories would set up a showdown between Sonnen and middleweight champion Anderson Silva; a man the Oregon native had badgered for weeks prior to the bout. The fight hardly seemed to matter in this rivalry as Sonnen has spent his time attempting to trash Silva through the media.
To make matters worse, Sonnen tested for elevated levels of testosterone and was subsequently suspended. He also had some legal issues regarding money laundering as well.
Sonnen is like Nick Diaz in that he's become a polarizing figure for many UFC fans but the ones that do "Believe in Chael" would do anything to show their support.
Kazushi Sakuraba and Ikuhisa Minowa
I group these two men not to diminish their achievements but due to both Kazushi Sakuraba and Ikuhisa Minowa being popular for many of the same reasons.
Both Sakuraba and Minowa became wildly popular for taking just about any fight no matter the weight class or implications. They were also two of the biggest superstars in Japan for JMMA.
Along with taking any fight that comes their way, both fighters have exciting styles that have made them two of the most popular fighters to compete in MMA.
Nick Diaz's career has been an up-and-down ride resembling a roller coaster at a Six Flags theme park after starting his career off in thrilling fashion by besting a number of top opponents like Robbie Lawler.
Following a rough streak of fights that included one in a hospital, Diaz was given his walking papers and found a home in Strikeforce. Diaz continued to create controversy with his battles against KJ Noons and the legend Frank Shamrock.
Since rejoining the UFC's ranks, Diaz has continued to become a polarizing figure where fans either love him or love to hate him.
Diaz's run in 2012 is sort of a microcosm of his entire career, yet he remains one of the few fighters that can depend on a solid fanbase no matter what.
Diaz is as close to a Manny Ramirez that MMA can get. I wouldn't be surprised to see Diaz run into Fenway Park and use the bathroom behind the scoreboard.
BJ Penn will go down as one of the greatest fighters to compete in the lightweight division and surely one of the best UFC fighters of all time as well.
One of the most decorated fighters to compete in the Octagon, Penn possessed truly world class jiu-jitsu with some of the best boxing in MMA.
Naturally fans are likely to cheer for a winner, and that's what Penn did for years at lightweight. But when Penn lost is when the excuses seem to flow like a Hawaiian volcano. Not just from Penn himself but also his fans.
It seems Penn can do no wrong given that he should have an undefeated record if not for some extremely coincidental occurrences. "Grease-gate" remains one of the rallying cries for Penn fans and GSP-haters alike.
Georges St-Pierre's reign at the top of the welterweight ladder has been in place for years. He's the unquestionable king of the 170-pound division and arguably the top pound-for-pound fighter in the game today.
Still, St-Pierre has had his detractors for being a boring fighter. Decision victories over Dan Hardy, Jake Shields and Thiago Alves have left fans wanting more despite them being some of the most dominant displays in MMA history.
For all the criticism GSP gets, his fans are always quick to back their champion for simply being too good against inferior competition.
GSP's never wavering fanbase has not only made him into one of the most popular fighters of today but also one of the faces (if not the face) of the UFC.
Wanderlei Silva is one of the most popular fighters in MMA history. While some fans want to see him retire, I've yet to come across any fan who doesn't have something nice to say about the MMA legend.
While in Pride, Silva truly embodied his nickname "The Axe Murderer" as he was an offensive weapon of terror between the ropes. Despite not having as great of a run in the UFC, Silva still gets some of the loudest cheers when entering an arena.
Besides his fighting style, Silva remains one of the most popular stars due to his very fan-friendly style. Perhaps no quote endears Silva to fans than his statement of "I don't have fans. I have friends."
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is one of the most accomplished fighters in MMA history and thus has a fairly large fanbase. Most fighters will see their fanbase dwindle as the wins become fewer and further between but "Big Nog" has some of the most loyal fans in the sport.
Becoming the first ever Pride Heavyweight Champion and an UFC Champion has validated one of the most amazing careers of any fighter. Nogueira has beaten a who's-who in the division including Randy Couture, Mirko "Cro Cop" and Josh Barnett among others.
Nogueira endeared himself to many fans through his spectacular come-from-behind victories that often ended with his opponents tapping the canvas.
For nearly a decade, Fedor Emelianenko was the top heavyweight in the world. His defeats of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Mirko "Cro Cop" were some of the best of his career.
Yet, despite many fans and fighters hailing him as the best fighter in the world, there was/is a large contingent of fans who believe Emelianenko's accomplishments mean nothing due to him never fighting in the UFC.
The arguments have been both educated and brutal at times. There are some web forums where even mentioning Emelianenko in a negative way is akin to hitting a bee hive.
Emelianenko fans are some of the most loyal in MMA history due to their devotion to the Russian fighter through his Pride years and during his current time of irrelevancy.