Top 10 Strangest MMA Moments of 2013

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2014

Top 10 Strangest MMA Moments of 2013

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    Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

    MMA isn't all about the fighters or the fights or the events

    I mean, yeah, it mostly is. But other stuff happens, too.

    A lot of the time, those things can get unexpected, weird or silly. That's what this list covers. 

    Welcome to the Top 10 Strangest MMA Moments of 2013. Here, we'll go over the stories that made us lift our eyebrows the highest.

    Whether it was because it was unheard of, out of the norm or simply unexpected, each of these stories was something we hadn't seen before and likely won't see again.

    So which tales made this list? Find out right here!

UFC Decides 'Fighting' No Longer Involves Wrestling

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    Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

    It didn't seem so obvious when Jon Fitch, Vladimir Matyushenko and Jacob Volkmann topped a list of more than a dozen fighters who were booted from the UFC. They shared two things in common: They were grappling-focused fighters, and their career had hit rough patches.

    Surely, the UFC axed them for that second thing. After all, not very long ago, a 1-2 start to a UFC career almost guaranteed a pink slip.

    Then came the release of Yushin Okami. After that, the promotion shooed away Ben Askren.

    The UFC no longer wanted to be in the fighting business. It wanted to be in the "just bleed" business.

    The hints have been there for a long while, but only recently has the UFC shifted the narrative to promote that wrestling-focused fighters are amateurish, incomplete and generally inferior. From playing stultifying music while Michael Wootten does cage work on The Ultimate Fighter to Dana White constantly ripping fighters who win by grappling, the UFC has been downplaying wrestling's role in MMA.

    Even the promotion's poster boy, Georges St-Pierre, was painted as cowardly by White.

    It's not the best time for people who actually consider MMA to be a sport.

Released Fighters Rip UFC

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    Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

    Fighters used to fear the UFC. They didn't just try hard to get there. They legitimately feared the organization.

    For good reason, too.

    This was the company that sued Ken Shamrock, a fighter who helped build the promotion, into poverty. The one that blackballed former champions and pioneers in the sport like Pat Miletich, Carlos Newton and Maurice Smith. The one that flatly said that anybody who appears in a competitor's video game would never be allowed into the promotion.

    Even fighters wronged by the promotion like DaMarques Johnson, who was released after losing a short-notice fight he graciously accepted, wouldn't dare speak out.

    In 2013, however, things changed. The UFC now has more competition than ever. A fighter can have something resembling a successful MMA career with or without the UFC. 

    As a result, fighters started speaking their minds.

    Released fighters at every stage in their career began ripping the UFC. From the high highs of champions like Quinton "Rampage" Jackson to the low lows of anonymous undercard bodies like John Cholish, fighters walked off into the sunset with both middle fingers up—something that would have been career suicide just months earlier.

    It was a radical but largely welcome change that is still odd to see.

Anderson Silva Loses...Twice

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    If you traveled back in time and told your past self that Anderson Silva was going to lose, your past self probably wouldn't be able to wrap his head around it. Sure, the idea that a 38-year-old fighter with a weakness to wrestling doesn't sound all that outlandish...but this is Silva.

    This was the guy who made the former light heavyweight champion look like a fool. This was the one who seemed to live a second ahead of everyone he fought. 

    Sure, Silva could lose, but I doubt anyone ever expected it. Even the people who predicted Weidman would win were probably shocked to see "The Spider" crumble to the mat from a huge left hook at UFC 162.

    Obviously, we've seen Silva lose now. Twice. 

    Both were second-round knockouts. Both were devastating in their own different way.

    Again, somebody losing isn't a strange story. But this isn't just "somebody." This is Anderson Silva we're talking about.

Referee Josh Rosenthal Gets Caught with $6 Million of Weed

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Josh Rosenthal is a fairly well-regarded referee in the sport of mixed martial arts. Apparently he's also a drug dealer.

