What Were You Thinking? The Biggest WTF Ideas/Decisions in MMA
Last year, I had written an article on the WWE section of Bleacher Report about some of the most mind boggling and stupid decisions made in wrestling history.
From horrible characters to nonsensical storylines and wacky matches, it was easy to make a list of 25 items that could fall under the WTF category. I decided it was time to do something similar in concern to MMA and while there weren't as many wacky things to comment on, there are those moments that make you wonder WTF?
From bad career moves to horrible gimmicks, each slide will make you ask what that person or promotion was thinking.
Travis Lutter Comes in Overweight Against Anderson Silva
In the early years of The Ultimate Fighter, a decision was made to change the format like it has been many, many times through the show's history. Instead of having the cast consist of young fighters hoping to make it to the UFC, the cast was made up of Welterweights and Middleweights who have fought in the UFC, but haven't won a UFC title.
Also, instead of a UFC contract, the winners would receive a guaranteed title shot in their division and a $100,00 sponsorship deal with Xyience.
In the Middleweight finals, Travis Lutter would end up winning after beating Patrick Cote via armbar in the first round. Lutter would have the first shot against the current Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva at UFC 67, while Welterweight winner Matt Serra would face off against Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre at UFC 69.
So with the build up of an entire TV season and the spotlight being thrust upon him, you would think that Lutter would do his best to not have any issues leading into his match against the man who, at that time, hadn't had a match in the UFC go past the second round. Unfortunately, his best wasn't good enough in this situation when Lutter came in two pounds over the limit at weigh-ins, and then a pound and a half two hours later.
So in the end Lutter's match became a three round, non-title match against Silva. To say the fans were upset would be an understatement as he was booed during his entrance to the octagon.
Lutter would lose by submission in the second round and then found that he had a huge target on his back as he ended up making the UFC look foolish for making the hyped title match not happen as advertised. After losing his next fight to Rich Franklin, Lutter became the first Ultimate Fighter winner to be released by the UFC.
Strikeforce Not Resigning Jake Shields
In 2009, Dan Henderson found himself being one of the most talked about fighters after his highlight reel knockout of rival TUF coach Michael Bisping. After the fight, Henderson signed a four fight deal with Strikeforce, where his first match would be a Middleweight title match against then-champion Jake Shields.
Despite being the challenger, Henderson was being promoted as the favorite for the match, such to an extent where Shields wasn't even mentioned as much in TV promotion leading up to the fight.
When the fight came, Henderson was able to take an early advantage using his striking against Shields. The high point of the round occurred when Henderson was able to knock down Shields and looked to have the fight in the bag as long as he went in for the finish, yet Shields was able to fend off Hendo, even going for a couple submission attempts to survive the first round. Shields would then make a huge comeback in the final four rounds, and using his wrestling skills, would end up winning the match by unanimous decision.
The win, along with what became known as the Nashville Brawl that occurred after the fight, would make Shields as hot a fighter as Henderson had been coming into the fight. More so, Shields could now be considered a free agent as the Henderson fight was the last on his contract with Strikeforce.
So the big topic in MMA then became will Shields stay with Strikefore or would he sign with the UFC, that's when it got pretty nasty. Depending on who was telling the story, Strikeforce wasn't resigning Shields because his camp was asking for too much money in comparison to Shields' drawing power or Shields wasn't signing because Strikeforce was willing to let him go in favor of having an eight-man tournament to determine who the new Middleweight Champion.
In the end, Shields signed with the UFC and Strikeforce ended up not even holding the Middleweight tournament. After winning his much anticipated debut against Martin Kampmann, Jake Shields would face Georges St. Pierre for the Welterweight in front of the largest North American UFC event in history, while Strikeforce was left looking foolish for letting Shields go at that time.
Alistair Overeem Tests Positive
When it was announced that former Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion Alistair Overeem had signed with the UFC, fans were salivating to see him face the best that the UFC had to offer and eventually a title against Junior dos Santos.
After beating former champion Brock Lesnar last year, those dreams seemed like they were coming true. Then the UFC decided to go all out with the card by making it the first UFC event to have all main card fights be heavyweight bouts: Overeem would face dos Santos for the title, Frank Mir would face Cain Velasquez in a title eliminator, Roy Nelson would fight Bigfoot Silva, Shane del Rosario vs. Gabriel Gonzaga, and Mark Hunt vs. Stefan Struve.
