The end of 2014 approaches and it’s once again time to start the MMA Freak Best of 2014 Awards.
As is the tradition, the first award category will be the MMA Freak Hall of Fame, Class of 2014. This is MMA Freak’s equivalent of the lifetime achievement award for those involved in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. Whether it be a fighter, a coach, an executive, a sanctioning individual, or an influence on the sport they deserve to be recognized for their accomplishments over the years.
The following is the voting requirements for the ballots as laid out last year:
“The Hall of Fame classes are decided by an open ballot which all writers for the site are eligible to cast. Each writer has the power to vote for up to ten individuals ranked from lowest (10) to highest (1) with the highest ranks being given priority. The top ten individuals with the highest number of votes are inducted into the Hall of Fame this year and are ranked based on the number of votes they received.”
Just to clarify who was voted into the inaugural Hall of Fame class and already in, here is the Class of 2013:
MMA Freak Hall of Fame, Class of 2013
1) Chuck Liddell – UFC Hall of Fame, Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion (4 title defenses), 2003 Pride Middleweight Semifinalist
2) Ken Shamrock – UFC Hall of Fame, First UFC Superfight Champion, First King of Pancrase, King of Pancrase Tournament Winner
3) Anderson Silva – Former UFC Middleweight Champion (record 10 defenses), Cage Rage Middleweight Champion, Shooto Champion
4) Royce Gracie – UFC Hall of Fame, UFC 1 Tournament Winner, UFC 2 Tournament Winner, UFC 4 Tournament Winner
5) Tito Ortiz – UFC Hall of Fame, Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion with 5 title defenses, UFC 13 LHWT Tournament Runner-Up
6) Georges St.-Pierre – Former UFC Welterweight Champion with record 9 title defenses, Former Interim UFC Welterweight Champion
7) John McCarthy – Has served as a MMA official since UFC 2 and was instrumental in creating the rules to sanction MMA as a sport.
8) Rorion Gracie – Co-founder of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and trainer of many of the MMA fighters in the sport today.
9) Dana White – President of the UFC, Wrestling Observer Newsletter Awards 9x Promoter of the Year, World MMA Awards 4x Recipient
10) Randy Couture – UFC Hall of Fame, 3x UFC Heavyweight Champion, 2x UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, UFC 16 Winner
Of course with a list like this there will be those who are nominated but don’t make the list. They’ll be eligible again next year:
Bas Rutten – Former UFC Heavyweight Champion, 3x King of Pancrase Openweight Champion, longtime MMA event/commentator
Pat Miletich – UFC Hall of Fame, First UFC Welterweight Champion (4 defenses), UFC 16 Tournament Winner, Class of 2013 Nominee
Forrest Griffin – UFC Hall of Fame, TUF 1: Light Heavyweight Winner, Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champ, Class of 2013 Nominee
Dan Henderson – Pride MW and WW Champion, 2005 Pride Grand Prix Champion, Strikeforce LHWT Champion, Class of 2013 Nominee
Rich Franklin – Former UFC Middleweight Champion with 2 title defenses, 2x Fight of the Night Award Winner, 1x Knockout of the Night
Chris Leban – TUF Season 1 Semifinalist, 4x Knockout of the Night Award Winner, 2x Fight of the Night, WEC Middleweight Champion
Chris Lytle – TUF 4 Finalist, 6x Fight of the Night, 3x Submission of the Night, 1x Knockout of the Night, Cage Rage World WW Champion
Tim Sylvia – 2x UFC Heavyweight Champion, PWP Heavyweight Champion, Superbrawl Return of the Heavyweights Tournament Winner
Joe Rogan – Involved since UFC 12, World MMA Awards 2011 Personality of the Year, Wrestling Observer Newsletter 2x Best Announcer
Lorenzo Fertitta and Frank Fertitta III – Bought the UFC and founded Zuffa LLC. and installed Dana White as UFC President.
Jose Aldo – Current UFC Featherweight Champion with 7 title defenses, 3x Fight of the Night Winner, Last WEC Featherweight Champion
With that here are the inductees for the Hall of Fame 2014. Please note that rankings aside, all of the inductees are Hall of Famers:
10) Ronda Rousey
If there is any one woman who deserves to be inducted into the Hall of Fame it is Ronda Rousey. Before breaking into MMA, Rousey was the first American to earn an Olympic Medal in judo. She had a successful amateur career before becoming professional and making a name for herself in Strikeforce, earning the Women’s Bantamweight Championship in the late promotion. It was because of Rousey that inspired Dana White to create a women’s division in the UFC and install Rousey as the first champion. Since than she’s gone onto defend the title four times and it’s no wonder that Tom Heffernan referred to her as “the Godmother of womens MMA”.
