Welcome to part two of our feature looking at the saints and sinners of the MMA world.
In part 1 we looked at the heroic deeds of some of the sports good guys, so now it’s time to shine the spotlight on some of mixed martial arts most notorious villains, and rest assured there’s plenty of them.
Harold Howard can lay claim to being one of the UFC’s first ever participants, competing all the way back at UFC 3 in September of 1994. Despite a 46 second KO victory in his first fight Howard proved not to be a breakout star for the promotion and retired from the sport two years later with a record of 2-3.
Over a decade Howard’s fifteen minutes of fame were long gone, and he has now making a living as a roofer while running a small self defense school in Niagra Falls. In an interview with sherdog.com in February of 2009 he joked that his daughter was, “studying to be a psychologist, so she can figure [out] what her father’s problems are.”
Whatever those problems were, they came to a head on the evening of December 22nd that year. Staying at his sisters house in the Niagara Falls area Howard suddenly snapped and attacked his nephew with the claw end of a hammer, striking him multiple times. When his sister tried to intervene Howard attacked her too.
Leaving them bloodied and beaten Howard then drove to his wife’s house, attacking her car and unsuccessfully trying to force his way into the house. Shouting, “you ruined my life!” he then left in his pick-up truck where he then became engaged in a high-speed pursuit with the police.
The chase ended abruptly when Howard crashed his truck through the front doors of the Niagara FallsView Casino and was subsequently arrested. At a subsequent trail in early 2010 Howard plead guilty to charges of aggravated assault, assault causing bodily harm, dangerous driving, failing to remain at the scene of an accident, mischief and breach of court order. He was sentenced to five years in jail.
Howard is not the only early UFC fighter to have been in trouble with the law however. Joe Son made his one and only octagon appearance at UFC 4 in December of 1994, and it was a fight he’d no doubt rather forget. Fighting Keith Hackney, the 5ft 4″ Son had the misfortune of being caught in a choke submission while simultaneously being punched in the family jewels, which understandably forced him to tap.
Though Son’s MMA career ended with a record of 0-4, he went on to land the role of ‘Random Task’, a parody of James Bond villain ‘Oddjob’, in the original Austin Powers movie. His fame was short-lived but years later he would hit the headlines around the world for all the wrong reasons as the seedy details of his own real-life criminal past emerged.
In October of 2008 Son was arrested in California for vandalism. It was a seemingly innocuous charge, but remarkably after providing a DNA sample he was then linked to a gang rape dating back to nearly 20 years before.
A shocking story then emerged of how Son and another man had forced a woman into the back of a car at gunpoint on Christmas Eve of 1990 before raping, sodomizing and orally penetrating her multiple times while threatening to kill her. Amongst well over a dozen charges was one accusing him of, “sexual penetration by foreign object by force”. The foreign object was a gun.
Son was charged and if proven guilty faced the prospect of a 275 year sentence for his crimes. The last that was heard from him he was still in jail with a $1 million bail. Additionally some MMA fans now like to think that Keith Hackney was doing God’s work when he punched Son in the balls back at UFC 3.
Charles ‘Krazy Horse’ Bennett
Charles Bennett has been competing in MMA competition for over a decade, compiling a record of 23-17-2 along the way and fighting for promotions like PRIDE, EliteXC and King Of The Cage.
Never has a nickname been as apt as Bennett’s ‘Crazy Horse’ moniker, both in and out of the ring. Throughout his career he’s been well known for his mischievous and often entertaining antics during fights. Whether it’s acting up for the camera, making fun of his opponents, sitting on top of the ropes while the bouts in progress or doing backflips off of the cage after winning, Bennett often appears more like a one man circus act than an MMA fighter.
Crazy Horse’s wild ways have often got him into trouble outside of the cage however as evidenced by a criminal record as long as your arm.
