(Little known fact: The original version of America the Beautiful contained a fifth verse about Don Frye’s shorts.)
In honor of our country’s 236th birthday, we’ve got a special CagePotato Roundtable discussion for you guys: Who was the greatest American MMA fighter of all time? Because let’s face it, America is exceptional, and we produce the best goddamned fighters in the world. SORRY LIBERAL MEDIA, I SAID IT. Enjoy, and if you have an idea for a future Roundtable topic, please send it to email@example.com. And hey, be careful with those bottle rockets, okay?
What do MMA legends Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes, Tito Ortiz, Kazushi Sakuraba, Wanderlei Silva, Randy Couture, and Mark Coleman have in common? They all started their careers within 11 months of Dan Henderson‘s professional debut in June 1997. And where are those guys now? Retired, pretty much retired, retiring this weekend, completely washed up, close to retirement, retired, and retired unless Herschel Walker picks up the phone. Meanwhile, Hendo is preparing for his next title fight in September. Does the TRT help? Sure, though I don’t think you can credit Henderson’s heart, balls, and H-bomb power to a little hormonal help. (You also have to give some props to the Jam Gym.)
I’d stack Dan’s accomplishments up against any other fighter in this roundtable discussion — the unprecedented two-division title reign in PRIDE, the five single-night tournament sweeps, the stunning knockouts of Wanderlei Silva, Michael Bisping, and Fedor Emelianenko — but what makes him America’s MMA G.O.A.T. is his incredible longevity. Dan Henderson has been a top-ten fighter longer than anybody else in the history of the sport. I can only think of two other MMA fighters who started their careers 15 years ago who are still considered viable stars, and neither of them are American: Vitor Belfort, whose career was plagued by long stretches of injury and inconsistency, and Anderson Silva, who’s a freakish exception to any rule.
As for Dan, there’s no reason a 41-year-old man should still be able to compete at such a high level, after so many wars. Of all the old legends, he’s the last man standing. He’s even managed to outlast fighters who started competing several years after he did and who are still considered legends. (I’m thinking of Fedor and BJ in particular.) Henderson is without a doubt the best American fighter in the sport’s history, and if he manages to beat Jon Jones in September, he’s got my vote for greatest fighter of all time.
When you ask who the best American fighter is, there are two ways you can interpret this question. One way is “who is the best fighter born in America?” My answer to that would be Dan Henderson, but unfortunately, BG called dibs on him first. But fortunately for me, there’s another way to interpret this; “who is the best fighter who embodies the ideals and characteristics of America?” Before you say Brian Stann or Randy Couture, let’s be real; being in the Army isn’t a marker of how “American” you are. There are plenty of Americans who are not only not in the military, but actually oppose how our military is utilized. Are they somehow less American because they disagree with our country’s foreign policy? Hardly.
The fact is that America is a land of dualities. Two sides to one coin. East coast and West coast, Republican and Democrat, Coke and Pepsi, you know the drill. And no fighter embodies that sense of duality more than Nick Diaz. Occupy Wall Street says America’s got the 1% and the 99%? Nick Diaz gets paid “too much” — like the 1% — but “not enough” – just like the 99%! His interviews consist of minutes of nonsensical rambling that contain nuggets of profoundly accurate observations. He’s the world’s most energetic stoner. Speaking of which, like half of the country, he thinks marijuana should be legal. Like many Americans, he doesn’t like waking up and going to work sometimes and he is a fan of profanity.
Of course, he doesn’t share all the qualities of Americans. He’s in fantastic shape, which is somewhat contrary to the image of the country with the largest obesity rate in the world. But it’s not like Americans let the truth get in the way of their own convenient narratives anyway. That’s why it’s easy to pick a soldier when we think about who’s the best American fighter, because we like to buy into the concept of the ideal American. But Nick Diaz is a real American, with all the virtues and vices that make this country what it really is. And it just so happens he can throw down with the best of them in arguably the best division in the UFC. That’s what makes Nick Diaz the best American fighter.
God (as communicated to blessed virgin Jared Jones)
You are now listening to the word of The Lord.
Randy Couture retired with a record of 19-11, having never defended one of the belts he was gifted more than twice in his career. He is a polygamist and an adulterer who will be run over by a Mack truck on the set of The Expendables 3 immediately after proposing to his seventh wife, a 17-year-old flight stewardess who just happened to be assigned to his private jet.