Yet controversy struck when on April 4, the NSAC announced that Overeem had failed his pre-fight drug test with a 14:1 testosterone-epitestosterone ratio, over twice the allowed 6:1 ratio. He was almost immediately pulled from the card until he could get the situation sorted out. The card was saved though as fighters were just moved around to fill the big gap left in the main event. Mir would move up to fight for the title. Silva moved up to fight Velasquez, Dave Herman replaced Gonzaga to face Roy Nelson, Lavar Johnson replaced Hunt to fight Struve and Stipe Miocic moved in to face del Rosario.
Overeem would end up getting suspended for nine months and would almost ruin a fantastic card because of his actions. Now, while the card is still pretty good, it's missing that spark of seeing two of the best heavyweights in dos Santos and Overeem fight for the title, though we may still be able to see that fight in the future barring any more unforeseen incidents.
Josh Barnett Tests Positive a Bunch
Speaking of a failed drug test ruining MMA events, look no further than to the man who has done that more than anyone, Josh Barnett.
The grappler has on two separate occasions been caught using illegal substances, and both times have had massive repercussions. His first publicly known time getting caught was at UFC 36 when he beat Randy Couture for the Heavyweight Title, though there was a failed test after his win at UFC 34. After his hearing where he claimed his innocence and that he only used over-the-counter supplement, he was suspended for six months, stripped of the title, and has not fought for the UFC since.
Eight years later, Barnett was scheduled to face off against Fedor Emelianenko at Affliction: Trilogy. But ten days before the event took place, Barnett again tested positive for steroids—this time, a metabolite of Drostanolone.
As a result, the entire event was canceled since a last minute replacement couldn't be found to face Emelianenko. And since the entire card was scrapped, the entire promotion ended up folding completely.
It is pretty sad considering that Barnett, controversy or not, is a really good fighter who has now been shrouded in controversy due to his multiple failed tests.
Mayhem Miller's Second UFC Run
Last year, fans were excited to hear that the 14th and last Spike-aired season of The Ultimate Fighter was to feature two tournaments with fighters in the just added weight classes of Featherweight and Bantamweight.
That excitement was compounded when it was originally rumored that the coaches for the season would be Michael Bisping and Chael Sonnen. Yet when Sonnen had his legal issues occur and wouldn't be allowed to coach, the excitement remained when news broke that Strikeforce fighter Jason “Mayhem” Miller would replace Sonnen, making his return to the UFC six years after his loss to Georges St. Pierre.
The season itself was one of the best in recent memory as the lower weight fighters put on exciting fights while Miller and Bisping were at each other's throats each week. The fight was something fans were really excited to see, especially giving how most despised Bisping and liked the antics of Miller. Yet when the fight occurred, something seemed off after the first round in which Miller got a quarter-mount on Bisping late in the round. Miller seemed gassed in the second and third round, which left him just taking numerous strikes from Bisping who also seemed to have tired quickly. Miller finally lost via TKO in the third round.
Dana White would go on to trash Miller's standup, something that Miller agreed with on his blog. Miller then found himself 0-2 in the UFC and in a must-win situation at UFC 146 where he faced off against C.B. Dollaway. He would end up losing to Dollaway and Miller was released from the promotion due to an incident backstage after the fight.
Miller would ultimately retire from MMA altogether after being released.
In 1995, the owners of the UFC decided that they needed a boost in publicity, so they decided to allow their name and logo to be used in a big Hollywood movie.
The movie in question was the sci-fi/action movie Virtuosity. It starred Denzel Washington as an ex-cop tasked in tracking down an android version of a computer program designed after over 600 serial killers, portrayed in the movie by a just-starting out Russel Crowe. The movie itself is pretty ridiculous, but has become one of my favorite guilty pleasure films.
Crowe's character, named Sid 6.7 and dresses like he bought his suits out of the Steve Harvey catalog, has a pattern of killing people in public forums where he can get a lot of publicity, and during his rampage, he ends up at the local arena where a UFC fight card is taking place. Sid eventually finds himself inside the octagon and taunts a couple fighters, including Ken Shamrock, before making an exit as Denzel chases after him, ending the UFC's involvement in the film.
