This Saturday, December 11th, UFC welterweight champion Georges
St-Pierre will defend his title against challenger Josh Koscheck in the
main event of UFC 124 in Montreal. The bout is over three years in the
making, with Koscheck looking to prove that he’s matured and improved
from his first defeat against the long-reigning king of the
170-pounders. See their first fight here
It will also settle a grudge that’s been brewing
between the two, with Koscheck stoking the flames with trash talk that
has clearly gotten under the skin of the usually calm and collected
It’s another in a long line of grudges that have developed over the years and been settled man to man in the Octagon, cage, or ring, and if history holds up, we should be in for a highly competitive and emotionally charged contest.
What follows are ten of the most heated rivalries in history.
Georges St-Pierre vs. BJ Penn
When they first met in March of 2006, Georges St-Pierre and BJ Penn were vying for a shot at then champion Matt Hughes, arguably the most dominant champion in UFC history. The fight ended in a controversial split decision, which was awarded to St-Pierre. click to watch
In the years following, both men rocketed to the top of the fighting world. While St-Pierre eventually usurped Hughes as champion and continues to dominate the division, Penn dropped down to lightweight and became the division champion. Still, he was haunted by what he felt was a fight he should have won.
It took nearly three years to rematch the two men. St-Pierre was victorious again, this time more emphatically as he stopped “The Prodigy” in four rounds, effectively closing the book on the rivalry. However, recent events have found Penn returning to the welterweight division and making a statement with a quick and hellacious knockout win over Matt Hughes.
One has to wonder if the next chapter of this rivalry is being written as we speak.
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson vs. Rashad Evans
There may never have been a more heated – or public - feud in the UFC than that between Quinton Jackson and Rashad Evans. click to watch
The feud between the two kicked into high gear when Evans, then the champion, was brought to the Octagon after Rampage’s win over Keith Jardine. The two immediately squared off and started jawing with each other, with Joe Rogan holding a microphone between the two. The intensity they displayed in the exchange indicated they might not have even noticed Rogan’s presence. This carried through to the 10th season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” where the two men were set against each other as coaches. see more
It seemed anytime one of them opened their mouths, it was only a matter of minutes before the topic of conversation veered towards the other. Unfortunately, the fight between the two had many false starts until it finally went down last May.
It certainly didn’t disappoint. Both men left everything in the Octagon, though Rampage seemed to exhibit some ring rust due to the hiatus he took to film “The A-Team.”
The public trash talk seems to have subsided somewhat since their meeting, but the question remains whether these two men consider their business finished. With Rampage getting back to his winning ways against Lyoto Machida and Evans' title shot against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua coming in 2011, could another showdown be on the horizon?
Ken Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz
While Jackson and Evans may be the most heated grudge in UFC history, the one between Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock may be the most important to the promotion. The feud was intense and highly personal, with both men trading insults and accusations until they finally met in Octagon in November of 2002. click to watch
After Ortiz stopped Shamrock in three rounds, the two would go on to serve as opposing coaches on season 3 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” culminating in two more fights between the two in the Octagon. The final tally – Ortiz 3, Shamrock 0.
It was this trilogy - combined with the emergence of stars like Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture - that resulted in the sport's explosion into the mainstream.
Jens Pulver vs. BJ Penn
When discussing the best lightweights of all time, two names that need to be in the conversation are former champions Jens Pulver and BJ Penn. click to watch
The two first met at UFC 35, with Penn challenging then-champion Pulver. Penn was heavily favored in the fight, but Pulver put on the performance of his career and pulled off the upset. Penn would not lose another fight at lightweight for another eight years.
Two months after the fight, Pulver left the UFC, also leaving the lightweight division in limbo. The 155-pounders went over four and a half years without a champion, with Sean Sherk eventually winning the vacant crown by defeating Kenny Florian in 2006.