Dan Severn is a big, smelly, ape who used to sodomize other men — grown men — in the early days of the sport and pass it off as “entertainment” or “wrestling.” He now resorts to working matches against jobbers and fighting dementia-ridden homeless people who were lured into the hole-in-the-wall dives he calls home with the promise of a peanut butter and crack sandwich if they were able to defeat him. The few who were able to do so without succumbing to old-man-sweat-poisoning never received the PB & C sandwich they so rightfully deserved.
Don Frye is a misogynistic drunkard who resorts to crass jokes involving his genitalia, miles of broken glass, and the opportunity to hear a certain woman’s flatulence over a walkie-talkie during live broadcasts.
Tito Ortiz laid with a common wench-for-hire and produced twin versions of the antichrist.
Jon Jones is so full of hubris that he refers to me as “Bones” when carrying out his weekly prayers.
What do these men all have in common? They were/are all terrible champions, and they are all destined to spend eternity in the fiery pits of Satan’s anus for their insolence.
And then there is my favorite son, Matt Hughes.
Why is Matt Hughes the greatest American champion, you ask? Because he not only embodies every single core value of the land I and I alone created, but he was able to play David to Satan’s Goliaths through the simple power of hard work, determination, and constant worship of all that is me. If you need any more convincing, look no further than his seven title defenses. Not six, seven. Six is the devil’s number, which explains why Matt has defeated six former champions in his time. Suck it, Lucifer. Matt also currently holds the record for most UFC victories, a record that will never be broken if I have anything to say about it (Spoiler: I do. I have everything to say about it).
I am absolutely shocked (and rather insulted) that the rest of you would even insinuate that there is a greater American than Mr. Hughes. The book I wrote about him was calledMade in America: The Most Dominant Champion in UFC History, for My Son’s sake.What else do you need? A second coming? Mr. Hughes has defended our (re: my)country’s honor from those dirty, big-butted Brazilians and their latently-homosexual “ground fighting” by using their own techniques against them, showing them the err of their ways, if you will, despite the fact that he doesn’t even hold a “belt” in their amoral, so-called “sport.” He was the only man to offer any resistance whatsoever against that dry-humping Canuck who is currently fisting the welterweight division into non-existence, and in his spare time, Mr. Hughes defends our homes from the guardians of Hell.
The proof is in the country breakfast bread pudding, people.
“You’re only allowed three great women in your lifetime. They come along like the great fighters, every ten years. Rocky Marciano. Sugar Ray Robinson. Joe Louis. Sometimes you get ‘em all at once…”
It’s fitting that I start my entry with these classic lines from A Bronx Tale. In context, Sonny taught a generation through C how to look for a good woman. By themselves, Sonny sets the bar for how I’m about to define the greatest American mixed martial artist. There have been plenty of good fighters to come from America, but as far as I’m concerned, only one great one. Good fighters win. Great fighters dominate. Good fighters make you change your game plan. Great fighters change the game.
In the past ten years, MMA fans have been privileged to watch the following three individuals: There’s been Fedor Emelianenko. There still is Anderson Silva. And we’re just getting started with my selection for this discussion, Jon Jones.
Even the most jaded Bones haters cannot deny that he is a special talent; at least not without looking bitter and pathetic. He started his career going 6-0 in only three months. He’d go on to make Andre Gusmao look utterly hopeless en route to a unanimous decision victory in his UFC debut — on two weeks’ notice, nonetheless. He’d become the youngest champion in the history of the UFC, defending the title three times before his 25th birthday. Save for one round against Rashad Evans and a few 12-6 elbows against Matt Hamill (resulting in the “loss” by DQ on his record), he’s yet to look human, let alone beatable.
He is our sport’s Michael Jordan. He is our sport’s Roberto Clemente. He is our sport’s Mike Tyson.
Of course, time will tell which comparison is the most accurate. Will he continue to raise the bar to seemingly insurmountable heights? Will he be taken from us while he’s still in his prime, leaving us to wonder what could have been if he stuck around for another few years? Or will he suffer a monumental collapse, and be remembered as more of a cautionary tale than a once-dominant champion? We’ll have to wait and see, but regardless of how this story ends, Jon Jones deserves to be remembered as the greatest American mixed martial artist in our sport’s brief history.
