With the first chapter of what may become a staple feud between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier behind us, the UFC is ripe for potentially seat-filling rivalries to come. Jones convincingly won the bout, taking four of the five rounds to win via unanimous decision, but he felt no sympathy for Cormier when he said the following to FOX Sports 1 in the post-fight interview: “I don’t respect Daniel Cormier. I hope he’s somewhere crying right now. I’m sure he is. I can’t wait until he earns his way back, so I can whoop him again.” Jones’ only loss in the UFC came when he was disqualified for illegal elbows in a bout he had been dominating. It was a tall order for Cormier, whose undefeated streak ended at 15 wins, to step inside the octagon and take down who is widely regarded as the sport’s best pound-for-pound fighter.
Rivalries in caged fighting don’t always stem from a desire to usurp the champion. There are grudges that originate from personal attacks or a sense of betrayal, especially between two fighters from the same training camp. It fuels months of trash talk and considerable hype for the UFC to capitalize on in the form of pay-per-view buys. It’s good for the sport and, at times, the hype is matched with a hateful and emphatic exchange of blows.
With that in mind, this list will count down the 11 most explosive feuds in the UFC—excluding Jones vs. Cormier—with the hope that more are added in the near future.
11. Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate
Perhaps predictably, this rivalry ended with Miesha Tate having her arm bent in an uncomfortable direction via Ronda Rousey’s signature armbar. Still, the two fighters displayed genuine animosity outside the octagon as they exchanged harsh words and dirty looks during pre-match press conferences. That is par for the course for any fight—the UFC needs to sell the event after all—but the ill will between the two stemmed from The Ultimate Fighter and grew exponentially from there. Rousey would ultimately get the last laugh—and the only laughs—while also establishing a villainous type of persona in the octagon as she coldly denied Tate a friendly handshake when the dust settled.
10. Matt Serra vs. Matt Hughes
The retired former UFC welterweight champions have had some bad blood. They even tried orchestrating a rematch through some well-aimed trash talk on Twitter, but UFC commissioner Dana White squashed the possibility after stating there’s no reason for the two to step in the octagon again. Both fighters admitted to disliking each other on the set of The Ultimate Fighter, Serra calling Hughes “an arrogant jerk…he walks around with his nose up in the air. He’s your typical bully.” It culminated in Hughes dominating Serra with strong wrestling, taking the win by unanimous decision. They shook hands afterwards, but it’s evident the rivalry still burns.
9. Rampage Jackson vs. Rashad Evans
This one runs deep. Rampage Jackson claims their feud stemmed from an altercation back in 2004 when Rashad Evans took advantage of his injured teammate, Hector Ramirez, and playfully mocked him before winning by decision. Then, Jackson claims, Evans had the nerve to ask if he could train with him after “disrespecting my teammate.” The two went their separate ways before meeting up in The Ultimate Fighters as opposing coaches, slinging verbal attacks whenever the opportunity arose—Evans also called one of Jackson’s fights and criticized him repeatedly. Evans would eventually win the war by unanimous decision in UFC 114.
8. Georges St-Pierre vs. BJ Penn
This grudge mostly stemmed from BJ Penn and his relentless smear campaign on Georges St-Pierre. When they first met in the Octagon in 2006, “GSP” won a controversial split decision, which evidently didn’t sit well with Penn. Nearly three years later, the two fighters met inside the cage again, after a healthy dose of trash talk mostly emanating from Penn’s corner. It didn’t end well for Penn, yet again, as GSP took him down in four rounds. Not to be outdone, Penn then accused GSP of taking steroids because he’s always in shape while the rest of the fighters “get fat” and have to trim down before a fight.
7. Guy Mezger vs. Tito Ortiz
This rivalry spanned two fights before extending to Ken Shamrock and the Lion’s Den, a mixed martial arts team. It began after Tito Ortiz and Guy Mezger’s first fight, in which Mezger controversially won via a guillotine choke. Moments before the fight ended, it was believed Mezger had tapped out after Ortiz unleashed a flurry of knees to his head, but it went unnoticed. The two fighters, of course, had a rematch and Ortiz made short work of Mezger, taking him down late in the first round. He then proceeded to flip the double-bird salute in Mezger’s corner, the Lion’s Den, which enraged Shamrock and sparked another memorable rivalry.