In 2000 Bennett was convicted of dealing crack cocaine in Florida. It’s just one in the region of 30 charges leveled against him over the years in the state for an assortment of crimes ranging from grand theft, burglary and multiple drug charges to battery upon a pregnant woman, kidnapping and tampering with a witness.
The latest of Bennett’s ever expanding list of indiscretions occurred in January of 2010 when he got into a dispute with another member of the gym he was training at, Tyler East. After an argument Crazy Horse left the building only to return minutes later wielding a metal pipe which he used to attack East’s knees, elbows and ribs.
Bennett has since been charged with aggravated battery and assault with a deadly weapon.
If you look up ‘criminally insane’ in the dictionary you may well find a picture of Viacheslav Datsik, arguably the most unhinged man to ever compete in the sport. The Russian fighter put together a woeful MMA record of 4-9 between 1999-2003, though he does have a claim to fame in that he knocked out future UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Alrovski in his first fight.
Datsik once stated that he, “wanted to fight and die in the ring,” and he certainly did his best to live up to that wish.
His bizarre antics in the cage included opting to use only headbutts in one fight, repeatedly stamping on the groin of another opponent and refusing to stop, attacking a referee during a bout at a charity event, letting his opponents take free punches at him, and using wild, unorthadox techniques like flying somersault kicks that invariably failed to reach their intended target.
Datsik’s out of control behavior extended beyond just the cage however. In 2006 he was arrested for committing a series of armed robberies at mobile phone shops in and around St.Petersburg over a six month period, stealing in the region of 5 million rubles (Aprox $164,000). He later admitted to specifically targeting “non Russian” shop owners during his crime spree.
Apparently the erratic behavior that had made him something of a cult figure on the MMA scene wasn’t just for show as the Russian justice system eventually ruled Datsik mentally unaccountable for his actions and committed him to a closed psychiatric ward where it’s believed he remains to this day.
Another Russian fighter Aleksander Emelianenko is perhaps best known as being the younger brother of MMA superstar Fedor Emelianenko, but he does hold a solid 17-3 record of his own fighting for PRIDE and M-1 amongst other promotions.
It’s hard to avoid mentioning his criminal past given that his body is covered in tattoos that refer to his time spent in a Russian jail. The full details of the crime remain a mystery but it is known that Emelianenko was sentenced to five years for armed robbery as a juvenile. This is depicted by two tattoos on his body, one being a pirate (criminal code for armed robbery) and the other being a cathedral with five domes on his shoulder, each representing a year in jail.
The extent of Aleksander’s crimes beyond this are unclear, though his brother Fedor said in a 2008 interview that there were, “many episodes” and that “prison really made its imprint. His outlook on life has changed, and it seems, not in a good way. ”
Rumors persist that he has links to the Russian criminal underworld, perhaps fueled by the fact that he had two stars on his shoulders which is widely recognized in Russia to indicate a career criminal. It should however be noted that he has now covered over those tattoos.
There are also question marks over a spiders web tattoo on his shoulder which is the only one the fighter has not explained the meaning of publicly. In Russia such a tattoo often depicts a drug addiction, though it can have other meanings. Rumors have also arisen in recent years that Aleksander has Hepatitis B, buth he denies that is the case.
In 2008 TUF season 6 and UFC competitor Jon Koppenhaver legally changed his name to War Machine, but the warning signs that he was a volatile character were apparent long before that.
His parents divorced when he was just eight and five years later he witnessed the death of his father due to a heart attack. Moving back in with his mum caused further problems given that she and his step-dad were drug addicts. Later a spell in The Citadel military school ended prematurely when he was expelled due to poor behavior.
As the years passed he started to get in trouble on a more regular basis. In 2007 he was found guilty of felony assault after getting involved in a fight outside a Las Vegas club in which he choked a man unconscious and left him with multiple facial fractures. He was lucky to be spared a prison sentence but he failed to turn over a new leaf.
