Some UFC fighters are forced to take a break — a year or two, maybe even longer — from their careers. That hiatus, in some cases, sets the stage for a remarkable comeback. That is exactly the case for the following UFC fighters, whose comeback stories are some of the sport’s greatest narratives.
In June 2004, Frank Mir was the UFC Heavyweight Champion after beating (and breaking) Tim Sylvia at UFC 48 in 50 seconds. Three months later his career was almost over as he was involved in a serious motorcycle accident. Not only that, Mir was also stripped of the UFC Heavyweight Championship.
It was a shocking change of fortune.
Mir returned to the Octagon in 2006, and despite stuttering at the beginning due to lack of form, he once again became a title contender. He regained the UFC heavyweight belt in a high-profile match against Brock Lesnar at UFC 81, who coincidentally might be the next opponent for current heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier.
We previously reported on the WWE-style buffoonery Lesnar pulled off at UFC 226, and how he it’s very possible that he will get a shot at a UFC title because of those antics (not to mention his PPV pulling power). However that plays out, Lesnar will forever remain a footnote to Mir’s amazing comeback from near-death to UFC champ.
The Pitbull made his UFC debut in 2000, and he went on to have a solid run. He won the interim heavyweight belt, defended it twice, and was eventually crowned undisputed champion. Arlovski then left the UFC in 2008, jumping ship to the Affliction brand. That started the Pitbull’s nomadic fighting career, as he also made stops at Strikeforce, One FC, and WSOF.
Arlovksi found his way back to the UFC in 2014. He reintroduced himself in style, as he won his first four fights, including vicious beat downs of Antônio Silva and Travis Browne. Unfortunately, he has stumbled since then, losing 8 of his last 10 fights. Sure, the Pitbull’s second act in the UFC may not have gone as well as the first, but it has nonetheless been exciting all the same.
Lawler left the UFC in 2004 after consecutive defeats to Nick Diaz and Evan Tanner. Like Arlovski, Lawler became a fighting nomad, jumping from one promotion to another. He kept showing flashes of his talent, but he could never seem to put everything together.
Lawler came back to the UFC in 2013, and the rest, as the saying goes is history. Gone was the inconsistent stand-up-centric Lawler, replaced by a more assertive, well-rounded fighter. He kept knocking opponents out, and he later won the UFC Welterweight Championship, which he successfully defended twice. His title defense against Rory MacDonald, in particular, was a thrilling five-round fight for the ages.
At UFC 57, Chuck Liddell knocked Couture into retirement. It was by and large a good decision. Couture had by that time compiled a Hall of Fame-worthy résumé, and he was already 43. Post-retirement, the former two-division champ traded the Octagon for the broadcast booth.
Evidently, Couture wasn’t feeling retirement. A year after announcing his retirement, The Natural, naturally, returned to fighting. And right away, he showed he had plenty of gas left in the tank, dominating a bigger and younger Tim Sylvia to reclaim the heavyweight title.
That, along with his clinical dismantling of Gabriel Gonzaga, proved to be the highlight of Couture’s return, as age ultimately caught up with the three-time heavyweight champ.
For a time, The Spider was the UFC’s apex predator. He cleared out the middleweight division, making a record 10 consecutive title defenses, as we reported in our best records in UFC history feature. Then the unthinkable happened: Silva got knocked out by Chris Weidman at UFC 162. The two had a rematch months later at UFC 168 where The Spider broke both his tibia and fibula. Silva took a little over a year to recover, then made his comeback at UFC 183.
While Silva hasn’t been dominant, the fact that he came back from such a gruesome injury — arguably the most gruesome the Octagon has ever seen — is an achievement in itself. That’s not to say Silva isn’t any good anymore; he’s still very capable, with a striking skill set that remains as dangerous as ever.
He’ll next face the up-and-coming Israel Adesanya, whose kickboxing background makes him a perfect opponent for The Spider. That’s why he remains the clear favorite, with bwin giving him odds of 15/4 against Adesanya’s 4/25. Win or lose, there’s no denying Silva’s legacy, which includes one of the longest title reigns in UFC history, a bunch of memorable knockouts, and a remarkable comeback from injury.
These comebacks are a testament to two traits that define the world’s best martial artists: perseverance and unbendable will. Learning martial arts helps in that regard, which is why it is something everyone ought to consider. Not to mention, martial arts has a bunch of benefits as discussed here on MMA Ground.
Improved cardiovascular health, coordination, and self-confidence are just some of these benefits, along with increased determination and willpower.
Mir and company's comeback stories are proof of that.