Charles Oliveira’s lightweight title victory against Michael Chandler at UFC 262 sums up his career perfectly. The Brazilian was bruised and battered in the first round, but he didn’t give up and came back in the second round to turn the tables on his opponent and make his dream of winning the UFC gold come true. The Brazilian, however, isn’t the only one who has overcome adversity to reach the top. A number of other stars share a similarly inspiring story. Here are five UFC champions who overcame adversity to win a UFC belt.
Charles Oliveira made his UFC debut in 2010. It took him 11 years, 28 fights, and multiple heartbreaks to get to the top. As a child, Oliveira was diagnosed with abnormal heart murmurs and rheumatoid arthritis. ‘Do Bronx’ was told by one doctor that he was never going to walk again, but the sky was always the limit for the young man from Sao Paulo.
Months after the diagnosis, Oliveira signed up to a BJJ school, eventually making his way to MMA. He suffered major roadblocks, despite having all the potential in the world. Oliveira didn’t have a great first seven years in the UFC, as he lost 8 out of his eighteen fights at featherweight. However, things began to click for him as soon as he moved to lightweight, where after a heartbreaking loss to Paul Felder, Oliveira racked up nine straight wins, including his most recent one against Chandler.
Things will only get bigger and tougher from here on for Oliveira however, as his next fight will most likely be against Conor McGregor or Dustin Poirier, but he’s confident of staying the champion for a long time.
28 fights later. Charles Oliveira can call himself CHAMPION. 🏆
— UFC Europe (@UFCEurope) May 16, 2021
UFC light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz shares a similar story to that of Charles Oliveira. Blachowicz signed with the UFC in 2014 after a successful journey with his home promotion of KSW, but he was unsuccessful in four out of his first six UFC outings. The Polish powerhouse was nearly released from the UFC after his loss to Patrick Cummins at UFC 210, but his manager requested the UFC to give him one more chance.
Fortunately for Blachowicz, the UFC was kind enough to give him another opportunity, and he made the most of it, by beating Devin Clark via second-round submission. Blachowicz went on to win eight of his next nine fights, including a vacant title fight against Dominick Reyes and his first title defense against Israel Adesanya. He faces Glover Teixeira next at UFC 266.
Michael Bisping was always a championship-level athlete, but it took him far too long to reach his ultimate goal. Bisping signed with the UFC with an impressive 11-0 record and started to swim with the sharks almost instantly. He won his first three fights in the UFC, before losing to Rashad Evans via split-decision. He racked up another three wins before he was knocked out by Dan Henderson in a brutal fashion in their middleweight title eliminator.
In his next six fights, he won four times, and eventually earned himself another title eliminator, against Chael Sonnen this time, but he lost again. He lost three more times in his next six fights, but Bisping wore his never-give-up attitude like a crown.
He won his next three fights, which earned him a short-notice middleweight title fight against Luke Rockhold after Chris Weidman pulled out. Fortune favored Bisping this time around, as despite being the underdog, he knocked out the American to win the belt after years of chasing his dream.
Interestingly, Bisping competed in the last 11 fights of his career with one eye, as he lost his right eye in his fight with Vitor Belfort in 2013. He made the shocking revelation only after retiring from the sport in 2017.
Four years ago today, the legend of Left Hook Larry was born when @bisping knocked out Luke Rockhold at UFC 199.
On that night, he finally captured the UFC title after a 10 year run with the promotion 🇬🇧 pic.twitter.com/oPqS4CqX49
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) June 4, 2020
Rose Namajunas won the title at a very young age, but she’s been through a lot. From mental health issues to losses in the early part of her career, ‘Thug’ Rose has faced quite a lot of adversity but she has come back stronger every time.
In only her fourth fight, Namajunas was matched up against the more experienced Carla Esparza for the inaugural strawweight title, but lost via third-round submission, falling to 2-2 as a professional. She came back strongly by winning her next three fights, but lost a razor-close split decision to Karolina Kowalkiewicz, costing her a fight against Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Rose fought Michelle Waterson next and beat her convincingly to earn the number one contender’s spot.
She faced Joanna Jedrzejczyk next for the title and turned the tables on the undefeated champion by knocking her out in the first round, despite being a +400 underdog. She beat Jedrzejczyk in a rematch but lost her title to Jessica Andrade via a brutal KO slam. After the fight, she said that she needed some time off from fighting because the pressure was getting to her.
Namajunas made a massive comeback this year, beating Zhang Weili to regain the strawweight title. She also looks in a much healthier state of mind and promises to stay ahead of the curve for a long time.
THUG ROSE 🌹
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 25, 2021
Robbie Lawler’s road to UFC gold was a good one, but it was his Strikeforce days that prepared him for it. Before joining the UFC in 2012, Lawler was 3-4 in his last seven fights, including his loss to Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza in their title fight at Strikeforce: Diaz vs Cyborg in 2011.
The adversity he faced during his Strikeforce days came in as a blessing in disguise as he put on excellent performances en route to the UFC gold. He won his first three fights in the UFC, and earned himself a title shot against Johny Hendricks, but lost via unanimous decision. He then won his next two fights, and earned a rematch with Hendricks, beating him this time around via split-decision. He made two successful title defenses against Rory MacDonald and Carlos Condit, before losing to Tyron Woodley.
He has only won one of his five fights since then.
'Ruthless' Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald 2, Fight Of The Year 2015. One of the greatest moments in UFC History. pic.twitter.com/fKseowZC2x
— J🥊🏴 (@NoTurnUnstonedd) January 31, 2019
Which of the aforementioned UFC champions who overcame adversity inspires you the most?
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