These guys are living proof that not every fighting legend got off to a perfect start in the cage.
Though perhaps best known to fans these days as a litmus test to determine whether heavyweight prospects can break into the elite of the division, Andrei Arlovski was once the most feared fighters in the UFC. With his striking arsenal supplemented by a background in sambo Arlovski was dangerous in all facets of the fight game and established himself as one of the UFC’s premier talents during the so-called ‘dark ages’ of the promotion.
However, despite ultimately climbing to the top of the mountain and capturing the UFC Heavyweight Championship during his fighting prime, Arlovski’s ability to overcome adversity had been tested since the start of his career.
In his professional MMA debut, a young Arlovski found himself in a knockdown drag-out brawl with fellow debutant Viacheslav Datsik. Datsik would catch Arlovski with a heavy right hand six minutes into the fight, felling the Belursian and bringing an end to the contest.
While he never reached the heights Arlovski would in his MMA career, it would be a disservice for us not to highlight the madness that is the life of Datsik. The man escaped Russian prison by tearing a hole in a barbed-wire fence with his bare hands… But that is another story for another day.
Rafael Dos Anjos
A living testament to the power of perseverance in combat sports, Rafael Dos Anjos has made a habit during his career of turning seemingly dire circumstances around in his favour.
After all, the man who would later go on to become UFC Lightweight Champion lost not just his debut, but also his first two fights in the promotion. Despite the adversity, the Brazilian would win his next three fights and secure his spot in the UFC’s lightweight division in which he remains today.
However, RDA’s career was nearly over before it truly began when he was defeated in his first professional outing as a fighter against Adriano Abu in 2004. After a closely contested battle where the judges did not come to a unanimous verdict, Abu would emerge victorious by way of a split decision.
Determined to get his first taste of victory, Dos Anjos would return to the cage just two weeks later defeating João Paulo Almeida by decision, marking the true start of his legendary career.
Abu on the other hand fought just once more, eventually earning a black belt in BJJ and retiring from combat sports to serve as a prison guard in his native Brazil.
An elder statesman of the sport of MMA, Glover Teixeira has remained a top contender at 205lbs for close to a decade. A testament to his unprecedented longevity in the sport, the Brazilian will compete for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship in October, nearly eight years after he faced Jon Jones for the belt at UFC 172.
Having fought a who’s who of the top names at light heavyweight, it is not surprising that Glover has picked up a loss along the way. However, what may be surprising to some is that he actually lost his very first fight way back in 2002.
Competing in World Extreme Cagefighting, Teixeira was defeated in the second round by the 1-0 Eric Schwartz. However, the defeat would provide a fateful silver lining for Teixeira. Schwartz’s coach John Hackleman, famed coach of Chuck Liddell among others, was impressed by Teixeira’s heart and determination and offered him a place on The Pit’s fighting team.
The combination of Hackleman and Teixeira would prove to be a successful one, with Glover embarking on a 20-fight win streak between 2006 and 2013. Schwartz on the other hand would retire from MMA following the fight, and now serves as a kickboxing instructor at Hackleman’s Pit.Fit gym.
One of the most influential fighters in the history of the sport of MMA, Forrest Griffin’s brawl with Stephen Bonnar in the finale of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter is credited with setting the sport on the path to the mainstream recognition that it enjoys today.
Griffin would even go on to one-up himself during his MMA career, defying all the odds to win the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship against Rampage Jackson in 2008.
Before his stint as a reality TV star, Griffin had faced some seriously tough competition on the regional circuit, earning wins over the likes of Chael Sonnen, Travis Fulton, and Jeff Monson before entering the UFC.
To make things even crazier, Griffin’s pro debut came against UFC veteran Dan Severn in 2001. As Griffin prepared to make his professional bow in the sport, Severn had already racked up 57 fights, with just six defeats to his name.
Like so many others who fought ‘The Beast’ during this time, Griffin would find himself on the wrong side of a wrestling clinic, ultimately losing a unanimous decision.
Quite possibly the greatest female fighter ever to step inside the famous Octagon, Amanda Nunes has demonstrated an ability to defeat seemingly every challenger put in front of her with devastating ease.
Since losing to Cat Zingano in her third UFC appearance back in 2014, Nunes has taken the MMA world by storm, winning twelve consecutive fights, capturing UFC gold in two different weight classes and defeating WMMA legends such as Ronda Rousey, Valentina Schevchenko, Holly Holm, and Cris Cyborg in the process.
The Brazilian’s Hall of Fame-worthy career started in much more inauspicious circumstances at Prime: MMA Championship 2 in 2008.
Nunes was matched up with BJJ black belt and Brazilian women’s MMA pioneer Ana Maria. In the fight, Maria quickly pulled guard following a failed takedown and submitted the Lioness just 35 seconds into the first round.
Following the bout, the pair would briefly train together before Nunes moved to the US to pursue her dream in the UFC. In the years since the fight, Maria fought several further times before retiring with a professional record of 5-5 in 2014.
Although, with the rate at which Nunes is dispatching contenders currently, it is not completely out of the realm of possibility that Maria finds herself in the Octagon with the Lioness in the near future.
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