Every great sport has been built on the backs of men who absolutely sucked at it — athletes whose hapless failures made the champions’ triumphs look even more outstanding by comparison. Baseball has its Mario Mendozas, its Bob Kammeyers, its Pete Rose Jrs. We have our Joe Sons, our Tiki Ghosns, our James Toneys. So in honor of the brave competitors who proved that MMA is even harder than it looks, we humbly present this “tribute” to the worst UFC fighters of all time.
A couple of notes to start: 1) We chose fighters solely based on their performances inside the Octagon. Some of these fighters achieved great things in other organizations, before or after their time in the UFC; for the purposes of this feature, we’re not really interested in that. 2) Instead of ranking one form of suckitude against another, we’ll group the 50 fighters into sections and arrange them chronologically. Use the links below to navigate, and if we omitted anybody notable, please let us know in the comments section.
- Ben Goldstein
The Pre-Zuffa Punchlines
When “Style vs. Style” usually meant “Talented vs. Untalented.”
Even before we really understood what the UFC was, it was clear that Art Jimmerson didn’t belong there. What was a one-gloved boxer going to accomplish in a no-holds-barred fighting competition? In the end, the glove gimmick was completely beside the point. Jimmerson wasn’t able to land a single punch with either hand before he was taken down by early franchise star Royce Gracie, and tapped out before Gracie even got a chance to sink a submission hold. These days, Art is gainfully employed as the head boxing instructor at the UFC Gym in Rosemead, California, and spends his free time calling out Kimbo Slice. Legend.
The last thing I want to do is pile more abuse on Fred Ettish. He seems like a legitimately nice person, and he’s suffered enough in his life as it is. But leaving Ettish off a list of the worst UFC fighters of all time is like leaving Robert Johnson off a list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. The man has earned his place in history.
A kenpo karate stylist who wanted to challenge himself beyond point-fighting tournaments, Ettish sent a letter to Art Davie asking for a spot on UFC 2, and was brought on as a stand-by alternate when Ken Shamrock broke his hand before the event. But instead of letting Ettish warm up and keep focused backstage, the UFC tried to kill two birds with one stone by having Ettish wrangle fighters at the arena, Burt Watson-style. When Frank Hamaker injured his hand during his round-of-16 victory over Thaddeus Luster, shit got very real, very fast:
“I’d just brought up [Minoki] Ichihara, the guy who fought Royce in the first round. I was going downstairs to find the next fighter at the same time Rorion Gracie was coming up the stairs. He grabbed me by the arm and asked, ‘Are you ready to fight?’…I had to go find my guys in the crowd, drag them backstage, get my gear, stretch and try to get myself prepared. This all happened in about a 10-minute window, and I was headed out to the Octagon…I wasn’t able to get my mind right. I checked out psychologically.”
Johnny Rhodes destroyed him. Ettish’s front-kicks were more of an annoyance to his opponent than anything else, and by the time Rhodes knocked him to the mat and began firing strikes from above, Ettish only had the “earthquake defense” to protect him. Rhodes eventually won by way of a choke-hold that he seemed to have invented on the spot. Luckily, Ettish didn’t get discouraged. He went on to open a Pat Miletich-affiliated MMA gym, and returned to competition in 2009, scoring a first-round TKO of a guy who was half his age. See? Nice guys don’t always finish last.
Manny Yarborough proved that a 416-pound weight advantage was no advantage at all, especially if you have zero practical combat training outside of shoving other fat guys, and you can’t get off the floor without assistance. As soon as his opponent Keith Hackney landed a Hail Mary palm strike, Yarborough tumbled to the mat and nearly swallowed Hackney up in his massive gravitational pull. After a re-start due to Octagon gate-failure, Hackney pot-shotted Yarborough until he was able to knock the big sumo down again, then smashed Manny with blows from above until Big John McCarthy was forced to intervene. Yarborough wasn’t invited back to the UFC, though he did pick up a win via smother-submission during a Shooto fight four years later.