    In 2012, he was arrested by Oakland, Calif. police for managing a warehouse that was filled with 1,356 marijuana plants. In July 2013, he plead guilty to charges of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana and possession with intent to distribute. The judge smacked him with 37 months without parole.


    Rosenthal had been a common site in the Octagon and has been the man in the middle of some of the UFC's biggest fights, such as Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin, Matt Hughes vs. Royce Gracie and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua vs. Dan Henderson.

    Needless to say, it's always a surprise when somebody you've seen frequently over the last few years turns out to be a criminal. Never even mind a highly successful weed dealer.

The Anthony Pettis Title Shot Saga

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    David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

    It has been a roller coaster of a year for Anthony Pettis. After destroying Donald Cerrone's torso, the former WEC lightweight champion finally, at long last, had his chance at UFC gold: a crack at the winner of Benson Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez.

    "Thanks, but no thanks."

    The world let out a collective "wait, what?"

    Pettis instead wanted to fight featherweight champion Jose Aldo. Why? I don't know. I'm not even sure that Pettis knows.

    Aldo turned down the fight and then agreed to it if he got an immediate lightweight title shot. Aldo vs. Pettis wouldn't happen, however, when Pettis hurt his knee.

    While still walking with a limp, Pettis turned his attention back to lightweight and begged for a chance to fight Henderson in his hometown of Milwaukee. The problem, of course, was that Bendo was already scheduled to fight TJ Grant.

    Oh, and he only had one leg. That doesn't help.

    He somehow recovered, though, and through sheer coincidence (or so I'm told), Grant got injured. Pettis received the short-notice fight with Henderson in August and beat the rubbery champion in the least likely way: with a first-round armbar.

Everything Involving Nick Diaz This Year

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    Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    2013 has been ridiculous for Nick Diaz, and picking just one story involving the pride of Stockton would do him a disservice. So how about we fire off the highlights?

    • He got a title fight despite a year-long retirement (and/or suspension due to a failed drug test) following a loss to Carlos Condit. St-Pierre used ridiculously flimsy logic to explain why he wanted to fight Diaz when he really didn't need to.
    • The build-up to UFC 158 ends up being ludicrous, focusing on GSP discussing "the darkniz insai mai hid." The two then seemingly patched things up before having a shouting match over the phone.
    • Diaz lost to St-Pierre and retired again because wrestling is overpowering and learning takedown defense is too hard. GSP, who said he wanted to retire Diaz, tells him to just take some time off. How about that?
    • Diaz, known for his general lack of professionalism and refusal to take responsibility for his own actions, decides to become an MMA promoter for reasons that remain vague. 
    • His promotion actually has a strong debut card.
    • He indicated he was ready to come out of retirement. Not because he needed money, didn't enjoy fight promotion or athletic pride. He wanted to come back because he and his girlfriend broke up.
    • He didn't come out of retirement and instead has engaged Dana White in a game of phone tag that involves a manager whom White apparently imagined.

    In the immortal words of Joe Rogan: "That's crazy!"

Dana White Flips, Flops, Flaps Gums on TRT

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    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    Actions speak louder than words. It's an old saying, but it's one of the truest there is.

    UFC president Dana White talks a big game when it comes testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), a medical treatment that allows fighters to legally inject themselves with testosterone. He said early in the year that he would like it banned from the sport altogether. 

    The actions of his company, though, tell a different story. 

    In 2012, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson said the UFC recommended he visit a doctor that would go on to prescribe him TRT. Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva has the same story and is currently suing his UFC-employed doctor, following a failed drug test due to elevated testosterone brought on by his TRT use.

    On top of that, the UFC has numerous fighters who previously tested positive for steroid use (which many doctors cite as a likely cause for low testosterone in relatively young men) who are using TRT. Totally coincidentally (or so I'm told), they all happen to be fighting on UFC-sanctioned international cards that avoid American athletic commissions.

