Cain Velasquez, Brian Stann and the Top 10 Role Models in the UFC Today
"I am not a role model." NBA Hall Of Fame basketball player Charles Barkley made that statement famous.
Today's sports arena is filled with selfish, entitled athletes who believe they are above the law and do not need to abide to society's standards of living.
Being a professional athlete is a blessing, not a right.
As such, with the enormous paychecks, fame and the ability to participate on the world's largest stages comes responsibility.
Charles Barkley could not have been more wrong in his lack of accountability as a role model.
Whether or not an athlete wants to accept the moniker of role model does not eliminate the fact that professional athletes are role models.
These athletes need to adhere to a standard of living that represents not only themselves but their sports in a manner that positively influences millions of people worldwide.
With the explosion of MMA globally, fans worldwide emulate their favorite fighters.
These fans mimic fighting styles inside the Octagon, and some lead their lives in a fashion similar to their favorite fighters outside of the cage.
To be a role model is a tremendous privilege. Knowing that your actions shape and mold the generations to follow and may provide a blueprint for how fans develop their fight games and lead their lives is an honor.
Being a role model encompasses a fighter's actions both in and out of the cage, including how they represent themselves, their sport, interact with the fans and perform service above and beyond what may be expected.
The talent competing for the UFC contains dozens of virtuous and genuine fighters who utilize their position within the UFC to better those who need help.
This article is not about the championships and titles earned inside the Octagon. In all reality, this article should not be quantified on a list system. All 10 fighters described here are deserving of unlimited praise and adoration for their acceptance as role models.
Rather, this article is dedicated to the selfless work and diligent devotion provided by the top 10 role models in the UFC today to provide positive changes and an altruistic script for those less fortunate.
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No. 10: UFC Lightweight Competitor, Clay "The Carpenter" Guida
With a smile on his face and an unrivaled passion and love for fighting, Clay "The Carpenter" Guida balances the love he has inside the Octagon with his drive to help others outside of the cage.
Working diligently as a fighter has equaled success for Guida in the UFC lightweight division. His positiveness and work ethic are trademark tools replicated and admired by his adoring fans.
"The Carpenter" has taken his success as a fighter and given back to the community. In addition to the many charitable works Guida performs, he has also been involved in donating signed fight shorts and memorabilia for charities including Multiple Sclerosis research.
Clay Guida's professionalism as a fighter embodies what it means to be a role model, and his charitable work outside the cage further enhances his character.
No. 9: "The Phenom" Vitor Belfort
"The Phenom" Vitor Belfort stormed onto the UFC scene at the ripe age of 19 with fists of fury and an explosiveness unmatched in that time and age.
With unrivaled hand speed and devastating KO power, Belfort was at the top of his game when his personal life was turned upside down.
Prior to his championship fight with Randy Couture at UFC 46, Vitor learned that his sister had been kidnapped.
The heavy burden of his sister's loss and eventual murder were a turning point in "The Phenom's" life.
This experience lead Vitor Belfort to his belief in God.
“I can see now that through that tribulation, I’m a new man. I’m a strong man. I’ve matured,” Belfort said.
“I’m just a man who seeks God every day,” Belfort stated. “I just seek knowledge of God. I don’t consider myself a religious person, because I think religion is a counterfeit for a relationship with God. I love Jesus, so I try and have his character in my life and try and live with the principles that he taught, and that’s it.”
Vitor's belief in God is the foundation for how he leads his life. This path he has chosen is a template for many to follow. He holds his beliefs close to him and lives his life in a virtuous manner—the way a role model should.
No. 8: UFC Lightweight Champion, Frankie Edgar
Frankie Edgar is the current UFC lightweight champion.
This humble mixed martial artist not only carries himself with dignity and class inside the Octagon, he lives by the same principles outside of it.
Giving back to the soldiers is important to this New Jersey native.
He, along with Rashad Evans and several other fighters, visited Walter Reed Hospital to visit the wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“When I went over to Walter Reed Hospital down in the D.C. area, seeing some of our wounded warriors, it was touching,” Edgar said. “These guys weren’t broken by any means. Just to see the fighting spirit in them, it definitely gives motivation to have that no quit in you.”
