MMA: Top 10 Role Models in the Sport Today

Matt Juul@@MattchidaMMAContributor IIISeptember 24, 2012

MMA: Top 10 Role Models in the Sport Today

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    All too often in mixed martial arts, the bad guys get the most press.

    Stories about fighters getting in trouble or crossing the line seem to always be filling the headlines, so it can be hard finding a good role model in MMA.

    However, there are a ton of good guys in the sport that deserve more credit for their altruism and ability to inspire others.

    Let's take a look at the top 10 role models in MMA today.

10. Benson Henderson

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    UFC Lightweight Champ Benson Henderson is a model personality for a world champion.

    Refusing to go down the same path as his father, "Smooth" has stayed focused on his goals while not letting drugs or alcohol ruin his life.  Henderson is a hard worker who never forgets his roots as he's extremely devoted to his religion and family—especially his mother.

    Henderson is a humble champion whose focus and determination make him a fantastic role model.

9. Matt Hamill

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    Matt Hamill made a successful comeback at this past weekend's UFC 152, coming out of retirement to defeat Roger Hollett via decision.

    Hamill has been an inspirational figure in MMA for years, making his mark on the sport as a deaf fighter who's taken on some of the toughest 205ers in the world.

    "The Hammer" is one of the greatest stories in MMA, overcoming adversity while winning on the sport's biggest stage.

8. Frankie Edgar

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    You need heart if you want to fight in a sport like MMA, and that's something Frankie Edgar has a lot of.

    The former UFC lightweight champ has been fighting guys bigger than him for basically his entire career but always puts it all on the line and has had a ton of success in the process.

    Going to war with guys like BJ Penn, Gray Maynard and Benson Henderson, Edgar's never-say-die attitude and ability to comeback time and time again makes him one of the most inspiration underdogs in the sport today.

7. Court McGee

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    Sometimes, you have to hit rock bottom before you make your way to the top.

    UFC middleweight Court McGee had to endure just that before becoming The Ultimate Fighter Season 11 winner, having to overcome years of drug and alcohol abuse prior to starting MMA..

    McGee, who's been sober since 2006, is an inspiration to all, proving that no matter what our demons are, hard work and dedication can overcome anything.

6. Georges St-Pierre

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    As the poster boy of the UFC, welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre epitomizes class.

    St-Pierre rarely engages in mindless trash-talking and is always respectful of his opponents.

    Outside of the Octagon, the welterweight king does a ton of work speaking out against bullying, a cause that's very dear to his heart.

    St-Pierre shows fans what it means to be a true champion.

5. Ronda Rousey

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    Strikeforce champ Ronda Rousey armbarred her way to MMA stardom this year and has been a big factor in the rise in popularity for women's MMA.

    Rousey refuses to take crap from anyone and constantly fights against the mindless stereotypes facing women in sports. 

    Technically brilliant as well as being fierce both inside and outside the cage, Rousey is a great role model for all fans, regardless of gender.

4. Rad Martinez

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    Bellator's Rad Martinez had fans tearing up after being featured in ESPN's Outside the Lines in 2011.

    The video piece, which is embedded in this slide, detailed Martinez's struggle to maintain a professional MMA career while simultaneously taking care of his paraplegic father, Richard, who's been living in a near-vegetative state since suffering an automobile accident in 1991.

    The feature was so moving that it prompted Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney to immediately sign Martinez, who has since posted a perfect 2-0 record for the promotion.

    Martinez's sacrifice and undeniable dedication to family are traits we should all adopt.

3. Nick Newell

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    XFC lightweight top contender Nick Newell is one of the most inspiring figures in the sport, notching a perfect 8-0 record despite only having one arm.

    Newell was born with an underdeveloped left arm due to a condition called congenital amputation.  However, "Notorious" hasn't let that stop him, finishing seven of his eight opponents—five via submission.

    Currently set to fight for the XFC lightweight title in December, Newell is proof that if you work hard enough, no obstacle is too big to overcome.

2. Roger Huerta

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    Former UFC and Bellator lightweight Roger Huerta did not have it easy growing up.

    Huerta had to survive years of torment by his abusive parents and even had to endure the hardships of a civil war–ridden El Salvador while under the care of his grandparents after his mother abandoned him.

    Luckily, Huerta had the support of some great role models in his life and was able to break through the cycle of abuse in order to become a MMA star.

    Today, Huerta uses his past experiences to aid children in similar situations, even starting his own charity to help kids from broken homes.  Huerta is a true altruist and an excellent role model.

1. Brian Stann

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    Even without all of his MMA accomplishments, UFC middleweight Brian Stann would still be an inspiration to fans for his heroism as a Marine, having served in Iraq.

    In 2006, President George W. Bush awarded Stann with a Silver Star for his courageous actions during Operation Matador.  For six days, the then Lieutenant Stann kept all 42 members of his platoon alive while taking heavy fire from ambushing insurgents.

    Leaving active duty in 2008, Stann continues to support his military brothers and sisters through many various charities including helping veterans find jobs through Hire Heroes USA.

    The former WEC champ is also one of the classiest guys in the sport and never trash talks or disparages his opponents.

    Stann is truly an American hero and is the humblest role model in MMA today.

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