MMA's Top 10 Wildest Out-of-the-Cage Brawls
Mixed martial artists have been fighting a lot outside the cage recently.
It seems like every time you turn around, some fighters are getting themselves into confrontations under dubious circumstances.
Back on May 12, UFC lightweights Michael Chiesa and Kevin Lee got themselves tossed out of the fight company's summer schedule kickoff press conference after comments Lee made about Chiesa's mom led to on-stage fisticuffs.
One week later, Bellator's Paul Daley and Michael Page got into it in the crowd at SSE Arena in London following Daley's lopsided submission loss in a welterweight bout against Rory MacDonald.
Then Cris "Cyborg" Justino (a women's featherweight) punched strawweight fighter Angela Magana at the UFC's company-sponsored fighters' retreat on May 21.
All this unsanctioned violence—sometimes goofy, sometimes ugly—got us thinking: What are the wildest incidents of MMA fighters getting physical outside the confines of the ring?
Turns out, there are a lot them—and we mean a lot. So many, in fact, that none of these most recent examples even made the cut on this list.
So, what are MMA's wildest out-of-the-cage brawls of all time? Read on to see if your favorite (or least favorite?) made the list...
10. Jon Jones & Daniel Cormier Bring Down the House at UFC 178 Media Day
Considering the many twists and turns in their protracted blood feud, it seems quaint now to think of Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones brawling on stage at the UFC 178 media day.
This marked the first time the pair was scheduled to fight for the light heavyweight title, with Cormier filling in for the injured Alexander Gustafsson. On August 4, 2014, Jones and Cormier were supposed to meet for a run-of-the-mill stare-down and interview session but—as you can see in the video above—it didn’t go down like that.
Jones bumped foreheads with Cormier, Cormier shoved Jones by the throat and then the two fighters sent the whole stage tumbling down as they toppled to the floor of the MGM Grand in a tangled heap of arms and legs. The scene was utter chaos, and at some point it reached its goofy crescendo, with Cormier throwing a shoe at Jones.
The melee also succeeded in turning former UFC media relations boss Dave Sholler into an internet meme. Wrong place, wrong time, Dave.
Ultimately, the two fighters were each fined 10 percent of their upcoming fight purses and ordered to do community service by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. And they didn’t actually end up fighting—not that time, anyway—after Jones pulled out of UFC 178 with a leg injury.
They went on to be scheduled to fight four more times, but so far they have only managed to make it into the cage together once—at UFC 182 in January 2015, where Jones won by unanimous decision.
As of this writing, Jones and Cormier are supposed to do it again at UFC 214 in July 2017.
They’re also still trying to cause problems pretty much any time they’re in the same room together.
9. The Infamous "Strikeforce: Nashville" Brawl Live on CBS
Technically, this one happened inside a cage, but it makes the list anyway for what we hope are obvious reasons.
The most high-profile brawl in MMA history kicked off just when we thought the show was over.
Jake Shields defeated Dan Henderson to retain his middleweight title in the main event of Strikeforce: Nashville on April 17, 2010, and he was just beginning his postfight interview with commentator Gus Johnson when that scamp Jason “Mayhem” Miller crashed the party.
Miller had lost to Shields five months earlier and now the ever-rakish “Mayhem” was forcing his way into the Strikeforce cage to interrupt a classically Jake Shields-ian answer and ask the champ, “What’s up? Where's my rematch, buddy?”
Unfortunately for Miller, Shields was flanked by teammates from the California-based Cesar Gracie Jiu Jitsu fight camp, including a bunch of dudes who don’t take kindly to rudeness. Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez (who also fought and won earlier that night) was among them, as were Nick and Nate Diaz (get used to seeing their names on this list).
Melendez shoved Miller out of the way and it was all the excuse the rest of the team needed to turn Shields' victory party into a full-scale throwdown—all of it airing live on the CBS Network.
As Miller was pinned to the ground and punches and kicks flew, audiences could hear play-by-play man Mauro Ranallo murmuring, “This is ridiculous.”
Then Johnson jumped back on his live mic to deliver the line that would go on to define not just this brawl but perhaps Strikeforce’s entire relationship with CBS: “Sometimes these things happen in MMA.”
8. Lee Murray Allegedly Knocks Out Tito Ortiz
This widely mythologized street fight between the crews of former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz and English fighter-turned-robber Lee Murray happened in the days before cellphone cameras were ubiquitous, so all we have are the oral histories.
And perhaps that’s a big part of this story’s charm. It has certainly wormed its way into MMA folklore, and eye-witness accounts still differ on exactly where the truth lies.
As the legend goes, the after-party for UFC 38 at a London nightclub erupted in violence in the wee hours of July 14, 2002, as Ortiz and his cronies clashed with Murray and his gang. Who knows what really started it: Somebody sucker-punched somebody. Somebody jumped on somebody’s back. Horseplay turned real. Whatever.
The kicker of the story is that as the combatants spilled out into the street in front of the club, Murray—a middleweight who finished his professional MMA career 8-2-1 (1 no contest), including 1-0 in the UFC—punched Ortiz hard enough to drop him.
