The road to becoming a UFC star involves its share of struggles, but some fighters have had more difficulties than others. Injuries are prominent in every sport, but a combat sport like MMA can be downright brutal to some athletes.
Over the years, several fighters with elite talent have struggled to shake nagging injuries, forcing them to lose momentum, compete while unhealthy or simply miss lengthy amounts of time in order to recover. Whether its a torn ligament or a multitude of smaller injuries, some guys just have a more difficult time getting healthy than others.
Here are the top-five current UFC fighters with the worst injury track records.
Between October of 2006 and October of 2008, Thiago "Pitbull" Alves earned seven consecutive victories, keeping up an astonishing pace of 3.5 fights per year during the short span.
Since his last fight of 2008, however, he has stepped into the cage six times for an average of 1.2 fights per year over the past five years.
Alves' inconsistency began with a loss to Georges St-Pierre at UFC 100. Since losing to the champ, "Pitbull" hasn't really found himself on the 170-pound radar, mostly because he can't consistently get into the cage.
The last time Alves did compete inside the Octagon came in March of 2013 against Martin Kampmann. He lost that fight and has not returned to the cage since. He was expected to meet Matt Brown this August; unsurprisingly, he was forced to withdraw due to injury.
UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo is the best 145-pound fighter on the planet, but he may also be the most injury prone.
During his WEC career, Aldo fought eight times in 28 months. Since moving on to the UFC, he has fought just five times over the span of 29 months. He has also been forced to withdraw from three fights.
In his latest outing, he earned a strong victory over Chan Sung Jung, but he also suffered a broken foot. And he won't return again in 2013.
Aldo is a top pound-for-pound fighter, but he's no stranger to long layoffs and canceled fights. If he can stay healthy in 2014, perhaps he could compete three times—it would be the first three-fight year for Aldo since 2009.
Since returning to the UFC in November of 2009, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira is a respectable 4-2 with wins over Rashad Evans and Tito Ortiz. He is currently the sixth-ranked light heavyweight in the promotion.
What is disconcerting, however, is his inability to stay healthy.
"Lil' Nog" was unable to make his way to the cage even once in 2012 and, while he did earn a win in February of this year, he was forced to withdraw from his UFC 161 matchup opposite Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, scheduled for June.
No word on when the Brazilian will return to action, but the longer he stays out, the more his momentum wanes.
Mauricio "Shogun" Rua's early career in the UFC was riddled with knee issues. Over the past few years, it seems as if the light heavyweight has put those issues behind him.
At UFC 97, he blasted through Chuck Liddell, and at UFC 113 he dominated Lyoto Machida in order to earn the light heavyweight title. The old, healthy "Shogun" appeared to be back.
However, Rua is 2-3 in his last five fights, triggering questions regarding his health status. He hasn't withdrawn from a fight in years, but at times—for instance, against Chael Sonnen in August—Rua doesn't seem to be operating at 100 percent.
Had he not experienced severe knee issues several years back, Rua's struggles could be written off as simply losing to top competition. But the talent has always been there, and when Rua has struggled in his UFC career, the knee always seems to be the culprit.
Dominick Cruz is the UFC bantamweight champion, even if he hasn't defended his title in over two years.
The last time Cruz stepped into a cage, he topped Demetrious Johnson on the judges' scorecards at UFC on Versus 6. Yes, he hasn't fought since the UFC was still broadcasting events on Versus, the former home of the WEC.
The lengthy absence is a result of an ACL injury—one which Cruz is still recovering from after multiple surgeries.
In his stead, Brazilian dynamo Renan Barao is keeping watch over the division as the interim 135-pound champion. But if Cruz can't return before long, he may be forced to relinquish his title.