Irreconcilable Differences: The UFC's Most Bitter Fighter Breakups
The UFC burns bridges the way frat boys burn couches. They don't just put the match to the fabric and walk away. No, they dance around them in circles as they burn. And when there's nothing left to burn, they go out reeling out into the night, on the hunt for new material.
These 10 fighters suffered through some of the more bitter breakups from the UFC and found themselves in protracted wars of both word and deed. Though the UFC has a long track record of such behavior, so do several of these fighters. As the marriage-related cliche goes, it takes two to tango.
This slideshow covers fighters only. The list of media members, coaches, television networks and other UFC-aggrieved parties would make this a much longer slideshow.
10. Karo Parisyan
In this case, the fighter definitely got what was coming to him.
After Karo Parisyan backed out of his UFC 106 fight with Dustin Hazelett at the 11th hour—the second time in two years he had done so—UFC president Dana White gave him the lifetime hook.
Sandwiched between those two flakeouts was a failed drug test that cost the troubled welterweight a decision win at UFC 94.
In 2010, Parisyan and the UFC improbably patched things up for another go. But the second act was short-lived. Parisyan lost to Dennis Hallman and was promptly cut again, this time seemingly for good.
9. Matt Riddle
But "Deep Waters" didn't run calm in this instance; Riddle fired back following his ouster, saying the drug test was "fishy" and that he wouldn't return to the UFC even if invited. White responded by calling Riddle a "moron" and reassuring him that he need not hold his breath for that invitation back to the Octagon.
Riddle went from Legacy Fighting Championships to Bellator after his UFC release, but on Monday he announced his retirement from MMA. And with that, a once-promising welterweight career goes "up in smoke," if you take my meaning.
8. Renato "Babalu" Sobral
Renato Sobral has always been something of an intense character in the cage. But he crossed the line in 2007, when he willfully disregarded the referee's orders and choked David Heath unconscious in the cage for the high crime of calling him a mean name in the run-up to the fight.
It wasn't necessarily the most controversial release, but it was swift, sudden and surprising, given that Sobral at the time was a top fighter and very popular with fans. Still, though Sobral and others may not have been happy with it, it was a good move and a strong precedent set by the UFC.
7. Jon Fitch
Jon Fitch's UFC release in February raised quite a few eyebrows among hardcore fans.
Yes, at the time he was on the cusp of his 35th birthday. Yes, he had lost two of his last three.
But Fitch was still considered an elite welterweight. He had a 14-3-1 UFC record. He was also a grinder with a boring fight style and a chip on his shoulder toward the UFC powers that be (the UFC briefly cut Fitch in 2008 following a clash over likeness rights).
After his release, Fitch had a few choice words for the UFC, calling it a "hostile" work environment, among other things. Dana White promptly retorted (sense a trend here?) by calling Fitch "delusional," and an old-fashioned Internet verbal duel ensued.
6. Jason "Mayhem" Miller
A petty argument that has spiraled completely out of control.
The UFC kicked "Mayhem" to the curb following his loss to C.B. Dollaway at UFC 146, which he apparently preceded with some wacky backstage antics. Mayhem then played the "You can't fire me because I quit" (or in this case retire) card.
To say Miller's life has been a mess ever since would be an understatement. His UFC release was the moment in the Behind the Music episode when it all starts crashing down.
When he's not getting arrested, as reported by Mike Chiappetta of Fox Sports, or giving bizarre interviews, Miller somehow finds time to curse the name of Dana White on Twitter and accuse the UFC of not paying for a needed knee operation. White refuted the accusation.
The bad blood, along with the arrests, continue to this day.
5. Quinton Jackson
Quinton Jackson has long had an issue with the UFC, the way it does business and the money it pays him. He has accused them of lying about pay-per-view buys, mistreating their talent, having inadequate commentary and underpaying fighters.
And that was all while he was still under contract with the organization.
Ever since signing with rival promotion Bellator, Jackson has missed nary a chance to squeeze a lemon wedge or pair of needle-nosed pliers into the wound with the UFC.
White has, for his part, been relatively civil. Key word being "relatively." With Jackson getting a little long in the tooth, losing his in-cage edge and generally not being the world's most likable guy, the UFC doesn't come off too badly in this instance.
4. Josh Barnett
Josh Barnett's Octagon return last month was an event 11 years in the making.
It started when Barnett left the UFC in 2002 after a second consecutive positive drug test. White and Barnett skirmished on the web for years afterwards, but they finally buried the hatchet for UFC 164, though it was likely mutually motivated more by money than magnanimity.
3. Tito Ortiz
This one's almost too extensive to fully document.
The hot-and-cold tale of Tito Ortiz and Dana White seemed to reach a peaceful ending when Ortiz rode off into the sunset in 2012, on the same weekend he was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.
But Ortiz, apparently needing money, resurfaced a few months ago with Bellator, and he dredged up some of the old vitriol.
Among his choicer cuts was his comparison of the UFC with slavery. Kind of a wacky soundbite, especially given that Ortiz made millions in the UFC, but hey, there you go.
Let's not forget that Ortiz once wore a T-shirt in public that read "Dana Is My Bitch!" Let's also not forget that White once challenged Ortiz to a fight. Oh, or that Ortiz accused the UFC of not paying for his surgery. The list is a very long one.
2. Randy Couture
Randy Couture has long been a leading UFC critic among elite fighters.
And while his fight didn't exactly devolve into a salacious war of words, it did become a legal war. I'm not a lawyer, but I think that's worse.
Couture eventually returned to the UFC and fought there for two more years. But in 2013, Couture sent a final finger in the UFC's eye when he agreed to work with Bellator on its Fight Master reality show. White responded by rejoicing in his riddance of the former light heavyweight and heavyweight champ.
And, in a particularly petty move, he banned Couture from cornering his son Ryan at UFC events.
1. Frank and Ken Shamrock
Frank Shamrock used to find work as a fighter. These days, he's UFC Public Enemy And General Gadfly Numero Uno.
One of the finest fighters of his day, Shamrock has long had an array of problems with White. And vice versa. Oh, very much vice versa.
Just look at the colorful adjectives and metaphors that fly through the Internet when one man's name comes up in front of the other. White pulls no verbal punches, but there's a few extra degrees worth of heat contained in the wind he pushes in Frank Shamrock's direction.
Whatever it is, it's deeply personal, and they've both said as much.
Frank's "brother" Ken keeps a lower profile these days. But he put up quite a stink when the UFC released him in 2006, in part, Ken says, because of his decision to coach in the International Fight League. He sued Zuffa for breach of contract but ultimately lost.
Most recently, Frank Shamrock, who also works as a coach on Bellator's Fight Master program, needled White over competition from Bellator, saying White should be "a little nervous." Well, White doesn't like that kind of thing. It doesn't rub him the right way. And Shamrock knows that.
That's why he does it. Nothing but pure, unadulterated hate, flowing freely in both directions.
Bow down to the bitterest breakups in UFC history. Some things are beyond reconciling.
Scott Harris is a featured columnist and unrepentant slideshow writer with Bleacher Report MMA. Did this slideshow motivate you to strike up a feud of your own? If so, find Scott Harris on Twitter, and bring your best verbal jabs.