6. Ken Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz
Tito Ortiz couldn’t just have a slice, he wanted the whole pie. And he devoured it, much to the chagrin of Shamrock and the Lion’s Den. Ortiz and Shamrock fueled a grudge that spanned three bouts. In the first, Ortiz would end “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” by technical knockout in the third round. In the rematch, “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” won in similar fashion but finished the fight at 1:18 in the first round. In the trilogy bout, Shamrock’s defeat to Ortiz would be established in UFC history as he fell by technical knockout once again, this time at 2:22 in the first round.
5. Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz
You have to hand it to Nick Diaz, he knows how to sell a fight. This feud traces back to the early days of both fighters’ careers, in which Diaz publicly criticized “GSP” for being fast-tracked to the title. He then plied his trade in Strikeforce, calling out St-Pierre until the UFC purchased the organization to make the match-up a reality. After some delays due to injury and Diaz skipping mandatory press conferences—which had cost him the main event at UFC 137—Diaz famously called out St-Pierre in his post-fight interview claiming he was scared to fight anyone. Following the public rant, St-Pierre lost his composure and demanded a fight against Diaz. After some additional delays, it eventually led to the Canadian superstar manhandling Diaz for five-straight rounds, winning by unanimous decision.
4. Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir
Brock Lesnar is some sort of genetically modified bear you don’t want to poke. Frank Mir initially took him down with a knee bar in UFC 81, but the mounting trash talk and general lack of respect that would follow would prove to be his demise. Lesnar was a man on a mission—a pain-inducing, dream-shattering mission. Mir poked fun at his WWE background and refused to take Lesnar seriously, claiming that his martial arts background would be too much for him to handle. But Lesnar had a game plan, which consisted of smothering Mir from the opening bell and laying a vicious beatdown that left him bloody and convincingly beaten.
3. Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans
The two fighters had previously referred to each other as “brothers.” But when Jon Jones claimed the Light Heavyweight championship against Maurico Rua at UFC 128, things went awry. The two sat down face-to-face in a half-hour segment on “The Ultimate Insider” and things got predictably heated as the two of them exchanged verbal blows. Jones accused Evans of being selfish and turning his back on his stablemates, while Evans accused Jones of being immature and “a fake.” In the build-up to the fight, Jones even presented his cellphone to the media to prove that Evans had sent him text messages claiming he was “a fake-ass white boy.” After several delays due to injuries, the two finally met at UFC 145, in which Jones won by unanimous decision. This rivalry has a happy ending, though, as the two eventually reconciled in 2014.
2. Tito Ortiz vs. Chuck Liddell
Once friends, then-champion Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell had eventually clashed being in the same training camp and division. Ortiz refused to fight Liddell, claiming the two had made a pact not to do so, which Liddell of course denied. This led to a war of words between the fighters, who finally met in the octagon after both were looking to rebound from a loss. “The Iceman” would knockout Ortiz in their first bout but the rivalry was far from over. They squared off inside the cage once again in what was a tightly contested affair before Liddell won via TKO in the third round. It was the first UFC pay-per-view to break one million buys. The feud continued into The Ultimate Fighter as the two were opposing coaches, but the trilogy fight was ultimately cancelled as Ortiz pulled out due to injury.
1. Chael Sonnen vs. Anderson Silva
Chael Sonnen knows how to get under his opponent’s skin. After his first fight against Anderson Silva, in which he out-struck Silva five-to-one before being upset by a submission in the fifth round, Sonnen made things personal when he said the following to ESPN: “You tell Anderson Silva I’m coming over and I’m kicking down his back door and patting his little lady on the [butt], and I’m telling her to make me a steak, medium-rare, just how I like it.” The verbal jab enraged the ordinarily composed Silva, who said he would break his arms and legs and shatter all of his teeth. Silva ultimately got the last laugh as he ended Sonnen via technical knockout in the second round.