Maybe we’re biased, considering he’s arguably the worst person who ever competed in the UFC. When Joe Son cut his creepy UFC 4 promo in which he threatened to show us “the spirit of the Lord of Jesus Christ tonight,” nobody knew that he had participated in the horrifying kidnapping and gang-rape of a woman on Christmas Eve 1990, a crime that wouldn’t catch up to him until 2008. Once again, Keith Hackney played the role of regulator, repeatedly slugging Joe Son in the balls during their fight — perfectly legal back then, mind you — before making the “Joe Son Do” practitioner tap due to a choke.
After his failed UFC campaign, Son snagged a role in the first Austin Powers movie then lost three more MMA bouts in equally embarrassing fashion before a fluke vandalism warrant tied him to his earlier crime. He was convicted, sentenced to life in prison, and promptly killed his cell-mate, a fellow sex-offender. The only silver lining to the ugly story of Joe Son’s life is that he’ll almost certainly die behind bars.
5. Jon Hess (1-0)
Sole appearance: UFC 5, 4/7/95
How did a guy who never lost in the UFC make it onto this list? Well, just watch the video of Jon Hess‘s UFC 5 fight against Andy Anderson, and it’ll start to make a lot of sense. A co-founder of SAFTA — that’s Scientific Aggressive Fighting Technology of America, noob — Hess decided to pursue MMA after watching UFC 4 and concluding that he could beat Royce Gracie “very easily.” But once he got in the Octagon and started flailing around like a spaz, it wasn’t clear that he’d ever studied a real martial art. And despite his size advantage against Anderson, Hess resorted to blatant eye-gouging twice in order to get out of trouble.
In short, Hess was completely unathletic, would have been destroyed by any fighter his own size, and was most likely a total asshole to begin with. The UFC reportedly fined him $2,000 for his fouls and never allowed him back. In his second (and final) MMA fight the following year, Hess was invited to face Vitor Belfort at a SuperBrawl event on four days’ notice, and by the power of Christ, Belfort set the karmic balance back in order.
6. John Matua (0-1)
Sole appearance: UFC 6, 7/14/95
And now, the internal monologue of everybody who watched UFC 6 live: “Damn, John Matua looks like a beast. Did Michael Buffer just say he studies the ‘brutal Hawaiian art of bone-breaking?’ Yeesh…R.I.P., random biker guy. It’s kind of weird that I’ve been subscribing to Black Belt magazine for the last three years and yet I’ve never heard of Kuialua; I’ll have to ask my sensei about ways to defend against it. Okay, they’re fighting, and HOLY CRAP, TANK IS BEATING HIS ASS! BONE-BREAKING HAS BEEN EXPOSED AS USELESS IN A NO-HOLDS-BARRED SCENARIO! PIT-FIGHTING IS THE FUTURE! Oh man, is Matua dead? He’s definitely dead. Wow. Best $14.99 I’ve ever spent. [puts on Everclear CD]”
See also: Thomas Ramirez
8. Moti Horenstein (0-2)
First appearance: UFC 10, 7/12/96
Final appearance: UFC 14, 7/27/97
With a background in karate, kickboxing, and krav maga, Israeli striker Moti Horenstein wasn’t looking to roll around the mat with anybody. His game-plan in the cage was to unleash the kind of vicious kicks that would later score him a Guinness World Record in baseball-bat breaking. (Yes, there is such a thing.) Unfortunately, Moti’s luck in drawing opponents was cosmically, hilariously bad. Horenstein debuted in the quarterfinals of UFC 10′s open-weight tournament against former NCAA Division I wrestling champion Mark Coleman, who swiftly took him down and unleashed his trademark ground-and-pound until Horenstein tapped from strikes at the 2:43 mark.
Horenstein gave it another shot the following year, entering UFC 14′s four-man heavyweight tournament. And who was his opponent this time? None other than former NCAA Division I wrestling champion Mark Kerr, who was simply a larger, younger, and more savage version of Mark Colemon. Bleacher Report aptly described the match as ”the worst case of a Jew being led to slaughter since Jesus.” Horenstein got TKO’d in 2:22 and thankfully never showed up in the UFC again.
The UFC’s pre-Zuffa era featured two short-lived Iranian prospects — Tae Kwon Do stylist Saeed Hosseini, who competed at UFC 13, and Reza Nasri, who preceded him by three events. (Coincidentally, both fighters were matched up against juiced-up Americans wearing form-fitting Stars ‘n’ Stripes briefs, which made it clear who the fans were supposed to root for.) But while Hosseini put in a valiant effort before being TKO’d by Jack Nilsson, Nasri didn’t do anything for the budding reputation of Iranian MMA, getting beat down by Brian Johnston in under 30 seconds.
