2013 was a strange time in the history of the UFC. The two longest standing champions in UFC history both lost or vacated their belts by the time 2013 came to a close. Georges St-Pierre, after his fight with Johny Hendricks, decided it was time to hang up the gloves for an undetermined amount of time. In a completely different fashion, Anderson Silva had his belt taken by Chris Weidman and upon his attempt to reclaim it, looked like Gumby when his leg snapped due to his kick being checked by Weidman. Now, hold on a second before you ask for my head, I respect and admire Silva as much as anyone, but that was just what I imagined as soon as it happened. In fact, I respect him even more after reading yesterday, that he’s already getting back into training and walking with crutches. It’s been 6 weeks! I’d milk that injury for years, if it meant I didn’t have to walk places and do things.
"The Spider" earned his first title shot in the Middleweight Division after just 1 fight in the UFC and won that bout handily, against Rich Franklin, who he swiftly TKO’d in the first round. Silva followed this up with a win streak of 16, including a few fights at the 205lb weight class and a record 10 title defenses. Among his victims while on this destructive victorious rampage were: Chael Sonnen, Vitor Belfort, Dan Henderson, and Forrest Griffin.
"Rush" had a similar reign over the Welterweight Division, with 9 title defenses, including victories over the likes of Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, B.J. Penn and most recently, Johny Hendricks, in a controversial win that many people thought should have gone to "The Bigg Rigg." This was due to St. Pierre’s face looking like someone tried to put out a forest fire with a screwdriver (thank you South Park Season 2), while Johny showed no signs of damage whatsoever.
In 2013, we saw the two greatest champions of the UFC give up their belts. In this article I will take a look at the highest earning UFC fighters who, despite their best efforts, have yet to hold a championship belt. All cited career earnings are for UFC fights only.
10 Donald “The Cowboy” Cerrone, Career Earnings: $1,193,600
A Lightweight hailing from Denver, Colorado, Cerrone is a great fighter who has been training martial arts since he was 20 and competing since 2006. He started out in World Extreme Cagefighting but was transferred to the UFC following their merger, and has been a great contender, going 9-3 since his UFC debut in 2011. He’s also a busy fighter who doesn’t take a lot of time off between fights, having fought 5 times in 2011 and 4 times in 2013. He has a history of exciting fights, having been awarded numerous Knockouts, Submissions and Fights of the Night bonuses, in both the WEC and UFC competitions. His former opponents include names like Benson Henderson, Nate Diaz, Dennis Siver and Anthony Pettis. He is on a 2-fight win streak right now, but I am not sure we will see him with the opportunity to take a shot at the belt anytime soon. I don’t think this is an issue of age, as he is only 30, but I do think it is an issue of history, as several of the top Lightweights in the UFC have already beaten him, including Benson Henderson, twice.
9 Hector “Lightning” Lombard, Career Earnings: $1,200,000
A relative newcomer to the UFC, Hector Lombard began his career in 2004 and has an amazing record which now stands at 33-4-1-(1), with 2 of those losses coming in UFC competitions. He has held Middleweight Championships in Cage Fighting Championship, Bellator Fighting Championships, and the Australian Fighting Championship prior to signing with the UFC in 2012. His performance in the UFC so far has been entertaining, but his 2 losses may be indicative of his age catching up with him, as he turned 36 just over a week ago. Around the end of 2013 however, Lombard dropped weight and competed at the Welterweight level, making quick work of Nate Marquardt. It will take a lot for Lombard to earn a title shot at this point, but even if he never wins the UFC belt, he’s held plenty of other ones, so I doubt he’ll lose much sleep.
8 Cheick Kongo, Career Earnings: $1,253,000
Cheick Kongo no longer fights in the UFC, having been taken on by Bellator back in 2013 after his quick knockout loss to Roy Nelson. He had, however, fought in the UFC from 2006 and had had built a reputation as a solid striker and a great competitor, earning victories against Mirko "CroCop" Filipovic, and Matt Mitrione. While Cheick Kongo was a solid fighter, he always suffered in fights with top tier opponents such as Cain Valasquez, and Frank Mir, who quickly submitted him in their meeting back in 2009.
7 Nate Diaz, Career Earnings: $1,284,000
Diaz has gone 12-7 in the UFC so far and has faced off against some of MMA’s most vicious lightweights, losing to names like Benson Henderson and Clay Guida, while manhandling such competitors as Donald Cerrone and Melvin Guillard. At age 28, he is rated as the UFC’s #5 Lightweight and still has some years of fighting ahead of him. If he wants a shot at the title, and it is unlikely at this point, Diaz will have to be more consistent and find a way to beat the upper echelon of opponents.
