Fabricio Werdum and the Weirdest Fighters in the UFC Right NowMarch 15, 2018
People who have never watched an MMA fight can still pass along one of the sport's fundamental truths: this thing is replete with characters.
Even the guys who fit the stereotype—shaved heads, growling mugs, massive chest pieces—are wild human beings. That shouldn't occlude the skill and courage the sport requires. If anything, it's a kind of celebration of the spirit you need to be capable at the top levels. Those traits, when properly applied, are as admirable as they are, well, just straight-up abnormal.
In that context, it's saying something when you declare a fighter sticks out beyond that baseline, when you can't help but turn to your contemporaries and say "You know what? That fighter is weird."
With no additional ado, here are the five weirdest fighters currently under contract with the UFC.
A few ground rules. First, it's important to emphasize that weird does not equal bad. Sometimes weird is good—very good.
Likewise, some of these weirdos have said or done some unsavory things. We're not going to paper over those things, and we're also not going to exclude those fighters if their weirdness demands their inclusion.
Also, this covers active UFC fighters only. So no Mayhem Miller, no Krazy Horse Bennett, no Ronda Rousey (sorry, she's not coming back) and so on. I don't make the rules. Well, I do, but we must have boundaries.
OK, enough legalese. Let's get weird.
Fabricio Werdum, Heavyweight
It's hard to know what to make of Fabricio Werdum. That's accurate for every fighter on here, but for whatever reason, it seems more difficult to get a read on the former heavyweight champ.
On the one hand, he's a jovial, seemingly innocuous figure known mainly for making a funny face that becomes a lot less funny every time you see it and rending people apart with some of the best jiu-jitsu in the sport.
The other hand is a darker one, in which Werdum frequently brandishes gay slurs and cavorts with universally decried Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov.
And then there's a middle hand, where he just kind of does a bunch of wacky stuff. Ever been in a boomerang fight? Werdum has. He also likes to spend long stretches of fights on his back, waiting for someone who doesn't know he's good at jiu-jitsu to jump on top of him, a dead spider trying to catch a fly.
Werdum competes Saturday against Alexander Volkov in the main event of UFC Fight Night 127. Let's see if Vai Cavalo—that's "Go Horse" in Portuguese—can get through a fight week unscathed.
Diego Sanchez, Welterweight
Hats off to the weirdest dude in the UFC since Kimo Leopoldo carried a cross to the Octagon.
Listening to or reading one of his interviews—be it about that time he thought he was dying from smoking weed or extolling the life-saving virtues of stevia—is hypnotic to the point of soothing.
Watching him fight is another experience entirely, one marked in recent years by almost unsettling levels of aggression, even on an MMA scale.
And let's not forget his fight walkouts, punctuated by repeated screams of the word "Yes!" It was inspired by motivational speaker Tony Robbins and in turn inspired a similar signature refrain from former WWE star Daniel Bryan.
What about the time Sanchez celebrated a successful weight cut by eating raw beef and raw eggs? He went on to get pretty sick and lose the fight.
Sanchez is a singular person. He has enthusiasm to burn for every day of life, every nutritional supplement, every training session and every blade of grass.
He also does great things for his community, bringing that trademark vigor to every effort, including the time he fulfilled the wish of a man with Down's Syndrome by "fighting" him in a New Mexico casino. Sanchez lost by first-round submission.
No one else thinks like Sanchez, and his presence can't help but raise a smile. But man, is he weird.
Nick Diaz, Middleweight
Before he became a living myth, Nick Diaz was just a guy: a weird, weird guy.
The soundbites—a mixture of street-level bravado, casual candor, deadpan humor and pure absent-mindedness—are too numerous to recount. That's why the internet is littered with "best of" lists running down his strangest and funniest quotes.
If you're new to this, you could click the nearby video link for his take on fight camps—"I don't know where this MMA term came from. Fight camp. There's no campground. There's no tents."