According to accounts from former UFC champions Matt Hughes (in his autobiography) and Pat Miletich, Ortiz was knocked unconscious.
Ortiz, obviously, disputes that claim to this day.
“Not true at all,” the former baddest man on the planet told interviewer Michael Schiavello on HDNet TV in 2010. “One of my buddies was getting beat up and stomped on the concrete outside and I came to his rescue.”
Ortiz says he chased Murray down the sidewalk before the two squared off to fight. He admits the British fighter clipped him with a punch and dropped him to one knee but says he “popped right back up” before police intervened.
In any case, Ortiz reigned as UFC champ for another year before losing his 205-pound title to Randy Couture. He continued to fight until early 2017, when he retired following a win over Chael Sonnen in Bellator.
7. Diaz Brothers Rumble with Khabib Nurmagomedov in Las Vegas
Enter the Diaz brothers again, this time beefing with UFC lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov and his associates in and around World Series of Fighting 22 in Las Vegas on August 1, 2015.
The sheer length and scope of this brawl is amazing. In the above video, you’ll note three different locations, starting inside the arena at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino and then stretching into the hallway outside the venue. In true Diaz fashion, water bottles, punches and kicks go flying as security tries in vain to rein things in and people scream and run around like extras in an action movie.
The fracas appeared to have its roots in a longstanding feud between Nurmagomedov and Nate Diaz, who were briefly linked to a 2014 UFC fight that never materialized. In an interview with MMA Junkie Radio the night before WSOF 22, Nurmagomedov called Diaz “a bulls--t guy who’s all talk.”
The next night, at the event, Nurmagomedov said the Diaz brothers began taunting him in the crowd and kept it up until eventually provoking a response from the then-26-year-old Russian fighter.
“You know, fights happen between men,” Nurmagomedov told MMA Junkie after the brawl. “It’s OK. It’s normal ... But I know I’m a professional fighter. I’m a UFC fighter. I cannot fight when there are a lot of people here. But when somebody begins fighting with me, I need to protect myself.”
6. Team Tank Abbott Attacks UFC Vet Patrick Smith in an Elevator
If anybody in UFC history can rival the Diazes for their pure love of brawls, it’s probably UFC pioneer David “Tank” Abbott. Abbott burst onto the scene at UFC 6 and quickly became the Octagon’s first real bad boy. While he never found sustained success inside the cage, his street-fighting roots made him a lasting fan-favorite.
This particular tale comes to us from UFC creator and co-producer Art Davie, among numerous other sources. Davie told The Fight Nerd during an interview promoting Davie’s 2014 book Is This Legal: The Inside Story of the First UFC by the Man Who Created It, that Abbott and his crew jumped fellow UFC veteran Patrick Smith in a hotel elevator the day after Abbott made his UFC debut.
“He and his posse mugged Pat Smith in the elevator,” Davie said. “Pat Smith was saved by [referee] John McCarthy and [future UFC heavyweight champion] Maurice Smith ... I took him to the hospital and he had 16 stitches inside his mouth. I forget how many outside.”
Abbott was suspended from the UFC in the wake of the beating, but, as Davie said, he was ultimately allowed back in after writing a letter of apology.
5. Hammer House vs. Chute Boxe at Pride 31
Like the Strikeforce: Nashville brawl, this one technically went down inside a ring, but it makes this list anyway for its sheer bedlam.
Mark Coleman’s Pride 31 bout against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua on February 26, 2006 may have ended with a whimper when Rua suffered a broken arm after just 49 seconds. Fans, however, got more than they bargained for immediately following the referee stoppage.
Members of Rua’s Chute Boxe fight team became enraged that Coleman threw a flurry of strikes at the injured Shogun as the referee stepped in to stop the fight. They rushed the ring, causing an all-out free-for-all between the two camps. Luminaries such as Coleman (and his dad), Rua, Phil Baroni, Wanderlei Silva and Murilo “Ninja” Rua (Shogun’s brother) all got in on the action.
The two crews were eventually separated, but that didn’t stop Coleman from cutting loose with this epic rant once he got backstage.
Team Hammer House later apologized for the incident, but Chute Boxe refused to accept it. The hard feelings lingered on for some time.
4. Rickson Gracie Meets Up with Hugo Duarte on the Beach
Gotta fire up the Way Back Machine and travel all the way to 1988 for this legendary brawl on the beach of Rio de Janeiro between Rickson Gracie and early luta livre and MMA practitioner Hugo Duarte. With nearly 30 years having passed since, the true story of this scrap (and, with it, the blame) is in dispute.
From the audio on the above video—produced by the Gracie family as it began trying to hype its unique brand of jiu-jitsu in America—things seem pretty simple: Punk Duarte had been talking junk about Gracie BJJ and so favorite son Rickson caught him on the beach to teach him a lesson about whose style reigned supreme.
But was it really so simple? Not according to Duarte and his people, who insisted the Gracies laid a trap for them, forcing Duarte into a fight he didn't actually want to have at all. They also claimed the Gracies edited the above video to make it look like Rickson dominated the fight, when in fact it was much closer.
