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The UFC Can Make or Break Their Hall of Fame This Summer

By on May 8, 2009

The word came out this week that at UFC 100, we will have two more people inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.  The UFC Hall of Fame, which was created with initial inductees Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock at UFC 45, has grown to include three other members: Dan Severn, Randy Couture, and Mark Coleman.  Inevitably, discussion in the MMA community turned to who we’ll be seeing as the next inductees.

Of course, I am not able to withstand the urge to speculate in such instances, so here we go with some ideas for who should be joining the afore-mentioned five fighters in the UFC Hall of Fame.  While there have been guesses as to whether we would see a non-fighter, such as the recently deceased Charles “Mask” Lewis, as one of the new inductees, I’m going to base my suggestions solely on fighters who have competed in the UFC at some point.  After all, there has never been any official sign that either non-fighters (or fighters from other organizations, for that matter), would be included in the Hall of Fame.  If that changes, we’ll have a whole lot more to talk about…such as why Helio Gracie is not in it already.

Right off the bat, let’s toss out some names that are definite future Hall of Famers, but don’t need to go in just yet.  I would say that those include anyone who has fought in the last year, regardless of whether or not they’re in the process of being forced into retirement by their boss or not.  So I’m not going to consider Matt Hughes, Chuck Liddell, or even Jens Pulver, for that matter.  Of course, that means that I’m bound to be incorrect, as Liddell will almost certainly be named, half as a way to honor him and half as a way for Dana White to put a nail in the coffin of his career for once and for all (even though all of the inductees have competed after their induction, with all but Severn making UFC appearances after entering the Hall of Fame).

Still, even though the UFC has shown that they are more than willing to put fighters who are still active in their Hall of Fame, I’m personally against such a practice.  If there’s a chance that a guy will fight again in the UFC, he shouldn’t be in yet.  I think that it’s much more meaningful to induct a fighter like Chuck Liddell when he hasn’t fought for several years and the fans have gotten a chance to appreciate his entire career and what he accomplished.  There’s no way that Zuffa can control whether a guy like Dan Severn still fights in high school gyms in front of 500 people, but I would at least prefer that they stay away from honoring fighters who they are willing to bring back into the fold.

I won’t disqualify Evan Tanner, however, who I will go out on a limb with by saying that he’s got a good chance to be one of the two fighters named.  I wouldn’t have a problem with it, either.  I know a lot of cynics will think that he’s just going in because he passed away so suddenly and tragically, and you know what?  That doesn’t exactly hurt his cause, to be honest.  Still, Tanner had a great career in the UFC, with the most wins in the octagon at one point and a Middleweight championship to his name.  On top of that, he was one of the more notable fighters in the transition period of the company and the sport (aside from Frank Shamrock and Tito Ortiz, more on them in a minute), and deserves a look.

Pat Miletich would be a good choice, too.  He was one of the champions in that same period, and if we do start honoring fighters for their out of the cage contributions, he trained multiple champions in the UFC.  Team Miletich virtually ruled the octagon for a few years in the early to mid 2000’s.  Still, he’s not a very flashy pick, and isn’t likely to be one of the two named this year.

One fighter that I strongly believe should be in the Hall of Fame is Don Frye.  Of the great fighters in the early days of the UFC, he is really the most deserving one that is left out at this point.  He only lost one fight in the UFC, won two UFC one-night tournaments, and was a crowd favorite.  He was also one of the more well-rounded fighters in the early days, and should definitely be in there since we already have the likes of Shamrock and Severn.

Let’s talk about the politics of the UFC Hall of Fame, though.  You’re not going to see someone like Frank Shamrock or Tito Ortiz in there anytime soon, and probably never at all…which is a shame and really kind of invalidates the whole thing, honestly.  If the UFC wants their Hall of Fame to be legitimate, the best fighters have to be included regardless of how they got along with management outside of the octagon, or whether they left for other promotions.  Both Shamrock and Ortiz did more than enough in their UFC careers to be included, and without them in the Hall of Fame, a significant portion of the UFC’s history is unrepresented.  Still, that’s not going to happen this year.

Who should be going into the Hall of Fame this year?  Frank Shamrock, Don Frye, maybe Evan Tanner or even Pat Miletich.  Eventually, we should see Tito Ortiz in there, too.  Who will be going in?  Most likely Matt Hughes and Chuck Liddell.  Hey, who needs history when you can induct a couple of guys that the Ultimate Fighter fans can recognize, right?  If the voting and setup of the Spike TV’s “100 Best UFC Fights” is anything to judge by (and what a joke that is), the UFC’s mindset is “what have you done for me lately?”  There’s plenty of time to honor Hughes and Liddell, though.  Why hurry?

The UFC has struggled to make the sport of MMA and the company itself a legitimate activity and business, respectively.  Why not do the same with the Hall of Fame?  Give the fighters who paved the way their due, even if they aren’t on Dana White’s speed dial.  Come UFC 100, let’s hope that Zuffa does the right thing.

by Jon Hartley for Fightmania.com

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