In February of 2009 he was arrested fighting security guards at a Las Vegas club he was working in part-time as a waiter. Later that year he announced that he was to work in the porn industry. It was to be a short-lived venture however as weeks later in November of ’09 he was alleged to have assaulted his porn star girlfriend Alanah Rae at an industry party, and then attacked as many as half a dozen other party-goers including his agent.
In February of 2010 in a bar in San Diego War Machine became agitated and swept multiple bottles and glasses off the bar, injuring a nearby female bartender, before shoving the owner as he left. A month later he found himself in trouble at another bar, getting into a brawl that spilled out into a neighboring car park. During the fight War Machine fought with several men including a security guard who described him as, “beyond aggressive…crazy almost”.
War Machine’s out-of-control behavior had finally caught up with him. He was arrested for the two incidents and after CCTV evidence was shown he was sent to jail for a year for two counts of felony assault while under probation. His sentence began earlier this month.
During his MMA career Jeremy Jackson compiled a record of 10-5. He had two brief spells in the UFC, most notably appearing in The Ultimate Fighter Season 4. He didn’t last long on the show however after being ejected for breaking the rules by leaving the TUF house to see a woman he had met earlier the same day.
Like fellow TUF competitor Jon Koppenhaver, Jackson had a troubled past, and was believed to have attempted to commit suicide three times during his youth. In later years he turned to alcohol after the death of his brother which only made matters worse, and by the time he was due to appear on the TUF show he was essentially homeless and had resorted to sleeping in his car.
After being thrown off the show Jackson was given a second chance by the UFC and appeared on the season finale, but lost and was subsequently cut from the promotion in November of 2006. Still battling his demons, little was heard from him after that until May of 2008 when Jackson suddenly hit the headlines after being charged with raping a woman.
A string of charges were made against Jackson, including forcible rape, kidnapping, burglary, assault with a firearm, dissuading a witness by threat of force, criminal threats and sexual assault.
Since he was arrested Jackson has remained in Ventura County jail on $1 million bail. His hearing is expected to take place on August 24th, 2010.
The Gracie family is famous for their fighting skills inside the cage, but Ryan Gracie, the ‘bad boy’ of the clan, will be best remembered for his exploits outside of the cage.
In October 2000 a rivalry with fellow fighter Wallid Ismail boiled over at a club in Sao Paulo. The two had clashed on two separate occasions the year before, including once at a local gym where Gracie had allegedly threatened him with a gun. On this occasion however Gracie was drunk at a fashion show after-party when the two spotted each other. Gracie jumped Ismail from behind, but the fight ended with Gracie being choked unconscious.
In February of 2001 Gracie was involved in an altercation at a party in Rio which saw him beat up a man and stab another. At the time it was reported that he was in jail accused of attempted murder but he was later released. Four years later he found himself in hospital after accidentally shooting himself in the leg. According to his father he was close to death due to a loss of blood, but after a blood transfusion he made a full recovery.
On December 14th, 2007 Gracie’s years of living on the edge finally took their toll. Fueled by a mixture of alcohol, marijuana and cocaine he left his house and soon car-jacked a Toyota Corolla which he then crashed into a concrete barrier. Gracie, who was armed with a kitchen knife then fled the scene and attempted to steal a moped, threatening to kill the courier riding it. As he prepared to make his getaway other couriers surrounded and attacked him, ultimately leading to Gracie being arrested and taken to jail.
There was more drama to come though as the next morning Gracie was found dead in his jail cell. An autopsy later revealed that the combination of illegal drugs together with medication he was given by doctors after being detained to calm him down had formed a lethal cocktail which took his life.
Justin Leven’s MMA career started promisingly, going 7-0 in regional promotions during 2004-2005. By 2006 he had fought his way into the UFC, but left just months later after back-to-back defeats. He rebounded with two wins, but In 2007 his career hit rock bottom, going 0-5 during that period.
According to friends of the fighter Levens struggled to cope with the downward spiral in his career and concerns over his future prospects having been a fighter all his life.