If he could go back in time and erase five of his six final bouts, Chuck Liddell would have gone down as one of the greatest Mixed Martial Artists of all time. Instead, the accumulation of 22 amateur kickboxing matches and 29 pro MMA fights caught up to the “Iceman,” who earned the nickname by knocking fools cold. Unfortunately for Liddell, he would be the one staring wide-eyed at the bright lights of the arena during the twilight of his career. So instead Charles David “Chuck” Liddell gets the consolation prize being my choice for the greatest American MMA athlete in history. But like I said, prior to the closing stages of his illustrious career where he was on the recieving end of some horrific KOs, he was the one doling out the punishment.
If you go eight-and-a-half years in the sport of MMA facing top tier talent and only lose three times, you’re either blessed or pretty damn good — or both. For Chuck, in his third professional fight, there was no shame in getting submitted by Jeremy Horn especially when he beat the piss of out of Gumby in their rematch years later. Having Randy Couture go all Cpt. Cardio on Chuck was not a reason to hang his head since he dicknailed The Natural in the following two bouts of their trilogy. Then he gassed against Rampage during the Pride Grand Prix in Japan after which he went back to the UFC, captured the light-heavyweight championship and defended it five times. At that point he was recognized as the clichéd “baddest man on the planet.”
Let’s face it. For the better part of a decade there were three fighters who literally carried the UFC. Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture, and Liddell gave the UFC a piggyback ride towards the mainstream success it now has. Since Chuck has a 4-1 combined record against Ortiz and Couture, he wins. That trademark overhand right and the seemingly unbelievable ability to not get taken down garnered Chuck all the accolades. He was the focal point of the UFC at the very beginning of its push towards becoming a household commodity. He was the first MMA’er to be on the cover of ESPN the magazine. He was in movies and featured during an episode of Entourage (before it started to suck). Chuck did all the press junkets and visited various local morning news shows (with mostly great results) to promote the UFC.
Now in retirement, he is the Vice President of Business Development for the UFC. I don’t exactly know what the fuck that means but I am pretty sure he shakes hands and kisses babies all around the world while promoting the UFC with that crazy look in his eyes. Chuck is college educated and very well spoken even though he has a thick mohawk with a few head tattoos. Could you ask for anything more from an ambassador?
No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have been mentioned heretofore. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do, opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely, and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the roundtable is one of monumental moment to this Potato Nation. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of love or hate; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility, which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offence, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards this nation, and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.
Readers of CagePotato, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Chael P. Sonnen is the greatest American mixed martial artist of all time. Not Couture. Not Severn. Not Henderson or anyone else for that matter. Despite his alter ego Señor Chael, Sonnen embodies what it truly means to be American like no other…and his MMA career speaks for itself. Come Sunday morning, you will all have a new pound-for-pound king. You may all cry troll alert, but you would be amiss. You can start a flame war in the comments section if you feel it necessary, but is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle to crown the best American fighter in MMA history?
All the guys above me have spewed their media hype with reckless abandon and smirk all the while. Is it that insidious smile with which you wish to agree with? Trust it not, sirs; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. They tell you about their record and accolades; they argue how their guys was always a formidable adversary and how without them, the sport just would not be the same. But who can match the awesomeness of Chael P. Sonnen? Who can lay claim to having thrown a beating to the most feared striker in the game? All of his future opponents need to acquire the means of effectual resistance instead of lying supinely on their backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until he grinds them into a bloody mess. The best American fighter award is not given to the champions of Christmas past alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. No fighter in MMA history, who has bled red, white, and blue has ever been more vigilant, active, and brave as Chael Sonnen has been in his pursuit with the UFC middleweight champion, Anderson Silva.
It is in vain, fellas, to extenuate the matter. These guys may cry, BS, BS but there is no bull here. The unadulterated truth has actually been revealed! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding leather gloves on Brazilian skull followed by a familiar voice shouting, “Aaaaannnnd new…!” His army of beloved fans is already waiting anxiously! Why stand we here idle? What more do you need to hear? Is honor so dear, or glory so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of money laundering and bold-faced lies? Quite possibly not, but hey, what are you going to do? I know not what whom others may take; but as for me, give me Sonnen or give me death!
On the next page: Tito, Don, Randy, and ReX’s extra-special Top 7 ranking of American legends.