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CagePotato Roundtable #34: What is the Single Worst Tattoo in MMA?

(And this debate is ALLLLLLLL OVVVERRRRR!!!)

Don’t let the “A” in MMA fool you, mixed martial arts fighters are *not* artists…at least, not in the traditional sense of the term. Look no further than the hilariously atrocious inkwork that so often adorns their bodies for proof of this. Between the non-tribal tribal arm bands, the last name tramp stamps, and the ill-advised branding attempts, MMA fighters (and their fans — see above) sport some of the worst tattoos you’ll ever see outside of a prison cell. But who has the worst tattoo of them all? The CagePotato Roundtable investigates…

Ben Goldstein

Matt Horwich‘s musical pencil is like something out of a nightmare. It’s a bunch of unrelated visual signifiers held together by an inscrutable logic, and the only thing being conveyed is dread. You wake up sweating after seeing this thing, and you tell your wife, “Shit, I had that dream about my stepfather again, but this time he was a pencil,” and she looks at you, trying to feign sympathy, but the apparition simply can’t be verbalized. Words will never do it justice, because it’s so much more than just “pencil, musical notes, angry face,” it’s what the pencil represents. That goddamned abusive drunk piece of shit, who hated himself because he couldn’t write songs like Neil Diamond, so he took it out on you and your mom. That face. You could put it on a cantaloupe, a hammer, the front of a steamboat, and it would still be him.

Look, I get it, Matt Horwich is eccentric. His concept of reality is not the same as yours. I’m trying to avoid judgment here, but I just can’t relate to the sort of mind that would put this on his body. It’s awful. A worn-down pencil with a ragged eraser. A face devoid of most human characteristics. And three notes — whole note, half note, quarter note! — flying upwards. It’s not a singing pencil. It’s a scowling pencil with musical notation ejecting from the end that is responsible for deletion, not creation. It’s a contradiction, and it’s unsettling. The pencil seems to be straining to get these notes out, and for what? To express that the artistic process is torture? Does the pencil wish it was a violin instead? Does Matt Horwich even remember getting this tattoo, or did it just kind of appear one day? You’re seeing it too, right? The pencil with the face? I’m not crazy, am I?

Michael Fagan

Portraits are the improv comedy of the tattoo world. Combine a talented artist with a great subject and the right canvas, and, yeah, you have a pretty great piece of work that you can appreciate. Otherwise? It’s trash. All of it. It’s why we end up with things like Ronda Rousey looking like a puffy-faced Mermaid wearing UFC-braded Shooto pillow gloves.

Which brings us to Alan Belcher‘s Johnny Cash tattoo. Belcher soft-debuted this…thing…at UFC 93 against Denis Kang. Goldstein properly described it as “terrifying.” The UFC would be thrilled to have an afternoon PPV show from Ireland headlined by two aging veterans pulling in 350k buys in 2014, but this was 2009, a time when MMA was golden and Brock Lesnar its king. So, when Belcher fought Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 100, he introduced his monster to millions of people worldwide.

What can be said about Belcher’s tattoo that hasn’t already been said about pig-nosed Polish grandmothers who just caught their grandson masturbating to last year’s Sears Christmas catalog? Belcher nearly lost his career due to a detached retina in 2010, though I’ve always suspected that his eyes caught sight of his left arm in a storefront window and called it a day. Belcher’s currently in a St-Pierre retirement purgatory. We can only hope he’s made the proper modifications to turn his Johnny Cash into a My Cousin Vinny-era Joe Pesci.

Seth Falvo

(Image courtesy of Sherdog)

Tribal markings. Olde English letters. Skulls, pit bulls and fleurs de lys. MMA fighters and generic, awful tattoos truly go hand in grenade-tatted hand. Yet despite the plethora of options I could have considered, one truly craptacular piece managed to immediately stand out in my mind when this topic was introduced: UFC heavyweight Shawn Jordan’s chest piece.

This thing is practically a check-list for “tough white guy” tattoos. Nautical starz? Check. A Native American (because all Southern white people claim to be at least 1/8th Native American) with his arms menacingly crossed? Got it. A(n LSU) tiger? Of course. All with a tattered American flag waving defiantly in the background? Like you don’t know.

Shawn Jordan’s left pectoral of clichés would be bad enough if a decent artist actually worked on it, but the fact that it’s as poorly executed as it is really puts this thing over the top. Tattoo artists are fond of saying “Good tattoos aren’t cheap, and cheap tattoos aren’t good.” Judging by the quality of Jordan’s ink, I’m willing to bet that this piece set him back two cases of Natty Light and maybe, maybe an autographed LSU football. I’m on the fence about the football because I’d like to think that a ball autographed by the 2008 National Championship team would have at least earned the horrifically disproportionate Native American a six-pack that didn’t span the entire length of his torso.

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the hick who scratched his way through Jordan’s chest piece actually considers himself a “talented” tattoo “artist.” Or if every time he sees Shawn Jordan in the cage, his chest swells with pride as he tells anyone who will listen that his “gun” is behind that eyesore. “I did that, right there! That’s professional work for half the price of one of them fangled tattoo parlors, and it’s just as good as what you’d get from a licensed shop!”