But why does this make the list for being a bad career move you ask? Well if you watch the scene, the arena ends up looking like it came straight out of the Thunderdome catalog.
A dimly lit, smoke filled arena, fans chanting to a heavy metal song playing in the background, numerous fistfights in the crowd, and four fighters having a battle royal in the octagon. Also remember that this was during the infamous “human cockfighting” campaign by John McCain, so this movie did nothing but hurt the UFC's public image—something that it really couldn't afford at the time.
Brandon Vera Loses Title Shot Due to Contract Dispute
If you were to look at him today, you would never think of Brandon Vera as the future of the UFC.
But when he debuted in the promotion back in 2006, it seemed plausible that he could have been the first guy to hold two UFC titles at the same time. Going into his title eliminator with Frank Mir, Vera was 7-0 with only one of his fights going to a decision. Vera would steamroll over Mir, beating him by TKO in just 69 seconds, earning himself the title shot against the winner of the Tim Sylvia/Jeff Monson match that took place later that night.
Yet the title fight never came. A contract dispute occurred which completely derailed Vera's career. According to Vera, his manager wasn't properly representing him to the UFC, so he sat on the sidelines for almost a year. But according to Mark Dion, the former manager, says that wasn't the case. Vera was initially offered a $100,000 signing bonus if Vera was able to beat Tim Sylvia and become the Heavyweight Champion, but that wasn't good enough for Vera.
According to Dion, Vera felt it wasn't good enough that he be required to win the Heavyweight title to earn the signing bonus. What was his counter-offer you ask? $100,000 guaranteed? $200,000?
If you guessed those, you would be way off as Vera and his management demanded $1.5 million upfront, something you rarely see these days let alone back then for a potential contender. Ever more embarrassing is that Vera also turned down a four year/$7 million deal which was written on the napkin pictured above.
Vera would end up losing his title shot while a deal was being hammered out and Randy Couture would come out of retirement to beat Sylvia for the belt. Vera would come back 11 months after beating Mir and would lose his next two matches to Tim Sylvia and Fabricio Werdum.
He also has not been able to string together more than two wins since coming back and was at one point released from the UFC after his loss to Thiago Silva, though he was resigned after Silva gave a faked urine sample and the fight was deemed a no contest. It makes one wonder what Vera's career would look like if he went into the title fight with Sylvia with the momentum that he had directly after the Mir win, not eleven months later.
Jesse Taylor Kicked out of TUF Finale and out of UFC
Over the course of 15 seasons,The Ultimate Fighter has made numerous stars out of the prospects who become cast members on the show.
In some cases, the winner goes on to earn a title shot, or shots in Kenny Florian's case, or even win a title like in the cases of Rashad Evans or Forrest Griffin. This event occurred in the seventh season featuring the aformentioned Forrest Griffin and then-Lightheavyweight Champion Rampage Jackson as coaches.
For his third pick Forrest picked Jesse Taylor who would in the end make it to the finals of the tournament, facing off against teammate Amir Sadollah. Yet between the end of taping the regular season and the finals for the season, Taylor would find himself removed from the finals.
The reason for his removal involved Taylor going on a drunken romp through Las Vegas which included breaking out the window of a rented limo and getting into arguments with hotel security, all the while saying that he was a UFC fighter. After seeing the security footage, Dana White announced that Jesse would be removed from the final, but if he got his act together, he could fight in the UFC.
After going to AA and apparently cleaning up his act, Taylor would get his shot in the UFC at UFC: Silva vs. Irvin, where he ended up losing to C.B. Dollaway by submission. After the loss, Taylor would find himself released by the UFC due to the promotion's concern that Taylor wasn't taking his time in AA seriously and that Taylor had made negative comments about the promotion and how it favors bigger fighters no matter what they do, namely Rampage Jackson after his arrest.
Taylor would bounce around different promotions including Strikeforce and Dream while amassing a respectable record of 20-8, 14-5 after fighting in the UFC. It makes one wonder how Taylor would have fared in the UFC if he had gotten his problems under control.
And speaking of careers ruined by a fighter's outside actions/comments, you could look no further than Jon Koppenhaver a.k.a. War Machine.
There is a saying that you shouldn't write a check with your mouth that your ass can't cash, but if that's the case, War Machine bounced a lot of checks. After a stint on The Ultimate Fighter, WM earned a Fight of the Night award after beating fellow castmate Jared Rollins by knockout midway through the third round.