Here's how Royler Gracie and Duarte student Eugenio Tadeu each described the confrontation in Jonathan Snowden's book Total MMA:
Duarte offered to shake hands with Rickson, who would have none of it. Rickson Gracie was there to prove a point and slapped Duarte in the face with an open palm—the ultimate insult, and for years an act that necessitated a duel to the death.
“Rickson said, ‘Let’s go,’ and Hugo said, ‘Dude, I’m not ready,’" Royler Gracie said. "So Rickson slapped him across the face and said ‘Now you have to.’ So they had it out.”
Duarte would get off lightly. Surrounded by by jeering jiu jitsu students kicking sand and taunting, Duarte was videotaped being pummeled by Rickson.
“I tried to help Hugo, making a circle and not allowing jiu jitsu people to attack him, throwing sand in his eyes like they were doing,” Tadeu said. “It was not fair. They were planning to get us in this trap for a long time.”
Perhaps we'll never really know the truth.
Or, as it says on the Gracies' promotional video: "A street fight is not what you want it to be or what you expect it to be. It simply is."
3. Don Frye Gets KO'd in a Hotel Lobby
This one could be tough for hardcore MMA fans to watch.
The declining years of well-liked former UFC and Pride fighter Don Frye have given us more than a few cringe-worthy moments. In this incident from 2007, the then 41-year-old Frye clashed in a hotel lobby with Sonny Westbrook, a boxing trainer and occasional hanger-on to the cast of the reality TV show Dog the Bounty Hunter.
Unfortunately, Frye comes out on the short end of this one, at least in the footage we have.
Near the beginning of the above video, Westbrook can be seen getting back to his feet and landing a series of strikes, dropping Frye to the floor. As the MMA fighter gets up, he is held back by Dog series regular Leland Chapman, among others. The two men are then separated, though they may have scrapped again later in a different location.
According PW Insider.com's Mike Johnson, Frye and Westbrook were in San Francisco for an independent MMA card as part of a larger event called "Wrestlefanfest."
As Johnson wrote:
The series of events that led to the fight between MMA legend Don Frye and the bodyguard for Leland Chapman were as follows. Once the MMA show was canceled, there was a meeting at the hotel where the promoter Phil Flathers explained their wouldn't be payoffs since there wasn't a show. Frye was attempting to mediate and keep the peace when Leland Chapman, who at one point was scheduled to fight, began mouthing off. After trying to defuse the situation, Frye finally chewed him out and offered to step outside. When they did, "Frye was sucker punched" by Chapman's bodyguard as he exited the hotel lobby. Frye grabbed the bodyguard and took him down with a single leg takedown and began beating with him punches before being pulled off. There was then a second incident in the hotel parking lot where Frye was again "sucker punched" which led to Scott Norton coming to his aid.
2. Roger Huerta Knocks Out a Guy Who Punched a Girl
The above video posted by TMZ is extremely helpful in pointing out the principal actors in this ugly confrontation from 2010. First, there's the man later identified as former University of Texas linebacker Rashad Bobino, who appears to strike a woman in the middle of a crowded street scene.
Next enters former UFC fighter and Sports Illustrated cover boy Roger Huerta—and Huerta ain't too happy with Bobino.
It takes a few seconds of blurry confusion, but the next time we catch up with the men, Bobino is down on the concrete and Huerta is laying into him with some stomps. The scene in the street can only be described as a madhouse, as people crowd around the downed Bobino.
Huerta can also be seen being held back, though soon he disappears from view for good.
"I approached the man and said, 'You don't do that. You don't hit a woman,'" Huerta later told TMZ Live. "The video doesn't show what happened next, but he said, 'F--- you. I'll knock any b---- out I want.' The tape also doesn't show that he swung at me two or three times right after that. All you see is me bouncing up and down. He has already swung at me at that point. Then the guy takes off running. I chased him down and you saw what else happened ... If the same thing occurred, I would do it all over again. I have no regrets."
1. Nick Diaz Fights Joe Riggs at the Hospital
You didn't think you were going to get out of this without one final trip to Planet Diaz, did you?
Joe Riggs’ unanimous decision win over Nick Diaz at UFC 57 on February 4, 2006 wasn’t exactly one for the history books. The two welterweights had a nice little three-round scrap—good, not great—that was hard-fought enough to land them both in a Las Vegas hospital for precautionary reasons.
And that’s where Round 4 unexpectedly kicked off.
To hear Riggs tell it, when he arrived at the medical facility to get his hands checked out, he encountered a trash-talking Diaz, who was there getting stitches under his eye. With the benefit of 11 years' worth of hindsight, we now recognize this as classic Diaz behavior, though at the time Riggs didn’t know exactly how to take it.
He responded by ribbing Diaz right back and was surprised when Diaz pushed the doctor—who was doing his stitches—out of the way to come flying at Riggs.
Diaz cracked Riggs with a right hook and the fight was on. Riggs said he got Diaz against the wall and started kneeing him before security intervened.
By that time, however, the two fighters had already turned the hospital into a bloody mess.
“I had an IV going and there was blood spraying everywhere,” Riggs later told Ryan Bennett and Frank Trigg on MMA Weekly Radio. “It was like a horror movie.”