Additionally, Edgar has spent time speaking with troops on the USS Intrepid and those present at UFC Fight for the Troops shows.
“Our soldiers do so much for us, and they get little in return," Edgar stated.
Humbled by the appreciation he receives from the soldiers, Frankie commented, "You see the love you get from them, and it is awkward. We really should be giving them all the praise.”
A true champion both in and out of the Octagon, Frankie Edgar represents the UFC lightweight championship with a level of character that should be admired and duplicated by his fans.
No. 7: Former UFC Middleweight Champion, Rich "Ace" Franklin
Truly a genuine human being with a humble and helpful spirit, Rich "Ace" Franklin has been a role model since his first fight inside the famed Octagon in 2005.
Well respected by his peers and the UFC brass, Franklin's reputation as a good guy is well deserving.
Having the honor and privilege to train with Rich on a variety of occasions, I can speak first hand regarding Franklin's desire to teach and help others achieve their best as a fighter.
Outside of the mixed martial art's arena, Rich is involved in the community in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio working with local charity groups and fund raising events.
Nationally, "Ace" is a member of the Disabled American Veterans organization as a spokesperson and ambassador.
"I believe that no one should ignore, forget or disregard the sacrifice that the men and women who go to battle give," Franklin stated. "When I visit a disabled veteran who has lost a limb or has an injury so severe that their life is changed forever, I think we all need to get on our knees and thank God for these real American fighters."
Establishing himself as a champion within the cage, Rich has utilized his success as a tool to give back to the community and assist those in need.
A definite role model and someone many fans should aspire to be.
No. 6: Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Forrest Griffin
A former UFC light heavyweight champion, The Ultimate Fighter season one winner and a New York Times best-selling author Forrest Griffin has many talents.
His comedic approach to his interviews, his light-hearted relations with the media and his exemplary respect for the sport of mixed martial arts are all reasons to admire and follow in Forrest Griffin's foot steps.
One more reason to believe that Forrest Griffin is a solid role model is that all the proceeds he earned from his second book, Be Ready When the [expletive] Goes Down: A Survival Guide to the Apocalypse, are going directly to various charities.
Griffin stated, "There’s a couple of different [charities the money will go to]: Fisher House, Three Square, a food bank in Las Vegas, our church, and then a couple more personal ones. The guy Big John, in the book, he passed away, and he’s got a five-year-old son, and he’s got a trust set up, so some of it’s for that as well." (Quoted by Couch Potato.com).
Forrest Griffin is a solid role model and well deserving of the No. 6 place on this list.
No. 5: UFC Light Heavyweight Competitor, Matt Hamill
Deaf at birth, Hamill grew up in Loveland, Ohio.
Introduced to wrestling by his stepfather, Hamill competed at Rochester Institute of Technology, eventually earning the gold in the 2001 Freestyle Men's Wrestling games in Rome.
Hamill never allowed his being deaf to be a deterrent from achieving his life goals.
Now a strong competitor in the UFC light heavyweight division, Hamill continues to persevere with his handicap, proving to all hearing impaired Americans that anything is achievable.
Not only a role model to those with disabilities, he is proof positive that success is achieved through hard work, dedication, believing in what is right and striving to be the best achievable.
No. 4: Former UFC Lightweight Competitor, Roger "El Matador" Huerta
Growing up engulfed in violence and the victim of child abuse, Roger Huerta's childhood is what horror films are predicated on.
With his parents separated when Roger was six years old, his mother became very abusive to Roger inflicting years of physical and mental abuse onto the youngster.
Forced to re-locate between his father and step-mother and his familial mother, the abuse continued as Roger aged.
Living on the streets salvaging for food and shelter in Mexico, Roger Huerta eventually ended up on the doorstep of Maria King, his friend's mother who ultimately obtained legal custody of Roger.
With a stable home-life for the first time, Roger began to flourish in school both academically and athletically as a wrestler and football player.