After he lost his next match to Yoshiyuki Yoshida by submission, War Machine was released from the promotion after making disparaging remarks about the recently deceased Evan Tanner, saying that he had committed suicide because his career was over and even though medical examiners were able to prove that it was not a suicide, Machine held firm with his statements. He was also released because of his refusal of a fight offered to him by UFC matchmaker Joe Silva, a rare occurrence in the promotion.
After being cut from the UFC, Koppenhaver legally changes his name to War Machine, had a brief stint as a porn actor, and was briefly signed and then released by Bellator. The reason for his release from that promotion was again due to his big mouth when he said that he hopes that someone assassinates President Obama and every President to follow him.
He would bounce around the independent circuit picking up a decent record of 7-2 with his most recent win being a TKO victory over Roger Huerta. War Machine's mouth and attitude would get him in deeper trouble as multiple bar fights in 2009 and 2010 which would lead to him serving a year in jail.
This would cause him to stick his foot in his mouth again when he said in his blog that nothing compares to the oppression men suffer in prison and that it was “worse than oppression of Jews in Nazi Germany, worse than the slavery of Blacks in early America... I'm not exaggerating either.”
After the Huerta fight, Machine resigned with Bellator and was scheduled to fight in the Season 6 Welterweight Tournament, but was sentenced to another year in jail for a 2009 assault charge.
If he had minded his Ps and Qs, he could have had successful career in the UFC, but now we'll never know how far he could have gone in the promotion.
Mark Kerr's Downfall
While the downfalls of Jesse Taylor and War Machine were irritating as both fighters had potential to go far in their divisions, the story of “The Smashing Machine” Mark Kerr is just sad.
Over the course of his first 11 fights he would go undefeated, winning the World Vale Tudo Heavyweight Tournament as well as the Heavyweight Tournaments at UFC 14 and 15 with only one of his fights going to a decision.
When he fought at Pride 7, Kerr would first taste defeat in losing to Igor Vovchanchyn, though it would later be deemed a no contest as knees-to-the-head of a downed opponent were illegal at the time. After that fight, Kerr would never be the same. Since going 11-0 at the start of his career, Kerr would go on to a have a dismal record of 4-11 (1), losing his last five matches, all of which he was finished in. What added fuel to the downfall in the eyes of many was a HBO documentary entitled “The Smashing Machine” which detailed Kerr's early career and eventual addiction to painkillers.
Many felt that Kerr was just unable to evolve with MMA and its stricter rules or if it was his addiction that took the gas out of his tank. But now that Kerr has said that he is basically retired, leaving MMA fans left wondering If how big he would have been if not for his problems.
MMA Tag Match
Like any sport, there are MMA promotions that try to make themselves stand out from the crowd by having either different rules or production values and even some that have different fight/game formats.
But while you may have promotions with good ideas like in Pride, you more often than not see the product of ideas that are pretty terrible.
For instance, outside of what is shown in movies, most people known MMA fights to be one-on-one fights. Yet a couple promotions have decided that they needed something more so MMA tag team matches were created. Primarily seen in the Japanese ZST promotion and occasionally in the United States, the rules seem to be point based matches rather than fights that are finished. Only slaps are allowed to the head while all other strikes are legal, you get a point for a tapout, and you have to get back to your corner in five seconds after a tag.
Now while the general idea of a tag match is pretty bad, the end product is horrible. The main problem lies in what is supposed to make the match standout.
As shown in the video, the team who can control the fight by keeping it in their corner and continue to make tags wins easily because if your partner can keep your opponent in his guard and can tag you, you can then easily get his back to lock in a choke or at the least you the five seconds to double team your opponent into putting him where you need to be in order to secure a submission.
Needless to say, there haven't been many fights of this type and it's not hard to see why.
Yamma Pit Fighting
Also coming from the camp of bad ideas is YAMMA Pit Fighting.
Created by UFC co-creator Bob Meyrowitz, the promotion's big claim to fame was its unique cage, which can best be described as a fishbowl. The reasoning behind the curved floor of the cage was to prevent stalling on the ground and hopefully allow for more finishes.
Yet, the ring caused more problems than it solved as the curve of the ring made fighters lose their footing if they were trying to defend a takedown and even more difficult when they tried to get back up.
