Six Fighters That Belong in the UFC Hall of Fame Now

Saturday, August 4th, 2012 by Tony Reid

This list, like any list, will be met with some debate. It doesn’t matter if we are discussing MMA or Competitive Eating; there is always room for argument and new and different points of view. This particular list shines the spotlight on a number of fighters that belong in the UFC Hall of Fame for their accomplishments inside the Octagon alone. Most of us feel that Fedor Emelianenko, Wanderlei Silva, Mirko Cro Cop and similar legends of the sport belong in the Hall of Fame, but in my opinion they don’t belong in the UFC Hall of Fame. This is where we have to differentiate between the sport of MMA and the UFC brand. Wouldn’t it seem very odd to have Mirko Cro Cop with a stellar UFC record of 4-6 and no significant wins, to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame?  Or Fedor, who never in his career stepped into the Octagon to be inducted? My suggestion to rectify that issue would be to have a “Pride Wing” or “MMA Wing” to the UFC Hall of Fame, similar to other pro sports shrines that have areas designated for deserving members. This would serve to recognize fighters that gave so much to the sport but might have had a great run within the UFC itself. But I digress…

The criteria for this list is that the fighter must be retired (as of today, anyway). We all know BJ Penn is a lock, we all know Anderson Silva and GSP are sure shots. With Coleman, Couture, Gracie, Hughes, Mask, Liddell, Severn, Shamrock and now Tito being enshrined, let’s move to more pioneers of the sport that have paved the way for the stars of today and have been deserving of this honor for years now.

Pat Miletich- The Croatian Sensation was the company’s first Welterweight Champion and the UFC 16 Tournament Champion. He was as well rounded as they came in the early 2000’s. What might be even more impressive than his fighting career is his coaching career. He founded Miletich Fighting Systems which was at the time, the most elite camp in existence. Miletich trained nearly 100 fighters that have made it to a televised card including 11 MMA World Champions and at one time had 3 UFC Champions training under his tutelage at the same time in Heavyweight Champ Tim Sylvia, Welterweight Champ Matt Hughes and Lightweight Champ Jens Pulver. Middleweight Champ Rich Franklin also spent a good deal of time under the MFS banner.

Frank Shamrock-How this man is not in the UFC Hall of Fame is beyond me. Find me someone with a better record (undefeated at 5-0) and more significant to the evolution of the sport (the first true mixed martial artist) than Frank Shamrock. He became the company’s first Middleweight Champion (later changed to Light Heavyweight) in his very first fight with the organization. He then went on to defend the title four times before becoming the only fighter in the company’s history to leave due to lack of competition. Shamrock finished every single opponent he faced inside the Octagon. If that doesn’t say it all I don’t know what does. The UFC is inducting Tito Ortiz into the HOF in the very near future. Well, Frank Shamrock is the man that beat Tito down and made him question everything in his life.

Oleg Taktarov– “The Russian Bear” is a worthy addition to the exclusive club. He went 6-2-1 inside the Octagon. His two losses and lone draw come at the hands of two members of the UFC Hall of Fame in Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock. He became the UFC 6 Tournament Champion after beating three men at the high altitude in Casper Wyoming, including submitting Tank Abbott after 17 grueling minutes. After the fight Taktarov had to be taken out of the Octagon on a stretcher, showing the heart and willpower of a true champion.

Don Frye- There should be two induction ceremonies one for Frye and one for his ‘stache. A man’s man who looks and acts like he could have just walked out of a John Wayne movie (right after kicking Wayne’s ass of course). We all know how Frye has become larger than life and almost Chuck Norris-like in the MMA Community but back in the day he earned all the love he still receives to this day. He had a UFC record of 10-1 including winning the UFC 8 Tournament and the Ultimate Ultimate 1996 Tournament. His only loss inside the Octagon came to UFC Hall of Famer Mark Coleman in the finals of the UFC 10 tournament. He had a great wrestling base with pro boxing experience and a persona that was and still is unmatched.

Kevin Randleman- Randleman is a guy that is balls to the wall 24/7, 365. Whether inside the Octagon or outside of it, he is full of charisma, intensity and fury with athleticism that is matched by very few that have ever graced the eight sided cage. His high level wrestling, athleticism and developing skill set carried him throughout his UFC career. His UFC record of 4-3 is a tad misleading. In his first UFC fight he grounded and pounded star and former Heavyweight Champion Maurice Smith. At UFC 20 he fought for the vacant UFC Heavyweight Championship and completely dominated legend Bas Rutten in the same manner but was handed the short end of the stick when the judges scorecards came back, leaving him with one of the most controversial decisions in the history of the sport. At UFC 23 Randleman decisioned Pete Williams for the vacant heavyweight strap (after Rutten’s retirement) finally going home with the gold around his waist. He defended that title against Pedro Rizzo but eventually lost it to a guy named Randy Couture at UFC 28. He dropped to light heavyweight but was knocked out by Chuck Liddell. His final fight came in the form of a win over Renato “Babalu” Sobral at UFC 35. With all that he brought to the cage, as a former UFC Heavyweight Champion and with his only losses being a very controversial one to Bas Rutten and the other two to Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell I feel “The Monster” should be enshrined.

Jens Pulver– The Miletich Fighting Systems product was crowned the first ever UFC Lightweight Champion after a unanimous decision victory over Caol Uno at UFC 30. “Little Evil” sports a UFC record of 6-2-1 with a huge victory over BJ Penn at UFC 35 in what was one of the best fights in the history of the organization. He stepped away from the UFC for nearly four years over a contract dispute but came back to fight (and lose) to Joe Lauzon and a rematch with Penn after a coaching stint on The Ultimate Fighter 5, which he was introduced to the next generation of MMA and UFC fans. Pulver was the first ever lightweight champion, holds a victory over “The Prodigy” and was a charter member of the first super camp in the sport’s history in MFS. The man known for his “Sprawl and Brawl” belongs in the UFC Hall of Fame.

I realize that Dana White probably isn’t exactly BFFs with all of the greats listed above and that plays a large role into why they aren’t currently enshrined but it would go a long way in my book if he chose to honor the pioneers of the sport that deserve to be seated at the table with Severn, Shamrock, Gracie and other kings of the early days of the UFC. Get the spoons, forks and knives, grab a cup, a few napkins, a place setting, pull up six more chairs and invite these guys to dinner.