UFC: Travis Browne and the Blue-Collar All-Star Team

Matthew RyderFeatured ColumnistJanuary 17, 2014

UFC: Travis Browne and the Blue-Collar All-Star Team

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    While he made some fans with his obliteration of Josh Barnett at UFC 168, Travis Browne might have made himself even more popular by pointing to the back rows of the MGM Grand and claiming he did it for the blue-collar fans.

    People love that sort of thing, and when it's done after a great feat of athletic expression on the biggest stage, there's no telling what kind of momentum it can give a fighter.

    Browne is back in the headlines this week, ready to fight Fabricio Werdum in the spring for a crack at the heavyweight title later this year. In keeping with the theme he established after his last fight, these are his compatriots on the UFC blue-collar all-star team: a group comprised of the hardest-working, down-to-earth fighters in the UFC.

Flyweight: John Moraga

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    Born and bred in Phoenix, Moraga has been active in MMA across three weight classes for nearly five years. He's challenged for the UFC flyweight title once already, and his hard-nosed style has made him a guy to watch at 125 lb.

    He was a standout wrestler at Arizona State, and the lessons learned on the mats of one of America's best universities have instilled the type of work ethic that will lead him back to a crack at the belt again before long.

    Performances like his win at UFC Fight Night 35 on Wednesday won't hurt either.

Bantamweight: Johnny Bedford

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    "Brutal" Johnny Bedford is a classic blue-collar brawler, a guy who has been toiling away in mixed martial arts for years. The Ohio native was pushing 30 fights before he ever got a sniff of the UFC, but he's been a mainstay ever since The Ultimate Fighter 14 in 2011.

    A rugged, grinding wrestler who isn't afraid to go in and get his nose dirty, Bedford is the type of scrappy customer that the world has come to expect from Middle America.

    Hard work, lots of a experience and an eye on sticking around in the world's biggest promotion—those qualities make up a blue-collar guy.

Women's Bantamweight: Liz Carmouche

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    Was there any doubt that "Girlrilla" would earn a spot on this list?

    Carmouche, a former U.S. Marine, made fans quickly upon her campaign to fight Ronda Rousey in 2013. She was the first openly gay fighter to compete in the Octagon, and people were fascinated by her humble home and long days working at the gym to pay for her training.

    Her fight style is rough and tumble, and she has a unique charisma as well. She's the bluest of collars in the UFC's only women's division so far.

Featherweight: Clay Guida

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    In terms of obvious dudes for a list about blue-collar attitudes, it would be insane to even consider someone else in his weight class. Clay Guida has been doing blue collar since before blue collar was cool.

    He's been rolling deep in an RV for years, has people chanting his name when he shows up in the crowd at an event, goes by "The Carpenter" when Bruce Buffer calls his name and routinely shouts out to unions when they put a mic in front of him after a fight.

    The guy epitomizes blue collar more than anyone in the sport.

Lightweight: Cody McKenzie

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    "Blue collar" can mean different things in MMA, Cody McKenzie is blue collar in a way that is totally unique to him.

    This is a guy who takes gigs on Alaskan crab boats to pay for his training, hits the cage in Nike basketball shorts when he forgets his gear and looks like a guy who's just happy to be in the cage.

    It's hard to justify that he should still be in the UFC based on pure ability, but for as long as he is, he's a major blue-collar all-star.

Welterweight: Paulo Thiago

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    Is there anything more blue collar than a one-time Top 10 contender who spends his spare time policing the streets of Brazil? Probably not.

    Thiago is on the downside of his career, but there was a time when people thought he might break through and be something special in one of the UFC's toughest divisions. He's only won three of his past eight bouts, but sometimes there's more to a fighter than what he does in the cage.

    Thiago is that guy: a special forces officer in Brasilia, Brazil. You can't help but think that the streets on his watch are a little safer than those of his workmates who haven't been in the Octagon with Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck and Martin Kampmann.

Middleweight: Tim Boetsch

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    There's no way you can keep a guy who went from landscaper to fighter overnight off this list.

    Boetsch, a Maine native who has found his way to blue-collar hubs like Pennsylvania on a wrestling scholarship and Iowa for his first career tilt, is as rugged as they come. After years toiling in the IFL alongside blue-collar grinders like Ben Rothwell and Roy Nelson, he jumped to the UFC.

    In his time, he has bullied his way up the middleweight ranks and showed the sport that a meat-and-potatoes approach to the game can still be successful if you know how to use it.

    He does, and it's part of his blue-collar charm.

Light Heavyweight: Dan Henderson

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    Though he's presently without a contract, all signs point to a UFC return for the former two-division Pride champion. When that's official, Henderson will also return to his slot with the blue-collar all-stars on the roster.

    An Olympic wrestler who has fought any and all comers in an MMA career spanning across three decades, he epitomizes that there's no substitute for hard work. To still fight top names well into his 40s is nearly uncharted territory; only his fellow workhorse Randy Couture did it with any level of success before him.

    The California-born Greco-Roman specialist is a true living legend and an obvious addition to any team with a blue-collar theme.

Heavyweight: Roy Nelson

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    While Browne was the guy to inspire this idea and he got a nice ovation for his words at UFC 168, he only temporarily stole the thunder of Mr. Blue-Collar Heavyweight Roy Nelson.

    Nelson—hated by his boss, sporting a comical beard and a hefty paunch, training on mats in his dining room for years as a Top 10 heavyweightis the embodiment of blue collar. He loves Burger King and punching guys in the face, and really, who can't get behind that?

    Nelson is the biggest, baddest and bluest collar on this all-star team.

     

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