UFC Hall-Of-Famer Stephan Bonnar tragically died at just 45-years-old on December 22nd, with the UFC’s official website announcing the news on Christmas Eve.
The retired fighter is believed to have passed away due to “presumed heart complications” while at work according to the UFC.
“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, related to him and he always gave them his best. He will be missed.”
The charismatic fighter joined the cast of the first ever season of The Ultimate Fighter reality show back in 2005, having already compiled a 7-1 career record by that stage.
His appearance on the show would prove to be a fateful one, fighting his way to the final, where he’d go up against Forrest Griffin in what would prove to be a slug-fest for the ages that became one of the promotion’s most famous fights of all-time.
Bonnar lost the back-and-forth battle by unanimous decision, but it still made him a star and ultimately would lead to him securing a place in the UFC’s Hall-Of-Fame.
However, while Bonnar would go on to win three fights in a row after that, he struggled to surpass that early defining moment in his career and would go on to experience mixed results, while also testing positive twice for steroids during what would eventually amount to an 8-6 run in the promotion.
Afterwards Bonnar would go on to fight once for Bellator, losing out by split decision to Tito Ortiz before retiring in 2014.
In the years since Bonnar tried to transition to pro-wrestling as well as doing color commentary in addition to various other business ventures that didn’t take off.
In later years Bonnar became increasingly troubled, including being arrested on a DUI charge back in 2018, while in 2021 he was forced to leave a hospital while seeking pain medication for a back injury due to his erratic and threatening behavior.
Then back in April of this year Bonnar revealed that he’d “lost everything” in a fire at his home in Nevada, though thankfully his family escaped without injury.
Despite his troubles, Bonnar was still a fighter who will be fondly remembered by many fans, and will forever be considered to have played a notable role in the rise of the UFC.