Parlaying his wrestling background into mixed martial arts, Huerta was a solid title contender within the UFC lightweight division. Now competing for Bellator Fighting Championships, Huerta continues to prove that his hellacious childhood would not define him as a fighter.
Establishing My Fight 4 Kids, Huerta has created a new non-profit program to benefit underprivileged children.
Huerta believes the program can significantly impact the lives of children who, like him, were raised in poverty and broken homes.
With 16,000,000 cases of child abuse in America alone, Roger Huerta's stance against child abuse and his salvation beyond the confines of abuse are testament to his character and his drive to survive in this world.
A survivor, Roger Huerta is a strong role model for those afflicted by the demons of abuse.
No. 3: UFC Heavyweight Champion, Cain Velasquez
On October 23, 2010, Cain Velasquez demolished Brock Lesnar to become the current UFC heavyweight champion.
The most prolific championship in mixed martial arts is now around the waist of a proud Mexican-American.
Combat sports have been a part of the Latino community for decades. Millions of Latin fans admire and cherish their champions who share in their heritage.
Without many Mexican-Americans as champions in the combat sports, Velasquez is somewhat of a rarity and accepts his position as a representative.
"I was in a similar situation growing up as far as not having anyone to look up to. I didn't see anybody in the media or on TV that played sports that looked like me. I didn't have those things growing up. Now that I'm in that position, I'm happy to be that person if I can" Cain said.
Cain Velasquez's title victory has created an unconditional praise and reverence amongst the Latino community.
Understanding his place as the UFC heavyweight champion, Velasquez has taken this great honor with thanks and responsibility and has accepted his position as a role model.
"If I can be that person, I'm honored to be that person. If I can inspire somebody or kids can look up to me in that way, then definitely, I'll definitely be that person" Velasquez stated.
A true champion. Cain Velasquez has proudly accepted this honor as being a role model for millions of kids in the Latino community.
No. 2: UFC Hall of Fame Fighter, Randy "The Natural" Couture
Prior to Randy "The Natural" Couture's Hall of Fame fighting career, he served six years in the U.S. Army.
Embodying the values and ethics taught by the armed forces and carrying that pride and respect into the Octagon became the foundation for Couture's competitive nature.
Never a fighter to show disrespect to his opponent, Randy fought at the best of his ability without taking any shortcuts.
His championship runs proved to his millions of adoring fans that hard work and dedication will provide reciprocating results in the end.
Utilizing his fame as one of the most heralded MMA stars in history, Couture continues to give back to the community, especially those who defend our freedoms around the world.
Randy Couture provided a recent donation to the Walter Reed Medical Center to help America's wounded soldiers. Couture donated supplements to help aid in their rehabilitation and recovery.
"You'd be surprised how physically fit and how much physical rigor that goes into rehab for these guys. Getting fitted for prosthetics, learning to walk, learning to do a lot of things that we all take for granted. I'm fortunate to be in a position to help them in their recovery," Couture stated.
This is just one example of how the Hall of Fame fighter gives back.
A role model for tomorrow's generations as well as an ambassador for mixed martial arts, Couture's altruism is as much intact as his character.
No. 1: Former U.S. Marine and Current Middleweight Contender, Brian Stann
With his TKO victory over Chris Leben on New Year's Day 2011, Brian Stann's popularity as a formidable fighter within the middleweight division has been on the rise.
What may not be as known as Stann's punching power and precise strikes is his heroic military service.
A graduate of the Naval Academy, Brian served as an officer in the United States Marine Corps.
During Operation Matador, Stann and his unit were ambushed by insurgents in Iraq. Coordinating air and tank support for six battle-stricken days, Brian Stann and his unit were ultimately saved by allied forces.
All 42 men in Stann's platoon survived. The following March, Brian was awarded the silver star, the third highest award for valor in combat.
A portion of the citation reads, "Second Lieutenant Stann personally directed two casualty operations, three vehicle recovery operations and multiple close air support missions under enemy small arms, machine gun and mortar fire in his 360-degree fight."
A true American hero, an honorable role model for millions of fight fans and embodying the essence of a mixed martial artist, Brian Stann's character and principles are of the highest quality and should never be overlooked.