    The most notable one is Vitor Belfort, who has exclusively been fighting in Brazil since Keith Kizer said he likely wouldn't be allowed to use TRT stateside, as well as Silva, who tested positive for steroids in 2008 and fought most recently in Australia.

    Don't like it? Too bad. The UFC will chase you down in an attempt to discredit you if you point out all the supposedly fire-less smoke.

    The shifting stance with how the UFC has handled TRT users makes this one of the oddest—but also most disappointingstories of 2013.

Transgender Fighter Sparks Massive Controversy

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    Credit: Keith Mills,

    Few subjects in MMA history have caused more uproar than the story of Fallon Fox. 

    A veteran of the United States Armed Forces, Fox struggled with issues regarding her sex throughout her life. At age 30, she underwent sexual reassignment surgery. Following years of hormone therapy and the removal of her testicles, she began competing in mixed martial arts as a woman.

    According to doctors under both the International Olympic Committee and American athletic commissions, the removal of testicles and years' worth of hormone therapy make transgender women physically comparable to cisgender women. That, though, didn't keep keyboard warriors and various less-than-tactful personalities from voicing their opinion, exploding the Fox story into an epic.

    There is plenty of room for discussion on the issue, for sure. The IOC predominantly contrasted transgender women and cisgender women in non-contact sports, primarily in track and field, and even those regulations have shifted in recent years.

    Regardless, the sheer out-of-left-field nature of the story makes this one of 2013's strangest sagas.

Bellator Allegedly Benches Champion for Crappy Lawal vs. Newton Rematch

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    Credit: Will Fox,

    In some ways, Bellator had a great year. The second-biggest MMA promotion in America finally moved to Spike TV in 2013 and increased its ratings and visibility several times over.

    Unfortunately, it also sacrificed a great deal of its credibility as both a sport-first promotion and also as a benevolent party in fighters' lives. While the case of Eddie Alvarez was the highest-profile example of this, the report that Bellator falsely claimed its 205-pound champion Attila Vegh was injured was definitely the strangest.

    "King" Muhammed Lawal is one of the most identifiable names in Bellator. Viacom became invested in him by breaking new ground when they signed him to split time between its MMA partner and its pro wrestling organization of choice, TNA Impact Wrestling. Viacom wanted him to be the champion, and what's more, when it committed to a pay-per-view event, it wanted him to fight on the card.

    From there, things got strange.

    Vegh was injured early in 2013 after taking the belt from Christian M'Pumbu. Vegh either was unable to commit to the November date for the fight and Bellator put a square peg into a circular hole to assemble a rematch between Lawal and Emanuel Newton, or (as Wojslaw Rysiewski claims), the promotion falsely declared that Vegh was injured in order to set up the rematch.

    Both possibilities come at the expense of Bellator's sport-first model.

    Regardless, the move didn't pay off. Lawal and Newton fought to a boring decision that favored the previous winner Newtown. Now a highly unsatisfying title unification bout between Newton and Vegh is on the horizon.

Shooto Brazil Schedules Man vs. Woman Fight...LOL, JK

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    Credit: Shooto

    This one was a doozy. 

    First, Shooto Brazil, the Brazilian offshoot of the immortal Japanese promotion, announced the first sanctioned mixed martial arts bout between a man and a woman. Fans and media almost unanimously panned the bout, questioning the legality and opening up a discussion on the physical differences between men and women and what those would translate to in the cage. That said, fights between men and women are rare but not unheard of.

    Then things got stranger.

    Apparently, the fight wasn't real. It was an elaborate facade to raise domestic violence awareness laws.

    Obviously, this makes zero sense. None at all. Not in the backward public service announcement way, and not in the "hey, we were just kidding after all" way.

    Many have guessed what happened. It's possible the promotion got cold feet after the sweeping criticism. It's also possible the Brazilian government might have created some downward pressure to keep attention away from the country's rampant crime problems that will mar the upcoming World Cup.

    Either way, this was easily the weirdest MMA story of 2013.