(Renan Barao: Started from the bottom, now he here. / Photo via Getty)
By Adam Martin
At the UFC 165 post-fight presser last month, UFC president Dana White showered praise upon UFC interim bantamweight champion Renan Barao, calling him one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport and remarking that the media hadn’t given enough credit to his eight-year, 32-fight undefeated streak, which has remained pristine since May 2005.
Barao has only tasted defeat once, and it was in the first fight of his career. The fact that he’s rebounded with the longest current undefeated streak in mixed martial arts — despite the fact that his first loss could have ruined his confidence forever — is absolutely amazing to me, as many young would-be prospects have crashed and burned in their debuts, never to be heard of again.
It got me thinking: What other mixed martial artists lost their first fight but then went on to have great success? I expected to bang out a list of ten fighters, but once I started doing the research, it blew my mind that some of the best fighters to ever compete in the sport, and a number of currently top 10-ranked fighters, actually lost their very first fight.
And so, I compiled a list of the top 24 MMA fighters of all time who lost their first fight. The list is based on accomplishments in the sport, overall skill level, and potential. Enjoy, and if I somehow missed somebody notable, please leave a comment below and explain why he or she should be included.
Honorable mentions: Matt “The Wizard” Hume (5-5), Wesley “Cabbage” Correira (20-15), Ryan “The Big Deal” Jimmo (18-2), Rodrigo Damm (11-6), James Te Huna (16-6)
24. Travis “The Ironman” Fulton (249-49-10, 1 NC)
(Photo via ThunderPromotions)
On July 26, 1996, at the age of 19 years old, Travis Fulton fought Dave Strasser in his MMA debut at Gladiators 1 in Davenport, Iowa, losing the fight via first-round submission. He then went on to win 249 fights, the most wins in mixed martial arts history. Fulton also holds the record for most fights (309) and most knockout wins (91) in MMA history.
Mind = blown.
Was Fulton a can crusher? Yes, yes he was. Or, should I say, yes he is, as he beat some nobody in his native Iowa just this past March. But you don’t win 249 MMA fights by accident, and Fulton deserves a place on this list based on volume alone.