Or you could take in his views on marijuana (note: he likes it), which were offered back when such views were more taboo, especially in the fight community. (Diaz has been suspended three times for marijuana-related violations.)
Speaking of openness on taboo subjects, remember his post-fight ramble session on paying taxes? More specifically, how he didn't pay his taxes?
"I've never paid taxes in my life. I'm probably gonna go to jail," he said following his loss to Georges St-Pierre at UFC 158, according to a transcript of the post-fight news conference.
"That's not because I don't have, that's not because, what, nobody wants to hear about that, nobody wants to hear about that kind of talk, or what's really going on with me. ...You don't know what that does to someone who didn't graduate high school. You don't understand."
There was the brawl in Nashville, which has its own Wikipedia section.
And we haven't even gotten to his actual fights yet. No one has touched his in-fight behavior, before or since. Who else would clown prime Carlos Condit? He lay down in the cage in front of Anderson Silva, propping up his head with one arm like he was trying to reach his daiquiri straw.
Diaz hasn't competed in more than three years, and it's anyone's guess whether he will again. Fans are holding out hope he does, even if he seems comfortable having retreated back to the Stockton, California, shadows.
If he emerges again, every public utterance will be essential reading, even if he'd probably rather it be any other way.
Ben Rothwell, Heavyweight
Ben Rothwell is another popular weirdo. What sets him apart is that his weirdness is partially self-perpetuated.
It all started with the gogo choke.
It's a modified guillotine choke that involves putting serious pressure on the Adam's apple region of the throat. By all accounts, it's not pleasant. Not a lot of people know how to do it, either; one of those who does is Rothwell.
The first time he used it in a UFC fight, he earned himself a first-round win over Matt Mitrione. After that fight, he cut the promo in the video clip.
That was the first of two straight wins by gogo choke. Before this, he was just a goofy if heavy-handed guy from Wisconsin who occasionally uncorked himself a jig after win (see second video clip).
But the gogo choke took everything to a new level.
Suddenly, the media were paying closer attention to him. They were publishing his Star Wars fan fiction and things of that nature.
A loss to Junior dos Santos and a subsequent drug-test failure were cold water on the fire, and he hasn't competed since 2016. The UFC is a little less weird without him.
Yoel Romero, Middleweight
It wasn't just a friendly gesture, it was more than a sportsmanlike peck. Those are fairly common.
There appears to be no halfway for Yoel Romero. And when it comes time to kiss an opponent, he puckers up and barrels down.
After he knocked out Luke Rockhold in February, he hoisted up his woozy opponent and planted a kiss on the side of his face.
Rockhold reacted like a baby awakened early from a nap, wishing he was still in the crib, not quite understanding what was happening and knowing he was powerless to act.
Soldier of God is a mountain of a middleweight with superhuman strength and deceptively sharp skills. He is also a weirdo.
The kiss wasn't the first instance. Back in 2014, Romero stayed on the stool too long between rounds, giving him precious extra seconds of recovery time in his fight with Tim Kennedy.
Another public helping of Strange Romero came in 2015 after his win over Lyoto Machida. His post-fight speech was a hodgepodge of Biblical references offered in broken English that may or may not have included a knock on gay marriage (Romero later said it didn't).
If you still don't believe me, you should read this entire Q&A with Steven Marrocco of MMA Junkie, done before his fight with Rockhold. The whole thing is worth a read, but the best part may well have been his discussions of Rockhold, who he said didn't respect him.
"If you don't like somebody, OK, you don't like them," Romero said. "But you don't (say), it's bad. Like ice cream—why you need to talk bad about ice cream? You know? You like pizza? Why you talk about pizza? Look at it."
At the end of the day, doesn't that sum it up? Why would you need to talk bad about ice cream? Why would you need to talk bad about weirdness? If they can do it without committing crimes or, eh, defaming population groups, I say bring it on. MMA is better for its characters.