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The Greatest Fighters Never to Enter the UFC

(Rickson. That’s all you need to know.)

FIGHT! Magazine‘s May issue just hit newsstands and features a list of the seven best fighters who never did battle in an Octagon. This exclusive excerpt showcases four of them, starting with the undefeated legend of the Gracie family…

Career: ‘94-‘00
Record: 11-0
Prime: ’94-’97

Tournament Experience:
Rickson won both the 1994 and 1995 Vale Tudo Japan eight-man tournaments.

Key Victories:
“Zulu” Nascimento, Masakatsu Funaki, Yoshihisa Yamamoto

Why it never happened:
This one is easy to answer. Rickson should have been in the UFC because it was designed with him in mind. As the family’s recognized champion, Rickson was Rorion Gracie’s first choice to show the world what Jiu-Jitsu could do. It was only after a falling out between the two brothers that younger brother Royce was selected to represent the family in the UFC. Rickson did help train Royce for the event, and he eventually established himself in another arena: Vale Tudo Japan.

Career: ‘95-‘05
Record: 51-10-1
Prime: ’96-’99

Tournament Experience:
Vovchanchyn is the winner of six eight-man tournaments, including three eight-man tournament titles and a four-man tournament in just sixty days. He competed in three other tournaments, losing in the semifinal or final bout.

Key Victories:
Kazushi Sakuraba, Mark Kerr (1-0-1), Gary Goodridge (2-0), Enson Inoue, Yuki Kondo

Key Losses:
Mark Coleman, Quinton Jackson, Mirko Filipovic, Mario Sperry, Alistair Overeem, Heath Herring

Why it never happened:
In 1996, Vovchanchyn’s name was mentioned for participation in the UFC 11 tournament, but visa issues kept the Ukrainian nightmare from ever stepping foot in the Octagon. Ironically, Mark Coleman went on to win that tournament. Like the PRIDE FC 2000 Grand Prix, he only fought twice that night to claim the title. Had Igor faced “Tank” Abbott in the semifinals, or Coleman in the final of UFC 11, we might be discussing a much different UFC history.

Career: ‘94-present
Record: 24-11-1
Prime: ’94-’00

Tournament Experience:

Key Victories:
Yves Edwards, John Lewis, Takuya Kuwabara, Kyuhei, Rafael Cordeiro

Key Losses:
Takanori Gomi, Gilbert Melendez, Caol Uno, Joachim Hansen

Why it never happened:
The former Shooto Welterweight Champion and Shooto Pacific Rim Lightweight Champion is considered the first mixed martial artist to beat a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt (Ricardo Botelho). It was expected that Sato would make his UFC debut around the same time as fellow Shooto veteran Caol Uno in 2001 (at UFC 30). Uno came to the UFC just two months after knocking out Sato. Rumina could be seen in the audience at UFCs around that time, and SEG was obviously courting him at some point.

Career: ‘95-present
Record: 13-4
Prime: ’96-’01

Tournament Experience:
Sperry lost in the semifinal of the Extreme Fighting 1 four-man tournament but captured an eight-man tournament title at the Australian Cage Combat 1.

Key Victories:
Igor Vovchanchyn, Vernon White

Key Losses:
Murilo Rua, Yuki Kondo, Igor Zinoviev, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka

Why it never happened:
For many years, Sperry was leader of the Carlson Gracie Vale Tudo Team (along with Murilo Bustamante). The camp featured some of Brazil’s best fighters of the day, including Allan Goes, Wallid Ismail, Carlos Barreto, and Ricardo Liborio, as well as Bustamante and Sperry. Eventually the team split and the Brazilian Top Team was born. Though Mario had been fighting since the early days of the UFC (around UFC 7), he was so focused on getting the team quality contests that he sacrificed his own fighting interests. In fact, after winning the Caged Combat eight-man tournament in 1997, he put his own career on hold for three years (mid-1997 to mid-2000) before returning to fighting in Japan.

Check out the May issue of FIGHT! (available at Borders, Barnes and Noble, and Walden Books) to see who else made the list. Hint: One of them is both a “King Without a Crown” and “completely despicable.”

Cagepotato Comments

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TheDonald- April 21, 2008 at 1:04 pm
Fedor Emelianenko, Takanori Gomi, Urijah Faber, Kid Yamamoto, Kazushi Sakuraba, Chris Horodecki, Jake Shields, Carlos Condit, Paulo Filho
GSP for Prime Minister- April 18, 2008 at 5:22 am
# Snowpants Dynamite Says:
April 18th, 2008 at 3:01 pm

Clubber Lang! Hello?

WHAT?! Clubber Lang didnt even last a few rounds with Rocky in their last fight!!! he has NO cardio, whatsoever! If you're going with the Rocky references, at least say "Ivan Drago"!!! the dude had a 2000 psi punch!! you're a noob..
ithertz- April 18, 2008 at 2:32 am
Seaswell- April 17, 2008 at 9:11 pm
IGOR VOVCHANCHYN = my favorite fighter ever... if only for his facial expressions, or lack thereof.

at least he lives on in PRIDE videogames, where i assure you he is still doing his thing.
Snowpants Dynamite- April 17, 2008 at 9:01 pm
Clubber Lang! Hello?
GSP for Prime Minister- April 17, 2008 at 8:30 pm
1) Fedor

2) Kid Yamamoto