MMA attracts a certain kind: the kind that doesn't mind violence or, like, not getting paid enough, and things like that.
As much as the sport has grown, at its center, a lot of the guys are outlaws and misfits. Outstanding athletes and highly skilled and courageous human beings, yes, but also misfits.
Ditto a lot of the fans. That's probably why the sport has (and, to my mind, will) always engender cult heroes. There is fertile ground for such things on both sides of the equation.
Here are the seven biggest cult heroes in the sport right now. To be eligible, one must be actively connected to the sport in some way, be it through active competition, the media, refereeing or something else. Retired fighters with active Twitter accounts don't count.
How does one define cult hero? It's a little nebulous. After some Internet around-digging, I am concluding that a cult hero can reasonably be defined as someone with a relatively small but highly passionate fan base, but also as someone for whom fan adoration comes for a quirky, ironic and generally non-obvious reason.
If you have a hardcore base of devotees who like you because you're good at fighting, that doesn't qualify you as a cult hero. Think of it as something akin to a secret knock or an inside joke; only fans in the know and of a certain mindset are going to get on board with the aforementioned brand of passion one needs to foster a cult following.
Nick Diaz is an obvious one. But there are six others that I identified as fitting this category. Here they are, listed in no particular order.