The cracks started to show in 2008 when Levens, now 28, was suspended from competing for six months after testing positive for pain killers. Further warning signs emerged in December of that year police were called twice to the home the fighter shared with his wife, including once for a suspected drug overdose.
On the 17th of December Leven’s mother-in-law became suspicious after not hearing from her daughter for the best part of a week. Upon entered their home she discovered Leven’s and his wife shot dead in their bedroom in what police would describe as a murder-suicide.
An autopsy later revealed that the two had died days earlier with Leven’s wife having been shot in the heart and Levens in the head. The gun was found lying next to the fighter, and various pain killers and anti-depressants were discovered at their residence.
The horrific nature of Jarrod Wyatt crime has ensured that he has quickly become one of MMA’s most notorious criminals in the mainstream media. It should be stressed however that his link to the sport is tenuous given that he has just one fight on his record, a win in January of 2010 at a local show in Oregon.
On March 21st of this year a small group of friends including Wyatt drank hallucinogenic mushroom tea after returning home from a night out. Soon afterwards Wyatt began acting particularly strangely at which point one of his friends Justin Davis decided to leave. Returning hours later Davis was confronted with a scene straight out of a horror movie.
In the living room Wyatt stood naked and blood-soaked over the body of his friend Taylor Powell. Fleeing the scene Davis phoned the police who returned to discover a grizzly scene. It’s believed a fight had broken out in the kitchen after Wyatt became convinced 21 year-old Powell was the devil. Though the details are hazy it’s known that Powell was severely beaten before having an 18-inch hole cut in his chest. Wyatt removed Powell’s tongue and pulled out Powell’s still beating heart and threw it into the fire. He is also believed to have cooked several of his organs on a wooden stove. By the time police arrived most of the victim’s face had also been removed.
Speaking to the police at the time Wyatt told them, “Satan was in that dude,” and asked them if they, “were God, or if we were God coming to save him.” Wyatt has since been charged with first degree murder, aggravated mayhem and also torture given that Powell was believed to be alive until his heart was removed.
No discussion on MMA’s most notorious villains could be complete without the now infamous tale of UK fighter Lee Murray’s life of crime. A respected middleweight fighter with an 8-2-1 (1nc) record, including a win over Jorge Rivera in his one and only appearance in the UFC, Murray gained notoriety for his love of fighting outside of the confines of a cage.
Amongst his most infamous street fighting incidents is one with Tito Ortiz in the alleyway of a London nightclub after the UFC’s first ever UK event in July of 2002. According to Matt Hughes who was present, Murray knocked Ortiz out with a flurry of punches, sending him face first into the concrete followed up by several stomps to his head.
Several years later in September of 2005 another fight outside a nightclub in London almost cost Murray his life. After becoming involved in an altercation with several other men Murray was stabbed in the head and the heart. His surgeon later reported that Murray died on the operating table three times that night. Remarkably he was resuscitated and made a full recovery. Murray later revealed that he had also been in hospital the week before after being stabbed twice outside the same club.
Murray had become a cult figure in MMA circles for his street-fighting stories but what happened next would make him infamous around the globe. On the 21st of February, 2006 a Securitas depot in London, England was robbed with what police described as “military precision by a gang of professional robbers.” The thief’s made off with over 50 million pounds ($90 million), making it the largest ever cash robbery in UK history.
Three months later Lee Murray was arrested in Morocco where he had suddenly began enjoying a lavish lifestyle including buying an expensive villa, sports cars, hard drugs and plastic surgery for his girlfriends. It soon emerged that Murray was believed to be the mastermind behind the robbery.
Murray would spend four years in jail waiting for his trial before finally being convicted of the crime in Morocco and handed a ten year sentence in June of 2010. His story has been widely reported around the world on TV and in print, while a movie about his life and role in the heist is currently being planned.
Article by RossC