Last weekend, Matt Hughes was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.
Matt Hughes' place in the UFC Hall was never truly in doubt. Hughes earned his spot by being one of the most dominant champions in UFC history, and almost as important, by being one of Dana White's most loyal employees.
If Matt Hughes was the standard for what a Hall of Fame inductee must look like, then few fighters would receive such an honor.
Pat Miletich is an example of a guy who might have otherwise earned a spot in the UFC Hall if for no other reason than how dominant his MFS training camp once was. However, his strained relationship with the UFC brass may hurt his chances.
Jon Fitch's 12-1 UFC record is one of the best in the sport, but Dana White recently said that he has trouble thinking of Fitch as a pound-for-pound guy because he's never won a title.
I can imagine similar thinking might eventually be in the debate on whether Fitch deserves to be in the Hall.
Yet if a Championship belt is the minimum standard for entrance into the UFC's Hall of Fame, then we'd be in a situation where half of the light heavyweight division belongs in the Hall, while those toiling in the welterweight division may be ignored as candidates so long as Georges St. Pierre remains the top dog.
Aside from those factors, it should also be mentioned that a UFC Hall of Fame is not equal to an MMA Hall of Fame, the biggest difference being the inclusion of Fedor Emelianenko.
Figuring out exactly who belongs in the UFC's Hall of Fame is messy business, and seems like a cruel one when it becomes a process of exclusion rather than inclusion.
That said, here's my list of 10 current UFC fighters who have already done enough to earn a spot in the UFC Hall of Fame.
1. Georges St. Pierre
St. Pierre is a shoo-in because he's beaten the best, dominated his division, and has become arguably the most popular fighter in the sport today.
His list of victims includes the aforementioned Hughes, Fitch, as well as BJ Penn, Thiago Alves, and Josh Koscheck.
His 14-2 UFC record itself exists as a pretty big monument for his achievements, but more than that, a few victories stand out.
Most importantly: He won his superfight.
UFC 94: St. Pierre vs. Penn 2 was one of the biggest events in the sport's history. Winning that fight alone is probably enough to put St. Pierre in the Hall.
Add on to that his wins over Alves and Fitch, two pound-for-pound worthy fighters whom St. Pierre made look ordinary, and it's easy to see why St. Pierre will be in the Hall.
While some fans and Dana White may currently be frustrated by Silva's antics, it's impossible to take away from his achievements.
He has 11 consecutive wins in the Octagon, most of them ending in spectacular fashion.
His best victories are probably his wins over Rich Franklin, Forrest Griffin, and Dan Henderson.
Among his more interesting achievements is that he's one of the few fighters to have wins over top five opponents in three different weight classes.
3. BJ Penn
Penn's record may not look as sparkling as Silva's or St. Pierre's, but he's got some interesting achievements of his own to go along with his welterweight and lightweight titles.
A natural lightweight, Penn wandered around in higher weight classes, fighting elite guys such as St. Pierre, Hughes, and Lyoto Machida.
The win over Hughes is probably Penn's single greatest victory, but some people think that Penn deserved the decision in his first fight against St. Pierre.
In his own weight class, Penn was thought to be head and shoulders above the rest of the division until Frank Edgar took his title in a somewhat controversial decision.
4. Tito Ortiz
Ortiz reigned over the light heavyweight division for a long time, but his list of victims is actually not overly impressive compared to the lists of the three guys above him in this list.
Still, he reigned for a long time, and his popularity and feuds with Chuck Liddell and Ken Shamrock were important for the survival and growth of the UFC.
The Zuffa Favorites
5. Rich Franklin
Compared to the guys listed above, Franklin's reign as champion was short, but he's still got a pretty great UFC record, and has fought some wars against guys like Wanderlei Silva and Dan Henderson.
I actually thought that he did enough to at least earn a draw in his fight against Henderson, and he appeared to be the stronger fighter at the end of the bout.
Aside from that loss to Henderson, Franklin has only lost to Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, and Vitor Belfort, all Brazilian southpaws.
If there is one thing that will get Franklin into the Hall, it might just be his relationship with the Zuffa brass. Dana White is a big fan of Rich Franklin, because he always steps up to fill the gaps when the UFC needs him.
Need someone to headline a card over in Germany? Rich will do it.
Need another fight in the UK? Rich is on that one, too.
What do we do when Tito Ortiz pulls out of TUF against Chuck Liddell? Never fear, Rich Franklin is here.
Given the kind of dedication Franklin has had to the UFC, it's easy to see why they love this guy, and why he'll probably be rewarded with a spot in the Hall of Fame.
6. Frank Mir
Frank Mir is another one of those fighters that UFC guys like Joe Silva love.
But even if it wasn't for his relationship with the UFC, Mir's 11-5 record is a bit deceiving because of how big some of those wins were.
Mir's victories over Brock Lesnar, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and Tim Sylvia and his pair of UFC championship belts are probably enough to put him in the Hall.
The Sylvia and Lesnar submissions are must-see footage for any UFC fan, and to have two such moments like that ensures that Mir will always be a big part of UFC lore.
The Ultimate Fighters
7. Forrest Griffin
Technically, Diego Sanchez was the first winner of The Ultimate Fighter, but Forrest Griffin will probably be remembered most as the flag bearer for the reality series.
Dana White frequently names the fight between Stephen Bonnar and Forrest Griffin as the most important fight in the history of the sport, so it only makes sense that the winner of that fight move on to the Hall of Fame.
Add on to that a UFC title and victories over Mauricio Rua and Quinton Jackson, and it's easy to see why Griffin makes it to the Hall.
8. Rashad Evans
If Griffin is the man most recognizable as a TUF product, Evans is by far the most successful one inside the Octagon.
Out of all the fighters to ever appear as contestants on The Ultimate Fighter, none have had more success than Evans, who will now prepare for his shot at a second UFC belt.
He's beaten Griffin as well as TUF Season 3 winner Michael Bisping, and is 8-0 against other TUF veterans, if you include his victories on the reality series.
The PRIDE FC Veterans
9. Minotauro Nogueira
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira's achievements inside the Octagon pale in comparison to his achievements in PRIDE, where he earned his reputation as the second best heavyweight in MMA history (and no, the best heavyweight in history is not Randy Couture).
Still, Nogueira did add wins over Sylvia and Couture in the UFC to further his legend.
What makes me confident that Nogueira makes it to the Hall are remarks that Dana White made when speaking at a Q&A session before UFC 110.
Dana White said then that he felt Nogueira was one of the greatest heavyweights of all time, and that he would probably make it into the UFC Hall of Fame.
If White does bring Nogueira into the Hall, it's going to need to be based largely on what Nogueira did in PRIDE.
I'm assuming that Fedor Emelianenko would need to fight in the UFC at least once to earn the same honor.
10. Wanderlei Silva
If White is going to bring Nogueira into the Hall, they may as well bring along Silva, who also spent the better part of his career fighting in Japan.
Silva had an extremely long reign as the PRIDE middleweight champion, and is probably most famous for his wars with Quinton Jackson and Dan Henderson.
Silva is one of the most loved and revered fighters in MMA, so White won't get an argument from the fans if he does decide to honor "The Axe Murderer."
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