Humans beings are often seen as loving, selfless creatures with the ability to make a real difference to the world around them. Times such as the present – being stuck indoors as a part of the incessant quarantine – has allowed for humanity to share positivity across the globe. After all, we are really all in this together.
On the contrary, our species has a dark side, a side full of hatred and animosity. A side often best left veiled as its impact can have that of terror and destruction. As we are all unique beings with different characteristics, it’s understandable why many don’t see eye to eye and opt to engage in what is best referred to as a rivalry. These rivalries may not be condoned in regular societal life, but within sports, it is an utterly different ball game. Competition is what makes sports great, and in a sport such as MMA, there is plenty of it.
Due to the fact they are fighters, mixed martial artists aren’t really expected to be best friends with their adversaries (unless your name is Donald Cerrone, of course). Being acquaintances is one thing, bitter rivals, another. As is often the case with elite-level combat sports competitors, one needs the other in order to elevate their own status; Muhammad Ali needed Joe Frazier, just as Chuck Liddell needed Tito Ortiz.
For this exclusive piece only, various authors from The Scrap will be detailing their favorite rivalry in MMA. From old school to new, expect to find a wide array of unpredictable choices.
Drake Riggs (@DrakeRiggs_) – Randa Markos vs. cast of TUF 20
It was actually pretty difficult to pick a favorite rivalry. For one reason or another, there wasn’t one I went to immediately. I thought, “Angela Lee vs. Xiong JingNan is a great one purely from a talent vs. talent standpoint.” However, that combination lacked that dramatic zest outside of the cage despite the two putting on two of the greatest fights of all time when they met. So instead, I’ll go with a rather unique one and that’s Randa Markos vs. the entire cast of The Ultimate Fighter season 20.
If you saw that season, you’ll understand right away. Markos was the outcast of sorts and found herself as one of the bigger underdogs on the show. Not mixing well with the others, to put it plainly, she would go on an impressive run before falling short in the semi-finals. All three of her bouts were fantastic, none the less.
Once she was officially in the UFC, that intense energy and bad blood from those long six weeks couped up in the TUF house carried over in her fights with Jessica Penne, Aisling Daly, Carla Esparza, and Angela Hill. Markos’ current overall record against TUF 20 alum is 5-2.
Caroline Romero (@cromero1971) – Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate
The rivalry between Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey began in 2011 with a series of interviews. Rousey called out Tate who was the Strikeforce bantamweight champion at the time. Tate was put off by Rousey’s cockiness and arrogance. As the feud caught the attention of fans and the press, a fight between the two women was booked to headline a Strikeforce show on March 3, 2012.
The main event was the first MMA card to be headlined by women since 2009. Rousey won the fight with an armbar that snapped Tate’s arm, but the rivalry between the two ladies remained.
In their rematch at UFC 168 on December 28, 2013, Rousey defeated Tate by submission at 58 seconds of round three. Rousey and Tate often had heated arguments when the two coached opposite each other on TUF 18.
This is my favorite MMA rivalry because it has an important place in MMA history. The conflict between Tate and Rousey was instrumental in bringing women to the UFC.
Austin Luff (@AJMMA_) – Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz
There is no doubt that rivalries have helped shape the UFC since its inception. From Liddell vs Ortiz to Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen to Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier, rivalries have been an integral part of the UFC and MMA as a whole. When I was asked which one was my personal favorite, it was an easy question to answer.
My favorite rivalry In MMA history to this point is easily Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz.
The rivalry started out running with Diaz’s perfect callout after a dominant fight with Michael Johnson. McGregor was just coming off his iconic with over Jose Aldo, everybody expected fireworks. We got just that.
In the first fight, Diaz pulled off one of the biggest upsets in UFC history. However, in the second fight, we saw one of the most visually striking displays we have ever seen in the Octagon. Diaz would not quit and neither would McGregor.
Diaz being at the highest point of his career and McGregor coming off his first loss in the company, neither man would budge. The Irishman showed his heart in this fight and earned a lot of respect including from the man himself, with both men embracing after the fight. The thought of a trilogy has been in the fans’ minds since that fight, but even if we don’t see it, this is my favorite rivalry in UFC history.
Connor Rogowsky (@rogowskyc) – TJ Dillashaw vs. Cody Garbrandt
There is real bad blood here, and it goes way back. These two were literally at each other’s throat (Cody Garbrandt almost choke slammed TJ Dillashaw) way back when they were coaching on TUF 25. Even before that, they were teammates.
Garbrandt felt that Dillashaw left the gym in a shady way and had it out for him ever since. In the two title fights between the pair, Dillashaw left no doubt that he was the better fighter. Garbrandt finished both of those fights by eating a hook right on the chin after throwing heat. This is not where it ends, however.
Dillashaw was suspended for two years for blood doping, recombinant human erythropoietin (EPO). A common PED in cycling, EPO gives an individual incredible endurance and is considered a very serious offense. Garbrandt was not surprised by this, claiming this had been going on for years and was surprised that Dillashaw had not been caught earlier. With Dillashaw eligible to the UFC in January of 2021, there is sure to be more bad blood to be spilled.
Joel Torres (@joeyfights) – Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate
There’s so many great rivalries I’ve enjoyed watching, but when I think of one that sticks out as a favorite, I’d have to say the Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate feud is it. From Ronda talking her way to a title shot to their first encounter where Ronda broke Miesha’s arm. Then when they were signed to the UFC to being coaches on The Ultimate Fighter. Man, there was so much intensity and hatred; their rivalry brought more eyes to WMMA and really marked the beginning of the Ronda Rousey era. Her run was legendary, and it’s one I often reminisce about.
As much as these two hated each other, they needed each other. Together they elevated the sport and made room for many women in the UFC. I think their rivalry will go down in history as one of the best the sport has seen. It will definitely be one I will never forget.
Steven Rae (@StevenRaeMMA) – Michael Bisping vs. Luke Rockhold
Mixed martial arts is responsible for providing some of combat sports’ greatest rivalries in spite of its short history. There are numerous rivalries I enjoy watching from start to finish, but my pick was always going to be Michael Bisping vs. Luke Rockhold.
The pair first met in 2014, where they main evented an action-packed Fight Night card in Sydney, Australia. Their first encounter was rather sportsmanlike, with mutual respect being shared before and after the fight. Rockhold was able to drop the Brit with a head kick, following up with tight guillotine chokehold to force a tap. Two fights later, Rockhold won UFC gold. Bisping was adamant that a rematch would be different, and an unforeseen victory over Anderson Silva in 2016 once again secured his position as a perennial contender.
It was later announced that Rockhold’s original opponent, Chris Weidman, withdrew from their scheduled bout due to injury, and rumors instantly began to swirl over who would take the former champion’s place. Within days, it was announced that Michael Bisping would fill in on two weeks’ notice to fight reigning middleweight champion, Luke Rockhold. Many believed the rematch would replicate their first fight, however, what occurred is now known as one of the best upsets in MMA history.
In the short yet enjoyable build-up, both Bisping and Rockhold exchanged a variety of verbal assaults, with the challenger undoubtedly getting the better of his foe. What transpired inside in the octagon needs no explanation; Michael Bisping had shocked the world and robbed Luke Rockhold of his first official title defense.
Their animosity continued to boil over into the post-fight press conference, where a visibly disappointed and frustrated Rockhold fell victim to classic British taunting from Bisping. Say what you want about both Bisping and Rockhold, but there’s no denying that their intense rivalry in 2016 was one for the ages.