In their first and only event, YAMMA held a Heavyweight tournament along with two “masters” fights featuring Patrick Smith vs. Butterbean and Mark Kerr vs. Oleg Taktarov. The rules were different than a card under unified rules where there was only one five minute round while the final fight of the tournament would have three five minute rounds. Out of the 11 matches that occurred, only four actually had a finish.
Needless to say, there hasn't been another YAMMA card since this debacle occurred.
With all of the failed ideas involved with MMA, I don't think there was a bigger brainfart than the International Fight League. It was used as a way to branch out away from other promotions and, in a way, to directly compete against the UFC by using a different business plan.
First, fighters were not only paid purses after fights like in every other promotion, they were paid on salary which included medical benefits and money to train.
The other big thing that set the IFL apart from other groups was that the fights were not one-off things, but rather team efforts where camps were made up of a number of fighters and each card would showcase fights between two camps. Each camp had at least three members and the team captain was a veteran coach or fighter. Notable captains included Randy Couture, Shawn Tompkins, Bas Rutten, Pat Miletich, Renzo Gracie, and both Ken and Frank Shamrock.
With the TV deal that the IFL got and the big money backing the promotion, there was, of course, bad blood between it and the UFC, which led to a couple of lawsuits between the two promotions.
The promotion caught flak from both MMA writers and fans for the shows seemingly glorifying violence which is saying something considering MMA is a violent sport to begin with.
The other thing that set the IFL apart was that it was a publicly traded company after a merger with Paligent Inc. This would cause financial problems later down the road which would eventually lead to the UFC purchasing the promotion in 2008.
In the end, the IFL was a case of "if it's not broke, don't fix it." A team dynamic is not needed in a sport that has made a niche for itself with one-on-one combat, and while being publicly traded could help a company, it could also be its downfall.
If you were to ask a MMA fan what the worst UFC main event that they have seen was, you would get various answers for a multitude of reasons.
Yet for every Anderson Silva vs. Demian Maia and Georges St. Pierre vs. Dan Hardy, fans can still find something good about the cards that those fights were on. But if you were to ask a fan about the worst UFC PPV, many would agree with what Dana White said after the St. Pierre/Hardy card when he said “UFC 33 is the only one I can remember where every fight sucked.”
It was only the third UFC PPV under the Zuffa banner and the promotion seemingly decided to go all out in their first card that was sanctioned under the NSAC. The card featured three—count 'em THREE—title fights plus five non-title fights. This seems ideal in principle as fans would feel as if they were getting the most out of their tickets, especially with the main event featuring Tito Ortiz defending the Lightheavyweight title against Vladimir Matyushenko who replaced Vitor Belfort.
Unfortunately, the entire card went on forever as all but two fights went to a decision. All three title fights were uneventful affairs with all the champions getting the decision victories. The long time also caused many PPV providers to cut out during the main event as the PPV ran over the scheduled time, which led to the UFC to limit the number of live fights and title fights on PPVs.
Bob Sapp vs. Cartoon
The UFC has taken great steps to distance itself from being compared to pro wrestling or a sideshow, though some would say having signed Brock Lesnar didn't help. Yet when you look at Japanese MMA, its like they don't give a crap what you think about them. This fascination is best described by MMA comedy writer Seanbaby:
“Japan has a childlike fascination with strange match-ups. If two things are stupidly different, Japan will put them in a cage and see what happens. All their fight cards have at least one match between a giant fat guy and something that looks like it should be making Christmas toys. If a man with no arms and a man with no legs started learning karate, the same light bulb would appear over every head in Japan. That's right: Glue them together and see if it can kill a panda. Through their own experiments, every Japanese parent knows exactly how many rhinoceros beetles you have to put in a baby's crib to make it a fair fight.”
It was no surprise when Dynamite!! 2008 fight card was announced that lifelong can/sideshow fighter/scam artist Bob Sapp was scheduled to fight a cartoon character. Now, when I say cartoon character, I don't mean they put Sapp in front of a green screen and had him fight an animated character—I mean an actual fighter dressed up as cartoon character Kinniku Mantaro, the main character of the Ultimate Muscle cartoon.
The man under the costume was Akihito Tanaka who was making his MMA debut, though I bet now he wishes that no one knew who he was after this debacle which ended up with him losing in the first round via TKO.