For most families, fighting is a part of everyday life.
We all know the scenario. It’s Monday night after dinner, and football is on at the same time as American Idol. It’s Mom vs. Dad, with the Undisputed “Universal Remote Control” championship on the line. Based on past encounters, it looks like another night of bad singing and Steven Tyler for old Daddy-O.
Or how about the epic “my side of the room, your side of the room” battles, which are a hallmark of every sibling that has had to share a room, ever?
Then there’s the pranks. The stolen toys. The secretly read diaries. The badly hidden lumps of broccoli trying to sneak their way past after-dinner muster under a folded napkin.
In short, fighting is just a natural part of family life. We all remember these squabbles. And yet, I’m willing to bet they don’t hold a candle to the fights these families have likely had.
Can you imagine being the one who has to break up a squabble between the Rua's? The stare down alone would have me fleeing the room.
Or how about trying to get the Nogueria brothers to eat their vegetables? If they can take a Cro Cop kick or Alastair Overeem knee and keep coming, they would laugh at a “spanking.”
And just trying to get the Emelianenko brothers to smile for a family photo would be an exercise in futility.
Luckily, we didn’t have to go through the trouble of raising these fearsome fighting families - we just get to watch them in action.
Here are the 5 greatest families in MMA history, starting with the “first family” of Mixed Martial Arts.
What would a list of MMA’s top families be without the name “Gracie” sitting atop it? The truth is that as far as families in MMA go, pretty much everyone else is a footnote to the mighty Gracie clan in Brazil.
First, the Gracies invented the martial art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu in the early 20th century, adapting the Judo they learned from Mitsuya Maeda for their smaller, less powerful frames. Today, very few fighters compete in MMA without at least some knowledge of “The Gentle Art”.
But wait, there’s more!
The Gracies are responsible for the creation of modern day MMA through their famous “Gracie Challenge”, whereby a Gracie family member would challenge a master in another art in a “No Holds Barred” contest to prove the superiority of Gracie BJJ.
From this challenge would grow the idea for the original Ultimate Fighting Championship event - a tournament featuring different martial arts styles, to see which one was superior.
Since then, the Gracies have been a mainstay of the MMA scene. Royce Gracie won the inaugural UFC event and forever proved the effectiveness of BJJ in one-on-one fighting.
Legendary figures like Carlson and Rickson Gracie have trained some of the biggest names in MMA. Guys like Renzo and César Gracie continue to train the future champions of MMA in their gyms today.
The Gracies have won innumerable ADCC, Mundial, and other grappling championships. Strikeforce LHW Roger Gracie is widely considered to be the best BJJ player in the world today. They are the first and last word in the world of submission fighting.
Plus, there’s like 50 million of them out there now. I swear you can’t throw a rock in Brazil without hitting a badass dude named “Gracie” (or “Silva”, for that matter). In sheer weight of numbers alone the Gracies are the premier family in MMA.
If we’re talking pure accomplishment in the sport of MMA, it might be tough to beat the respected and legendary Nogueria twins for sheer weight of accomplishment.
Between them, they have boxing, grappling and MMA world title wins from one end of the world to the other. While not always the champions of their respective divisions, both Noguerias have been a staple of the top 10 lists for years. They are respected, fan-friendly, and have faced some of the toughest guys in the sport.
And fans love them because no one is tougher, more gritty, more inde-freakin’-structible then a Nogueria. Before age or injuries caught up to them, the Noguerias were considered the most iron-jawed, tough as boot leather (with faces to prove it) guys in MMA. Just Google the name Nogueria alongside Mirko Cro Cop, “Shogun” Rua, Josh Barnett or Bob Sapp and prepare to be entertained.
In short, these guys are badasses. Twin badasses. Sort of like “Double Dragon” minus the multi-coloured GI’s.
And despite how cruel time may have been to the brothers, let’s not forget the incredible contribution to the history of MMA that these two have made—and are continuing to make, in their capacity as head coach. Guys like Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida and Junior Dos Santos are the future of the sport—all train under the Noguerias.
You can always count on the mercurial Diaz brothers of Stockton, California for…well, I was going to say laughs, but that’s not quite right. Not everyone finds them funny, after all.
How about talk, then? Or controversy? Headline grabbing moments? Like flipping out and jumping a reality TV star on live network television?
I guess you can’t blame them for that one. These things happen in MMA.
Say what you will of the Diaz brothers—they’re disrespectful, crass, annoying, what have you—but you can never accuse them of playing it safe in fights. No matter the opponent, these dudes come to bring it every single fight.