Meanwhile, Penn and Pulver were selected to be opposing coaches on season 5 of "The Ultimate Fighter." Naturally, being opposing coaches on the show only served to reignite their professional rivalry, which during the course of the season grew into a personal animosity that both men carried into their battle at the show's Finale in 2007, won by Penn via second round submission.
Yet unlike many others on this list, the encounter actually brought an end to the hostilities, with Penn and Pulver coming out of the fight with a greater respect for each other.
Matt Hughes vs. Matt Serra
In terms of personality and approach to the fight game, Matt Hughes and Matt Serra are like photo negatives of each other. click to watch
Hughes, primarily a grappler, is a proud country boy from Hillsboro, Illinois who grew up on a farm and loves to hunt. Serra, the first American Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner to earn a black belt under Renzo Gracie, is a brash and outspoken kid from Long Island, New York.
The fire was first lit when Matt Hughes came in as one of the guest coaches during season 4 of "The Ultimate Fighter" (dubbed “The Comeback”) in which Serra was a competitor. Hughes's attitude, in particular his comments towards fellow guest coach Georges St-Pierre, rubbed Serra the wrong way, and he was not shy about voicing his displeasure during and after the show.
Serra became the welterweight winner in that season’s finals, which earned him a title shot against St-Pierre, who had just ended Hughes’s title run. In one of the biggest upsets in the sport's history, Serra knocked out St-Pierre and won the welterweight title.
A season of "The Ultimate Fighter" with the two as opposing coaches followed, but when Serra got injured, their UFC 79 bout was scrapped. Instead, St-Pierre stepped in, beat Hughes for the interim belt and then defeated Serra at UFC 83 for the full title.
After what seemed like an eternity, the fight finally went down at UFC 98. They say absence only makes the heart grow fonder, but these two men didn't seem to dislike each other any less when they finally did meet. The result didn’t do much to quell Serra’s dislike of Hughes, either, as he criticized the manner in which Hughes won the three round decision and has been vocal about wanting a rematch.
Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz
Perhaps the longest standing grudge on this list, the bad blood between Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell goes all the way back to 2002. At one time the men had been friendly acquaintances and training partners, but the relationship between the two turned sour when Liddell became a contender in the light heavyweight division and asked for a shot at Ortiz. Ortiz refused to grant the title shot, citing “scheduling conflicts.” Liddell accused Ortiz of ducking him, which set off a war of words that would wage for two years until the two finally met at UFC 47. click to watch
The fight ended with Liddell victorious, but was far from the end of hostilities between the two. They met again in 2006 with Liddell once again victorious.
After a long hiatus, Ortiz returned to the UFC and was set to complete the trilogy with Liddell in 2010 after their stint as coaches on season 11 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” Unfortunately, Ortiz left the show and pulled out of the scheduled fight due to injury. This, of course, led to renewed talk by Liddell of Ortiz once again avoiding a fight with him.
Though the dispute between the two men has not subsided, it's unlikely we'll ever see a third encounter.
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson vs. Wanderlei Silva
In 2003, Pride’s middleweight (their version of light heavyweight) division featured some of the best fighters in the world at 205 pounds. Its champion, Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva, was one of the most feared fighters in the sport due to his speed and brutal efficiency. It was thought that, in Pride at least, he’d be unstoppable. click to watch
Enter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, who at the time of their first meeting was a rising star in the promotion.
The two first met in the finals of the 2003 Pride Middleweight (their version of Light Heavyweight) Grand Prix. Silva won the fight after landing several brutal knees on Jackson, who had been giving up much in the way of experience but still put up a great fight against the man many considered the best 205 pounder in the world.
Jackson rebounded with two impressive back to back wins, including a memorable knockout slam victory over Ricardo Arona, and a rematch with Silva was signed for Pride 28: High Octane on October 31st, 2004.