Sure thing, buddy. Whatever you say.

Nathan Smith

Years before Conor McGregor and his Cosby Sweater ink became the biggest star in UFC history, the main draw for the promotion was the Undisputed Heavyweight Champ Brock Lesnar who, coincidentally, sported the worst MMA tattoo ever. There is a plethora of ways to describe what Lesnar’s tat resembles but even though I am in my 30’s, my sense of humor leans more towards a kid in junior high. So I am just going to come right out and say it.

Brock Lesnar’s ink looks like a giant penis and we all know it. Seriously, it looks like the tattoo artist took a picture of Ron Jeremy’s erect crank and then stuck a handle on the base of it. To make matters worse, there appears to be a small amount of red blood oozing from the top of the dick which makes it even more reprehensible and disturbing but at least we got the nickname Cock Chestner out of it, I guess.

There isn’t a whole lot more to elaborate on and I really struggled with how I was supposed to stretch this post into 3 paragraphs so it didn’t look like I gave a half-assed effort on this CP Roundtable submission. I thought I’d try to mix in as many amusing penis slang words (i.e. Foreskin Flute, Trouser Snake, Veinous Maximus, Tube Steak, Satan’s Clarinet, Clam Hammer, The Bone Ranger), but I didn’t think that would be a very mature thing to do. So with that being said, here’s 101 Big Dick Jokes.

Alex Giardini

I mean, shit. You guys basically said it yourselves.

After witnessing Paulo Filho’s performance where he robbed Chael Sonnen of the only title the “American Gangster” truly deserved acquiring back at WEC 36, you had a hunch things would get a little out of hand.

Substance abuse, no-shows, and showing up when he shouldn’t have shown outlines what the Brazilian’s career has looked like the past couple of years, yet it’s not like his legend didn’t go out with a bang (technically, it’s still going).

Getting “the same thing Mike Tyson has on his face” just wasn’t enough for the former Pride and WEC veteran; he just had to ink his body with the worst possible eyesores known to man. It’s rather difficult to pick just one, but that’s the rule of the game.

Filho’s “Million Dollar Bulldog” is truly a work of art. Before entering his DREAM 10 bout against Melvin Manhoef, the MMA bubble was treated to the fighter’s new work, which is a bulldog centering a million dollar bill, and beneath that, two bulldogs seemingly about to trade fisticuffs. Now, maybe this was somewhat motivational for the troubled slugger, however, it just takes the cake in the worst way possible. It even came with a bonus “Reward Hunter” (pun not intended, but now, sort of) on his upper chest. It’s like having the best entrée in your life, followed by a meal that puts you in a delusional state where you’re content with your life coming to a close. Furthermore, it’s incredibly creative. To this day, nobody really knows what that is.

Honorable mention would have to be Filho’s forearm tattoo, “Placartoon Tattoo,” which is the shop that marked him, meaning it’s basically a glorified ad on Filho for the rest of his life. I really hope this guy strings a few wins together and makes it into the UFC. Then he could get a Harley Davidson tattoo on the other side of his face.

Jared Jones

Look, we all know that art is subjective, and as a guy who sports several poorly-rendered and half-finished tattoos that could be considered terrible (tree of life, vegvisir, giant maze, etc.) by most people, I am always tread lightly when it comes to shitting on someones ink. Do I think that Alan Belcher has the single worst portrait of Johnny Cash known to man? Without a doubt. Do I think pasty white giants from Maine would be best to reconsider getting that “tribal” tattoo ripped right from an Affliction shirt? Of course. But as I’ve said before, we’ve all made mistakes in our youthful arrogance, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to start sounding like a hypocrite while knocking these (albeit atrocious) displays of artwork down a peg.

Instead, I’m choosing to focus on the tattoos that hint at more than just a mistake made during a drunken night out. I’m choosing to focus on the men behind the tattoos, or rather, the tattoos that say a lot more about their human canvas (as Dave Navarro would put it) than simply, “I want to look badass.” So for me, the worst tattoos in MMA is really a 4-way tie between Melvin Costa, Brandon Saling, Toni Valtonen, and Dustin Holyko.

You see, all four of these men are garbage — White Power, Neo-Nazi garbage. One of them’s also a convicted pedo. They all also happen to be MMA fighters. To their credit, all 4 of these men are very upfront about just how garbage they are, and would like you to know from the moment you lay eyes on them that, yes, you are looking at garbage. Two of them rock swastika tats, one rocks a Heil Hitler “88″ tattoo with SS lightning bolts, and the other simply has “White Power” inked on either arm. What, did you expect racism to embrace subtlety just because we’re living in Obama’s America?

Despite their…let’s call them “sketchy” pasts, some of these garbage men continue to have fights booked to this day, by promoters who I can only assume are also garbage. One of them even had a one-off fight for Strikeforce before that blew up in their face. The worst part? That fight (Brandon Saling vs. Roger Bowling) was pretty goddamn awesome, although hearing Mauro Ranallo, Pat Miletich, and Frank Shamrock praise Saling for being a “natural fighter” and “tough country boy” with “impeccable instincts” seems kinda messed up in retrospect.

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