6 Unlikely UFC Fighters Destined To Win Over Mainstream Fans on Fox Sports
In this new chapter for UFC on FOX, high-profile champs like Georges St-Pierre, Cain Velasquez, Jon Jones and Anderson Silva will most certainly get the exposure to become media celebrities. On the other hand, some not-so-likely fighters will also have the opportunity to become well known for that paradoxical characteristic of a personality we love to hate.
With millions of eyeballs newly focused on the UFC on network TV, every highlight reel KO and out-of-the-Octagon antic will come under the microscope of public opinion like never before. The possibility of a fighter going from obscurity to being a household name in a viral-minute will be a reality. But sometimes, mainstream media idols are in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
Here are six fighters who, because of their gossip-worthy antics outside the cage, have the potential to become MMA’s dubious dirty half dozen.
6. Jason “Mayhem” Miller
With stream-of-consciousness verbosity, Mayhem proved that he could give audiences an earful of taunts, satire and laughs on MTV’s Bully Beatdown. This storied brawler also regularly co-hosts "Mayhem Mondays" on The Jason Ellis Show on Sirius satellite radio and calls fights for King of the Cage alongside Michael Schiavello.
Just put the camera on this BJJ black belt and he devours video tape like Ozzie at a bat buffet. With the credentials to back up his smack-talk, having wins over Kazushi Sakuraba, Robbie Lawler and Dennis Kang, Miller is a legitimate middleweight player, but it's his larger-than-life media persona that will lure the average sports fan.
With his upcoming coaching gig across from UK villain Michael “The Count” Bisping on the last Spike-aired season of The Ultimate Fighter, Miller has yet another big media chance to add to his fanbase.
5. Roy “Big Country” Nelson
Crossover fans coming from NASCAR, NFL and NBA seeing UFC for the first time on network TV will be at ease with Roy. Big Country is a man every beer-swilling, armchair sports fan can relate to. He's real, he has a mullet, and when he opens his mouth, well, no one is quite sure what he's saying.
Nelson is a genuine character, and that comes across. His recent quest to lose weight and come down to 205 after a drubbing by Frank Mir at heavyweight, is a dieting quest the average guy can relate to. Go Roy...and pass the nachos.
4. Ben “Smooth” Henderson
I know you’re saying, “Wait a minute, Henderson is a legitimate lightweight contender. What’s he doing on this list?”
Let's not forget TV is a visual medium, and the camera loves Bendo, win or lose. He's an action figure come to life, a fighter with a physique that looks like it was carved by Leonardo and he’s a seemingly unsubmittable rubber-man proven again by his latest dominant victory over top five lightweight Jim Miller.
With flowing locks and enormous angel wings inked on his back, Henderson is destined to garner the attention of fledgling UFC fans, and let's just admit it now, the ladies love him.
3. Nick Diaz
Here is a man who is his own worst enemy.
Given a miraculous second chance to come back to the UFC from Strikeforce and fight for the welterweight title against Georges “Rush” St-Pierre, one of the most dominant and beloved champs, Diaz was living a real life Cinderella story.
The shenanigans that followed Diaz’ inexplicable behavior in missing two pre-fight pressers convinced Dana that he was a flight risk for the actual fight, and Diaz was removed from the card and then surprisingly, he was reinstated as the opponent for BJ Penn in the co-main event.
This wasn’t the first time Diaz had acted contrary to his own best interests, and I dare say it won’t be the last. This is the stuff of big TV ratings.
2. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson
Let’s face it, part-time movie star Rampage Jackson’s fighting glory days are behind him. It’s Jackson’s larger-than-life persona, hijinks and braggadocio outside of the ring that continues to draw viewers to his fights.
He has an opportunity for some major redemption in the unlikely event he beats Jon Jones at UFC 135 for the light heavyweight crown, but his chances of victory are slim against the seemingly unstoppable Jones.
In the meantime, Quinton knows how to create drama and fill seats. He created “Spygate” insisting that a made up injury elicited a call from UFC brass asking if he was OK after hearing about his injury from Jones’ manager Malki Kawa, supposedly confirming that a Jon Jones spy was in Rampage’s training camp.
Jackson believes Jones hired a spy to infiltrate Rampage's training camp in order to gain information prior to their upcoming fight, or so, he would have us believe. The truth may be that he is creating intrigue and building interest for a fight that will most likely prove to be a one-sided rout.
1. Chael Sonnen
Destined for notorious stardom for his outrageous statements, legal woes and contradictory statements about his fights, Chael Sonnen is the Gary Busey of the UFC.
He’s public enemy No. 1 in Brazil after trashing everything about the country and Brazilian fighters which included insulting Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida and the Nogueira brothers.
Tidbits from his Brazil bashing on Twitter included these gems (h/t mixedmartialarts.com): “Breakdancing in the Special Olympics is called capoiera and cocaine is called brunch,” and “Machida is not a bad guy; he's a victim of the Brazilian education system. There are better ways to get electrolytes than drinking piss.”
Sonnen seems to be able to come up with an unending stream of witty bile and sound-bite disses. Seriously, if Chael gives up fighting tomorrow, he’s got a good shot at becoming a comedy writer for SNL.
His other noteworthy activities include pleading guilty to money laundering in connection with mortgage fraud earlier this year and a failed drug test that resulting in a year suspension after losing to Anderson Silva at UFC 117.
Not since Don Rickles has a guy been able to get so far by insulting people. Rickles was asked by an interviewer if he ever worried that his insults might become too offensive, and he replied, "You know, every night when I go out on stage to do my comedy routines, there's always one nagging fear in the back of my mind. I'm always afraid that somewhere out there, there is one person in the audience that I'm NOT going to offend!"
The bar has been set high Chael, but I know you can do it.