6 Diego “The Nightmare” Sanchez, Career Earnings: $1,403,000
A The Ultimate Fighter competitor from season 1, Diego Sanchez, has been fighting in the UFC since 2005 and never fails to put on a great show. What is most impressive about Sanchez is that he has been able to compete at multiple weight classes, having fought at Middleweight at the start of his time in the UFC, dropping to Welterweight, then Lightweight, then Welterweight again, then back to Lightweight. He's able to drop weight and put it back on quickly. Who does he think he is, Oprah? Sanchez always puts on a great fight, which is obvious from his 7 bonuses in the UFC. He got his chance for the belt in 2009, but was beaten in a great battle against B.J. Penn. At 32, it’s doubtful that he will get another title shot, but these Lightweights have good staying power, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see at least another 5 fights out of him.
5 Josh Koscheck, Career Earnings: $1,458,000
Known for being one of the biggest mouths in the UFC, Josh Koscheck has the skills to back it up. His current 3-fight losing streak is pretty satisfying to watch, as his attitude makes it cathartic to watch him get his face beaten in. On the other hand, I can’t truly dislike a fighter who, like Sanchez, has been competing in the UFC for a long time. Koscheck was also on The Ultimate Fighter season one and although he was beaten in the semifinals by Sanchez himself, he was still given the chance to fight in the UFC, and has performed admirably. His recent fights, however, have been less than stellar, especially his last 2 as both ended in the first round via TKO and KO to Robbie Lawler and Tyron Woodley respectively. Bottom line; he’s 36 years old, and has made a solid career for himself, but Koscheck is done.
4 Mirko "CroCop" Filipovic, Career Earnings: $1,885,000
Mirko Filipovic, known as the “Croation Cop” for his having been a member of a Croatian anti-terrorism police unit, had a 10-fight career in the UFC, which spanned from 2007 to 2011. While he was a great competitor, his career was not particularly successful in the UFC as he went 4-6 over that time. His success truly was in other exploits like his kickboxing record, which stands at 22-7 and in the other MMA leagues in which he fought, where he was able to win several titles. When he lost to Roy Nelson back in 2011, everyone thought he was done with MMA. He briefly returned to kickboxing with the K-1 promotion and was flawless. He then returned to MMA and has fought twice, going 1-1. At 39, I don’t know when Cro-Cop will retire from wailing on people, nor do I care, what a warrior!
3 “Dangerous” Dan Henderson, Career Earnings: $2,150,000
Before people who have watched UFC events since the promotion had fewer rules and a tournament style setup try to lynch me, yes, Dan Henderson won the UFC 17 Middleweight Tournament. Calm down, I was 9 at the time, I’ve seen the video, multiple times, and it was great. However, this article is about UFC champions who fought under the current UFC set up, under which Dan Henderson has not won a belt. In total, Henderson has fought in 10 UFC fights, going 6-4. In MMA overall, he has had an amazing career, holding championships in Pride, Strikeforce and having a few shots at UFC belts, but always coming out unsuccessful. He’s 43 years old now, but I don’t think he cares. Additionally, his last 3 fights have ended in losses, though 2 of these came by split decisions and again, I don’t think he cares. Hats off to Dan Henderson!
2 Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva, Career Earnings: $2,320,000
The Axe Murderer has participated in 13 UFC bouts and is one of the most prolific fighters in the sport's history. At 37, he can still bring the pain, and even when he doesn’t win, his opponent is left feeling it for days. He fought for the UFC twice in the 90s and once in 2000, but left to fight in Pride, where he dominated the Middleweight division for a while and even participated in some heavyweight bouts. In 2007, he lost that belt and returned to the UFC. Since then he has fought 9 times, winning 4 and losing 5. He still draws a crowd because he always puts on a great show and will most likely be fighting against Chael Sonnen at UFC 173, in what promises to be a solid fight.
1 Michael “The Count” Bisping, Career Earnings: $3,835,000
Michael Bisping has a phenomenal work ethic and a healthy superiority complex to go with it, and is constantly exciting to watch. He has had plenty of opportunity to take a shot at the Middleweight title, but has lost all 3 title eliminators. One was to Chael Sonnen, one to Vitor Belfort, and of course, a great knockout by Dan Henderson. Bisping’s career looks like it may be up in the air right now, as he suffered a detached retina back in 2013. He had surgery to try to repair the problem, but his eyesight is still not perfect. On the other hand, he is another competitor who won’t stop fighting until he’s dead, as he pointed out in a video released over the weekend; in addition to admitting he doesn’t remember being KO’d by Henderson. I’ll admit, he’s polarizing, but if you deny his competitive nature and his love of the sport, you and I are not watching the same guy. Hopefully he gets the chance to fight for the belt before he retires, as unlikely as it looks right now.
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