And while they’re bringing it, they might also bring some choice words for their opponent, and a pair of middle fingers for the crowd Steve Austin style.
These antics get the Diaz brothers a lot of haters, which could be bad if the brothers showed any signs of giving a damn what other people think of them.
The brothers are both very well-rounded as MMA fighters, combining world class BJJ with slick, volume-first boxing skills, endless gas tanks, and a pitbull’s fighting heart.
Older brother Nick continues to tear it up in Strikeforce, a gigantic killer whale in Strikeforce’s puddle of a 170 lbs class. Younger brother Nate, a former TUF winner, has moved back and forth between welterweight and lightweight in his UFC career so far. He is a proven top 10 threat in either division.
So love them or hate them, the Stockton boys aren‘t afraid of anything—except maybe a bout agreement with “Mayhem” Miller’s signature on it.
In a sense, it’s not fair to even call Ken and Frank Shamrock “brothers”. Both were adopted by Bob Shamrock, who ran a home for troubled youth. Without a genetic link, the brothers have only their bonds of family and friendship—which are pretty much rubble at this point.
Both guys hate each other’s guts and snipe each other in the press all the time. Something about Ken kicking Frank out of the gym years ago, refusing to train him. From there, the bad blood only accumulated, to the point where both men refused to speak to one another. Following the death of Bob Shamrock, it’s safe to say any relationship the two may have once had is long gone.
Hell, there’s still a glimmer of a chance we see a Shamrock vs. Shamrock fight in the future—assuming one (or both) of the Shamrock brothers gets desperate enough for a payday to try to make it happen.
It may be tough to believe now, but there was a time when the Shamrock’s were considered one of the premier families in all of MMA. Older brother Ken was a pioneer in MMA, fighting at the inaugural UFC 1 tournament. Before that, he was a staple in Japanese organization Pancrase.
Frank followed his brother into both Pancrase and the UFC, where he went undefeated as Middleweight champion before “retiring“ from MMA for a period. Both were among the top fighters of their day.
Sadly, that day has long passed. Frank took some fights under the Elite XC/Strikeforce banner before being beat into retirement by Cung Le and Nick Diaz. He at least landed on his feet as an on-camera personality and commentator for Strikeforce.
Ken wasn’t so lucky. Having spent all his money and seemingly burnt all his bridges in the MMA world, Ken trudges on, fighting for the money while his legacy dies a slow death. He’s 2-3 in his last 5 fights against “Hooter’s on a Friday night” level of competition.
So for the price of a couple of bucks, a plane ticket, and a 40-something fat guy to beat up on (or lose to, whatever) you too can have “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” come fight at your bush league MMA event.
Some of you may question why I have included the Couture’s within the top 5 at certain other families expense. The Rua brothers have certainly made their mark in MMA. So too have the Emelianenkos. The Machida’s as well can claim both familial MMA patronage and elite level success. Even the Cyborgs (Mr. and Mrs.) have won world titles - not to mention they both have the same nickname. How much more family can you get?
Still, the Coutures make this list for three reasons.
The first is Randy Couture. In the short history of MMA he is already one of the sport’s undisputed legends. Outside of his accomplishments inside the cage—five titles at two different weight-classes—Couture is an establishment unto himself outside of it. Clothing lines. MMA gym franchises. Starring roles in A-list films. If MMA had a “Mount Rushmore” Randy’s grizzled face would adorn it.
But Randy’s not reason enough to put the whole family on this list. The second reason is Ryan Couture.
With only one fight under his belt, the younger Couture is still mostly a question mark. Still, he has to be considered at the very least a promising prospect. He has the genes, after all, but more then that he has the environment.
Learning MMA from Randy and the other monsters at Xtreme Couture is an amazing foundation for learning the sport of MMA. Plus, he has his dad’s ice cold demeanour down pat. Expect this kid to make big waves in the next 3-5 years.
But even he’s not enough. The reason the Couture’s make this list is because of Kim Couture.
OK I’m kidding, but only a little bit. The reason the Couture’s make this list is because of all of the above. Nowhere else in MMA do father, son, and father’s wife all compete in MMA. Or rather, father, son, and father’s ex-wife who still gets to use the last name.
It’s an unprecedented situation in MMA, but the Coutures being MMA’s true “first family” in the Fantastic Four sense—dysfunctional though they may be—makes them unique. Combine that with all of Randy’s many and varied contributions to the popularity and growth of MMA, and you really can’t help but include the “Captain Americas” on this top 5 list.