In the eleven months between their meetings, the rivalry became personal, with Silva taking exception to quotes and insults Jackson made towards him in the media and online. As intense as the trash talk was, it was outmatched by the intensity of the bout itself, which in some circles was considered the Fight of the Year for 2004.
Again, Silva would win by knockout and the two would not meet again until four years later at UFC 92. The result was a one-punch knockout win for Jackson, putting a quick end to what had been a very heated rivalry between two of the best – and most feared – 205-pound fighters in history.
Matt Hughes vs. Frank Trigg
There seems to be something about the UFC welterweight division that encourages blood feuds. Perhaps it’s the depth of talent at 170, though it also could just come with the territory when you’ve had as many fights as Matt Hughes. click to watch
Frank Trigg entered the UFC in the fall of 2003 with great expectations and was given a shot at the welterweight title in his very first fight for the promotion. Hughes won the contest with a rear naked choke in the first round.
Trigg rebounded with impressive consecutive TKO wins over Dennis Hallman and Renato Verissimo, all the while insisting that he was the better fighter and would prove it in a rematch with Hughes. The fight was made for UFC 52 and provided plenty of drama and excitement. After a low blow that the referee missed, Trigg nearly ended it with a choke before Hughes dramatically broke free. Hughes then recovered and slammed Trigg hard to the mat, finishing with another rear naked choke in one of the most memorable moments in UFC history.
Donald Cerrone vs. Jamie Varner
One of the most heated rivalries in recent years has been brewing in the WEC’s lightweight division between Donald Cerrone and Jamie Varner. The first fight between the two 155-pound standouts took place in January 2009 and ended in controversy when an errant knee from Cerrone in the fifth round struck Varner, who claimed the strike impaired his vision, which made him unable to continue. Because the fight had reached the third round, it went to the scorecards and Varner won by split decision. click to watch
The crowd booed vociferously, with many claiming that Varner was looking for a way out of the fight with Cerrone, who Varner suggested in the weeks leading up to the fight did not deserve another shot at the lightweight title. see more
A rematch was demanded by WEC fans, and 20 months after Cerrone and Varner’s first meeting, a period filled with regularly traded insults in the media, the fans got their wish. The vehement dislike translated into a spectacular rematch, which on an impressive card loaded with quality fights was given Fight of the Night honors.
One can only speculate as to what will happen when Cerrone, Varner, and the other WEC lightweights enter the UFC's roster. It's going to very hard to keep these two men away from each other for very long, which isn't a bad thing if you're a fan of entertaining rivalries and great fights.
Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir
Say the names of these two fighters in the same sentence and you're bound to get a reaction from anyone within earshot. click to watch
The feud between Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir literally started from the moment Lesnar first entered the Octagon. Mir defeated Lesnar in his UFC debut, catching him in a heel hook and temporarily derailing Lesnar's title aspirations.
Even when Lesnar won the UFC Championship from returning UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture at UFC 91, it seemed as if Lesnar's quest wouldn't be finished until he had avenged his loss to Mir. As fate would have it, Mir won the interim title from Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira the next month, making a rematch between the two a necessity.
The second clash was, fittingly, the main event of the historic UFC 100 card. Lesnar became the undisputed champion that night, but then immediately made it clear that the grudge between the two was nowhere near being settled.
Recently, Lesnar lost his belt to Cain Velasquez, while Mir rebounded with a win against MMA legend Mirko Cro Cop. Both men find themselves at a turning point in their careers, and their immediate future remains uncertain, but you can guess that Lesnar and Mir wouldn’t mind throwing hands one more time.
OTHER GREAT GRUDGES WORTH YOUR DOLLAR:
Matt Serra vs. Georges St-Pierre, UFC 83
Matt Hughes vs. Georges St-Pierre, UFC 50
Matt Hughes vs. Georges St-Pierre, UFC 79
Matt Hughes vs. BJ Penn, UFC 63
Royce Gracie vs. Ken Shamrock, UFC 1
Free Prelims on UFC.com/Live
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