9) Jens Pulver
There are pioneers in the sport that have been sadly forgotten and Jens Pulver is certainly one of them. Pulver had a very rough childhood dealing with an abusive father, finding solice in wrestling and eventually MMA and was influenced to join the Miletich Fighting Sytems camp at the suggestion of Bob Shamrock (the adopted brother of Ken Shamrock and Frank Shamrock). Under the coaching of Pat Miletich, Pulver would go onto become the first UFC Lightweight Champion and would fight in many other promotions such as Pride, Shooto, the IFL, Titan FC and One FC to name a few. It was sad that towards the end of his career Pulver sustained a lot of punishment as do many MMA veterans towards the end of their careers. At his career best Pulver was the type of fighter who could win over larger opponents.
8) Art Davie
Without Art Davie there very well may not have been a beginning to the UFC. Davie was inspired by videotapes of Rorion Gracie‘s Gracie Challenge to approach Gracie about a tournament to find the greatest martial art. It was during this early time that fighters like Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie excelled and Davie stayed with the promotion for a while before leaving for other ventures. He would later be involved in bringing K-1 kickboxing to America. He also wrote a book about the formation and early days of the UFC called Is This Legal.
7) Frank Shamrock
Cross trained athletes were what forced MMA to evolve from a technique standpoint and Frank Shamrock was one of those early trail blazers. Shamrock had early childhood troubles and like many fighters was pointed in a different direction thanks to his adopted father Bob Shamrock. He first started learning MMA under his brother Ken Shamrock but later branched out after a dispute which lasted for years. Shamrock would go onto become the first UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, the first WEC Light Heavyweight Champion, and the first Strikeforce Middleweight Champion. After retiring from MMA, Shamrock would still be involved as a commentator for several promotions.
6) Mark Coleman
To be called a Godfather in MMA means that such a fighter defined something. Mark Coleman is referred to as “the Godfather of Ground and Pound” because he pioneered the technique. Coleman first entered MMA after a successful career in amateur wrestling and would become so successful that he would eventually become the first UFC Heavyweight Champion. He would also win the first Pride Openweight Grand Prix and would still compete with mixed success well into his 40s. Coleman would eventually be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.
5) Dan Severn
Dan Severn is a legend who has earned his nickname “the Beast”. Severn first appeared in the UFC and established himself by winning several tournaments and maintaining a rivalry with Ken Shamrock. He would go onto win the UFC Superfight Championship before it was unified with the UFC Heavyweight Championship. Severn would continue to compete in MMA even after he stopped competing at the elite level of MMA. He would eventually be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame and would retire with over 100 wins under his belt.
4) BJ Penn
Talented doesn’t even begin to describe MMA pioneer and legend BJ Penn. Penn first entered the UFC with high expectations and had an early rivalry with Jens Pulver before eventually moving up from lightweight and winning the UFC Welterweight Championship from Matt Hughes. He spent sometime fighting in Japan before returning to the UFC and winning the UFC Lightweight Championship. Penn would defend the title three times before loosing it to Frankie Edgar and having an up and down career until retirement. He also coached several times on The Ultimate Fighter and had several trilogies with fighters like Hughes and Edgar.
3) Matt Hughes
Legends come from the humblest of beginnings and Matt Hughes certainly had that. Hughes grew up in the Iowa heartland and spent time establishing himself before fighting in the UFC. Eventually he would win the UFC Welterweight Championship and defended the title a record five times before loosing it. He would win it again and defend it another two before loosing it to another legend in Georges St.-Pierre. Hughes career would go up and down during the later part and would eventually be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.
2) Fedor Emelianenko
“The Last Emperor” is certainly a good description of the man named Fedor Emelianenko. Emeliankenko grew up in the Soviet Union and would serve in the military as a firefighter before the collapse allowed him to pursue other ventures. He would go onto compete in Rings before going to become the Pride FC Heavyweight Champion. It was during that reign that he established himself as the greatest heavyweight of all time and one of the greatest fighters of all time. He defeated several big name fighters in MMA and made himself a legend by himself.
1) Wanderlei Silva
As mentioned by both Joe Rogan and Tom Heffernan, “Violent” is a good word to describe Wanderlei Silva. Silva grew up in Brazil and first competed in Vale Tudo before fighting in the UFC and eventually Pride. It was in Pride that he became a legend where he established many records in the promotion as the the Pride FC Middleweight (205lbs) Champion. Towards the later part of his career he had ups and lows as did many veterans. It was unfortunate that he went out with controversy related to TUF Brazil 3 and random drug testing.
Thanks for reading and look for the rest of the Best of 2014 Series in January!