This coming Monday we honor the birthday of a man who called for equality through peaceful demonstrations and love named Martin Luther King Jr. In honor a combination of the holiday and the upcoming African American History Month, I thought it’d be appropriate to create a list of the Top 10 African Americans in MMA.
The list is ranked based on a combination of accomplishments and significance in MMA today:
~ 10 ~
Depending on how you look at it, Emanuel Newton is either an up and coming prospect or a veteran who’s hard work has finally paid off. Emanuel Newton first made his MMA debut in 2003 at a show in Mexico. He went onto fight for promotions like the WEC, Gladiator Challenge, King of the Cage, IFL, Maximum Fighting Championship, and Shark Fights.
During that time he won the Gladiator Challenge and MFC Light Heavyweight Championships. He’s currently fighting in Bellator MMA where he’s the Interim Light Heavyweight Champion.
~ 9 ~
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson
One would think that Quinton Jackson would be higher on this list however, he’s not that relevant as of right now. Jackson first started in MMA in 1999 at a fight in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. After sometime in promotions like King of the Cage and Gladiator Challenge, Jackson went onto compete in the Pride Fighting Championships where he made a name for himself.
He spent roughly five years there before jumping to the UFC via a World Fighting Alliance buyout. Following his six year tenure in the UFC where he earned the Light Heavyweight Championship, he left following the end of his contract and joined Bellator MMA, looking to reinvigorate his career.
~ 8 ~
Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal
Following a successful career in international wrestling, Muhammed Lawal entered the Japanese World Victory Road promotion with the fight name “King Mo.” After going 4-0 in the promotion he had one match with M-1 Global winning against veteran Mark Kerr.
He then signed with Strikeforce where he became their light heavyweight champion. However, after loosing the title and because of some of the fallout with his testing positive for a banned substance (and some bad comments he made) Lawal was cut from Strikeforce before signing with Bellator MMA but was upset in his first tournament appearance. After loosing a fight for the Interim Title, it’s hard to tell where Lawal goes from here.
~ 7 ~
Daniel Straus could be considered an original Bellator product. Straus first began his MMA career in 2009 and competed mostly on the regional circuit for the first year. Then after brief forays with Bellator and Shark Fights, Straus competed in the Bellator Season 4 Featherweight Tournament but lost in the finals against Patricio Freire.
He returned in Bellator Season 6 and won the tournament, facing champion Pat Curran in a rematch from their regional days and taking the title. He’s set for a trilogy rematch with Curran at Bellator 112.
~ 6 ~
Another example of a lighter weight fighter, John Dodson started his MMA career in 2004 and competed mostly on the regional circuit with one foray into the King of the Cage promotion. Following his participation in the controversial Nemesis Fighting event, Dodson Season 14 of the Ultimate Fighter, winning the seasons bantamweight tournament.
Afterwards he only needed two fights to earn a title shot against UFC Flyweight Demetrious Johnson. While he lost the fight, he did well enough to earn Fight of the Night honors with Johnson. Dodson immediately rebounded with a win against Darrell Montague at UFC 166 and it can be assumed he’s close to another title shot.
~ 5 ~
Tyron Woodley is an example of a fighter who got thrown into a major promotion shortly after his entrance into MMA. Woodley fought only twice on the regional circuit before signing with the Strikeforce promotion in 2009 (the same year he’d started). He would go onto fight a total of nine times for the promotion with the last outing being against Nate Marquardt for the vacant Strikeforce Welterweight Championship.
Despite the loss that ended his undefeated career, Woodley was kept on when Strikeforce was folded into the UFC. While he suffered a loss to Jake Shields at UFC 161, he rebounded against Josh Koscheck at UFC 167 and is now set to face Carlos Condit at UFC 171.
~ 4 ~
Without a doubt, “Sugar” Rashad Evans is a testament to the success of The Ultimate Fighter. Evans first started competing in MMA in 2003 and fought for the Dangerzone and Gladiator Challenge promotions, winning a tournament in the process. He then competed in the second season of The Ultimate Fighter winning the heavyweight division before moving back down to light heavyweight.
Since then he’s earned the Light Heavyweight Championship and worked his way back to fighting current champion Jon Jones for the title. He’s currently on a two fight win streak against the likes of Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen and is set to face Daniel Cormier at UFC 170.
~ 3 ~
Daniel Cormier is an example of a smaller fighter dominating much larger opponents. After a successful career in international wrestling, Cormier began competing in MMA in 2009 in the Strikeforce Challengers series. He also had forays into King of the Cage and the XMMA promotion, winning both promotion’s heavyweight titles.
His big opportunity came when he entered the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix as an alternate and went onto win the tournament in dominating fashion. After going 2-0 in the UFC he’s moving down to light heavyweight.
~ 2 ~
Large prizes come in small packages and that’s certainly true in the case of the man known as “Mighty Mouse.” Demetrious Johnson started his MMA career in 2007, fighting on the regional circuit for roughly three years. Then in 2010 he entered the WEC where he fought at bantamweight and continued into the UFC, eventually facing Dominick Cruz for the title.
Following his unsuccessful challenge, Johnson then dropped down to flyweight and won the tournament for the inaugural flyweight championship. He’s since defended the title three times.
~ 1 ~
This is arguably but one can’t deny number one and two belong in one of those two positions. In the case of Jon Jones, it is well deserved. Jones first started his MMA career in 2008 on the regional circuit before first fighting in the UFC that same year.
After going 6-1 (the only loss of which was a disqualification) Jones fought Mauricio “Shogun” Rua for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship and defeated him in the third round. Jones has since defended the title a record six times. He’s now set to defend it against Glover Teixeira at UFC 169.
I would like to wish everyone a happy Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. Please leave a comment!