Nasri entered the Octagon with a Greco-Roman wrestling background, but it wasn’t clear if he’d done any striking training before joining the eight-man tournament at UFC 11, and he certainly hadn’t taken any jiu-jitsu lessons — you can tell that by the way he completely stopped fighting after Johnston put him on his back. Perhaps Nasri was waiting for the ref to award Johnston three points and stand them back up. Instead, Johnston unleashed a torrent of head-butts (still technically legal in those days) and punches that ended the Iranian’s UFC career as quickly as it began. Now, if Johnston had only come at Nasri with a knife in slow-motion, who knows what would have happened?
Unlike the inept first-timers in this section, Tony Halme already had a proven history of failure in MMA by the time he made it to the UFC, racking up an 0-3 record for Japan’s RINGS promotion. A former professional wrestler who had competed in the WWF under the name Ludvig Borga, the hulking, tatted-up Finn certainly looked like your stereotypical cage-fighter/Aryan prison-gang leader. But against a top-shelf wrestler like Randy Couture, he was roadkill.
Halme met the Natural in the semi-finals of UFC 13′s four-man heavyweight tournament — which happened to be Couture’s MMA debut — and opened the bout by running directly into a double-leg takedown. Couture easily placed the 300-pounder on the mat, transitioned to Halme’s back, then finished him with a choke, all in just 56 seconds. It was the last attempt at MMA for Halme, who went on to win a seat in Finland’s parliament for the ultra-right-wing True Finns party, before spiraling into drug-and-alcohol-fueled insanity, and killing himself in January 2010. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.
His entire MMA career lasted only 17 seconds, but it taught us so much. For one thing, being 240 pounds doesn’t necessarily make you a heavyweight — sometimes it just means you need to reduce your carb intake. Also, the Octagon is no place to test out new martial arts systems that you made up in your garage. So it went with Greg Stott, an Army Ranger who debuted his own Ranger Intensive Program (“RIP rules, and all other styles rest in peace“) at UFC 15 against the nightmare-inducing Mark Kerr, a true heavyweight in every sense of the word. After Stott tossed out a few awful-looking jabs to demonstrate how unqualified he was, Kerr clinched up and launched an Overeem-esque knee straight up the middle, putting Stott’s lights out. The Mississippi fans booed the quick stoppage, angry that Kerr didn’t literally beat Stott to death. Indeed, it was a crowd that desired bloodshed above all else.
The four-man heavyweight tournament at Ultimate Japan 1 featured two Japanese professional wrestlers, who entered as a publicity stunt for their Kingdom Pro Wrestling league. One of them was Kazushi Sakuraba, a last-minute injury replacement who managed to win the tournament and went on to become an MMA megastar in Japan. The other was Yoji Anjo, whose fight career couldn’t have turned out more differently. After losing a 15-minute decision to American fan-favorite Tank Abbott, Anjo was booked on two subsequent Japanese UFC cards, for no other reason than his nationality. In a pair of mismatches against middleweight up-and-comers, Anjo was choked out by Murilo Bustamante at UFC 25: Ultimate Japan 3 and TKO’d by Matt Lindland at UFC 29. Yoji Anjo retired from MMA competition with an overall record of 0-5-1. The fact that he was also responsible for the most epically failed dojo-storming attempt in martial arts history is a tale for another day.
See also: Daiju Takase
I’m going to be honest with you — I don’t know a damn thing about Chris Condo. I don’t know where he came from, and I don’t know what became of him after his brief stint in the UFC. Maybe he was simply a spectator who was asked to replace a fighter who had dropped out at the last minute. Your guess is as good as mine. What I see in the screen-cap above is a heavy-set “grappler” whose dopey, innocent expression is reminiscent of Private Pyle from Full Metal Jacket. When Condo faced Ron Waterman at UFC 20, he was, to quote that movie, in a world of shit; Waterman TKO’d him in just 28 seconds. I remember watching the fight online a while back, and I remember that it was ugly, but the video has disappeared from the Internet. Chris Condo never fought again. His life remains a mystery.