Last Thursday, mixed martial artist Hall of Famer Stephan Bonnar was found dead at age 45 from “presumed heart complications while at work,” according to UFC.
The UFC legend is largely credited with bringing UFC into the mainstream mixed martial art entertainment network, particularly following his 2005 appearance on the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” the UFC’s long-running reality competition show. During the first season finale, he went into the ring with Forrest Griffin, a fight that now has a special place in UFC history.
“Stephan Bonnar was one of the most important fighters to ever compete in the Octagon,” UFC President Dana White said in a statement. “His fight with Forrest Griffin changed the sport forever, and he will never be forgotten. The fans loved him and related to him and he always gave them his best. He will be missed.”
Despite losing the match against Griffin in 2005, he was still offered a contract. And, according to the fighter himself, it revolutionized his career. “I knew it was a good fight during the fight,” Bonnar went on to state. “It hit me when everyone started stomping their feet and it felt like the whole place was shaking. And that was in the second round. I was like ‘oooh, this must be good.’”
Stephan Bonnar reflects on his legendary UFC career
“Everything changed. I didn’t think I’d have a UFC career,” he continued. “It was just a little hobby I was doing, so it changed everything. Almost overnight, I became like a celebrity. Everywhere I went, someone would recognize me, even in obscure places.”
The fighter also added, “I was traveling with TapouT and we were in a small town. I was jogging and someone in a pickup was going ‘Hey Bonnar.’ And everywhere you go, someone knows who you are. It was wild.”
Bonnar, who has faced countless other Hall of Fame fighters such as Jon Jones, Rashad Evans, Mark Coleman, Anderson Silva, and Tito Ortiz, ended his career with a 17-9 record in 2014. Throughout his substantial time in the ring, he always maintained a positive outlook, no matter who won.
“If you never quit, you really can’t fail. That was the perfect example of that,” he shared, speaking on his fight with Griffin specifically. “Give it everything you’ve got and something good will come out of it.”
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