10 Fighters That Deserve Lifetime UFC Contracts
Despite the great heights the company's reached, financial stability within the UFC only exists for the promotion's top dogs.
But even for the world's most talented and marketable fighters, finding comfort in an incentive-based system makes for an awfully arduous task. Some fighters have done so much to build the UFC's reputation and its financial standing that they deserve to enjoy some monetary peace of mind.
Here are 10 fighters who deserve lifetime UFC contracts.
Dan Henderson, Vitor Belfort, Dominick Cruz, Demetrious Johnson, Junior dos Santos
10. Joe Lauzon
Joe Lauzon didn't land on this countdown on account of a lengthy current winning streak or because of his current standing in the UFC's lightweight division. Lauzon broke into the top 10 solely because of his propensity for generating enthralling and captivating fights.
In his last outing at UFC 155, Lauzon tied pound-for-pound kingpin Anderson Silva for the UFC's lead in post-fight bonuses with 12. Lauzon has garnered "Submission of the Night" six times, "Fight of the Night" five times and "Knockout of the Night" once. These honors make him a suitable candidate for a lifetime contract.
9. Frankie Edgar
He's not a UFC champ and his last three scraps have gone to a decision. That doesn't diminish the fact that Frankie Edgar has fought valiantly in seven straight title bouts.
The always spirited and entertaining Edgar didn't lose a UFC title bout until dropping decisions to current lightweight champ Benson Henderson at UFC 144 and UFC 150, respectively. Edgar then lost in a similarly narrow fashion to featherweight champ Jose Aldo at UFC 156, another setback that did little to tarnish the pristine image of "The Answer."
8. Cain Velasquez
Heavyweights like Cain Velasquez don't come around very often, if ever. At 30 years old, Velasquez has used an extraordinary work ethic, tremendous physical gifts and a warrior's spirit to become the world's most efficient heavyweight fighter.
The heavyweight strap has been up for grabs in four of his last five fights, and Velasquez won three of those showdowns. With his one career loss (Junior dos Santos) already vindicated, Velasquez seems poised to become the UFC's greatest heavyweight champ.
7. Benson Henderson
UFC lightweight champ Benson Henderson has evolved significantly since losing his WEC lightweight belt to Anthony Pettis at WEC 53 in December 2010. Methodical but consistently entertaining, Henderson has since shored up any of his deficiencies and won each of his seven UFC scraps. This includes five straight in title fights.
Granted, each of "Bendo's" wins in the UFC came via decision, but the 29-year-old Henderson has his best years ahead of him. Fans could soon see more finishes from the 155-pound king.
6. Jose Aldo
Akin to a few of his peers on this list, UFC featherweight champ Jose Aldo has gone undefeated in his time under the Zuffa LLC. umbrella.
Not only has Aldo won a combined 12 bouts in a row in the WEC and the UFC, the 26-year-old Brazilian has scored an impressive eight wins by form of KO in that span. With his most productive years ahead of him, the UFC can expect many more wins and plenty of KO's from "Junior."
5. Stephan Bonnar
After getting embarrassed by Anderson Silva at UFC 153, recently retired former light heavyweight Stephan Bonnar surely didn't bow out of the UFC on a glorious note.
Bonnar left his mark on the company in his debut when he locked horns with fellow The Ultimate Fighter Season 1 cast mate Forrest Griffin in a back-and-forth bloodbath at the finale of TUF 1 in April 2005.
With the company's future in limbo, Bonnar and Griffin engaged in an epic clash that UFC president Dana White often refers to as the most important match in company history.
White claims that a group of his confidants met with Spike TV executives the night of the fight in an alley behind the Thomas & Mack Center regarding the company's future. Roughly a month later, Spike TV and the UFC unveiled a two-year deal that would produce two new seasons of TUF, six live fight cards and 26 episodes of UFC Unleashed.
Although the UFC shelled out $10 million of its own money to create the first season of TUF, the company's financial situation radically changed following the first Bonnar vs. Griffin matchup.
He never fought for a title and barely compiled a winning record (8-7). Because of one extraordinarily fascinating fight that forever changed the UFC, The American Psycho deserves a lifetime contract.
4. Forrest Griffin
Unlike his counterpart, Bonnar, in the classic TUF 1 finale, Griffin managed to climb the proverbial mountain in the UFC's light heavyweight division.
Griffin outpointed Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at UFC 86 to take home the light heavyweight title in July 2008. But just five months later, Rashad Evans ripped the belt from Griffin with a TKO win at UFC 92, marking the last time the 33-year-old Georgian would fight for UFC gold.
Akin to Bonnar, Griffin earned his strips and White's eternal admiration in one unforgettable fight. For that, the two-time New York Times best-selling author should enjoy perpetual financial stability.
3. Georges St-Pierre
Although fans have criticized his extremely cerebral style lately, White still claims that Georges St-Pierre represents the UFC's most lucrative pay-per-view draw. St-Pierre has reeled off 11 straight wins, including 10 in title fights, since falling to Matt Serra at UFC 69.
"GSP" definitely still possesses the finishing power that made him famous early in his career. The soon-to-be 32-year-old Canadian, who still appears in his heyday, just chooses to employ a more conservative brand of MMA. His style may have altered, but GSP only tailored his game to become a more efficient and calculated predator. These are changes that White has fully embraced.
2. Anderson Silva
Even at 38, trying to justify a more deserving candidate than Anderson Silva for a lifetime contract in the UFC would prove a trying affair.
Silva holds several pertinent UFC records that include most consecutive wins (16) and most consecutive title defenses (10). He deservedly sports the moniker of the sport's top pound-for-pound fighter.
Perhaps that's why Silva inked a 10-fight deal in April that ensures he'll stay with the company for years to come. Fans, pundits, White and fellow fighters all love Silva. To present a more appropriate question, are there any genuine reasons The Spider's accomplishments don't warrant a lifetime contract?
1. Jon Jones
While The Spider has amassed the more prolific numbers, no fighter in UFC history has displayed the promise for dominance like light heavyweight champ Jon Jones.
At just 25, Jones, who's virtually unbeaten—with the exception of a disqualification loss to Matt Hamill—has already thumped an elite list of 205-pounders including former champs Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.
With an 84.5"-reach, brute strength and a superior intellect, Jones tops this countdown because of his youth and his knack for being an insatiable finisher. Like Silva, Jones has gained the admiration of White through his supremacy of a division. If "Bones" continues to evolve, he'll undoubtedly continue to add more unfortunate victims to his growing list.
Jones has already finished nine of his 13 UFC opponents, a trend he hopes to continue as he hits his stride in his prime.