Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.
Whoever said that was clearly hit in the face at some point – presumably with sticks and/or stones for being smug, by the sound of it – but had clearly never been on the receiving end of a verbal assault, especially not by the likes of these experts in the art of verbal jousting…
So let’s take a look at my top 12 of the best UFC trash talkers that have ever stepped into the octagon.
Table of Contents
“The Outlaw” Dan Hardy has arguably always been better on the mic than the mat.
He was rushed to a title showdown against welterweight kingpin Georges St-Pierre after just 4 victories in the UFC.
Was he awarded the title fight against one of the pound-for-pound greats because of the pair of dubious split decisions, the knockout of Rory Markham, and outpointing journeyman Mike Swick… or was it his trash talk?
Yeah, it was definitely his trash talk.
Hardy famously used to ask his fans to photoshop images of his upcoming opponents, and it was this that really got under the skin of Markham ahead of their UFC 99 clash, as Hardy proudly presented the homoerotic edits to him at the press conference.
Hardy had many a word to say about St-Pierre (before St-Pierre beat him) and Carlos Condit (before Condit beat him), ramping up the trash talk each time he went out to promote the fights.
For me, I always liked Hardy because, as an English fight fan it was nice to hear phrases like “n*bhead” and “w*nker” on UFC broadcasts.
But my favorite line from The Outlaw was when he was asked about Georges St-Pierre’s comments that he wasn’t a real mixed martial artist, ahead of their UFC 111 title fight. It was the sheer relaxed, English, passive-aggressive sarcasm that I enjoyed the most:
“As far as saying I’m not a martial artist… Because he walks out in the Octagon in his pyjamas, he’s a martial artist and I’m not?”Dan “The Outlaw” Hardy, UFC 111
“Rowdy” Ronda Rousey was as infamous for her animosity towards her opponents as she was for finishing them in the first round.
In fact, of Rousey’s twelve career victories – all of them stoppages – just one fight got out of the first round. A huge achievement from the judo gold medallist, and her abilities – along with her attitude on the mic – were probably what helped her transition so seamlessly from MMA to the world of professional wrestling.
Rousey took exception to the “fake sweet act” that she felt her UFC 193 opponent Holly Holm AKA “The Preacher’s Daughter” was portraying, saying “I see right through it. I see that it’s all fake and you’re gonna get it on Sunday”.
Holm ultimately went on to hand Rousey her first-ever mixed martial arts loss when she knocked her out in the second round, and many said Rousey overlooked Holm as a viable threat to her Women’s Bantamweight Championship when she smirked in a pre-fight interview, “On Monday morning after I beat Holly and I look around, it’s going to be the most amazing feeling”.
But Rousey’s most vicious words have always been saved for her biggest rival Meisha Tate.
Rousey claimed Tate’s “chink in her armor” was the fact she could never look her in the eye and that she had “everything that (Tate) wants in life”.
The two coached opposite each other on the eighteenth season of The Ultimate Fighter and the trash talk (and hand gestures on Rousey’s part) were pretty intense, and plentiful, throughout.
The Rousey/Tate rivalry will go down in history as one of the most heated in women’s MMA, and that is in no small part due to “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey’s rampant and raging revulsion for her rival… who – [disclaimer] – most definitely gave as good as she got, despite her nickname being “Cupcake”.
If we go on recent merit, then Nathan Donald Diaz (yes, his middle name is actually Donald) should probably be higher on the list.
However, Diaz was never too much of a talker; he’d simply get in his opponent’s face, refuse to touch loves, mean mug and flex on them, and send them a Stockton Slap for good measure.
Perhaps it’s the recent realization that social media sells fights, but Nate does most of his best work on the internet. I wouldn’t call him an internet warrior, however, because he’s an actual warrior who actually goes to war and actually gets punched in the actual face.
Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed it when – in reference to video footage of Conor McGregor in an outdoor training session – Diaz said “You’re playing touch-butt with that dork in the park”, but a Nate Diaz social media post is a different specimen… dubious spelling and grammar included.
Whether it’s to McGregor, Khabib Numagomedov (who he called “Kabob” lol), or any other fighter in the lightweight or welterweight division, Diaz doesn’t hold back on the social media trash talk.
In a stinging barb to McGregor on Twitter, that also takes aim at Numagomedov, Diaz quipped:
I f****d you up and u never got it back but u acted like u did now u get a rematch every time u get you’re a** beat like a spoiled Little b***h would
I’ve done it all and I’m still here plus the guy who just beat us a** is a scared Lil b***h also f**k u both #realfighter.Nate Diaz
There’s probably a lot to unpack in that – seemingly because of the lack of a full-stop – single sentence, but my particular highlights are the use of “Little b***h” for McGregor and “Lil b***h” for the clearly more streetwise Numagomedov.
The hastily added “also f**k you both” was a really nice touch(butt) as well.
“I’m going to try and kill you, Georges, and I’m not joking about that”.BJ Penn
Yep. BJ Penn actually said that.
Considered one of the greatest lightweight mixed martial artists of all time, Jay Dee Penn III backed up his trash talk with one of the best all-around skill sets of his generation. A pioneer of the 155lb division, Penn holds notable victors over former UFC Champions Sean Sherk, Matt Serra, and two over Matt Hughes.
BJ Penn has a legendary status in the sport that he can even be discussed as one of the best UFC fighters of all time with his history.
Penn’s trash talk was always delivered in an incredibly stoic, deadpan manner that seems quite psychotic when looked back at.
Telling Renzo Gracie that after their 2005 fight he was going to be left “traumatized” in an unblinking, robotic tone, was a pretty chilling moment.
Penn came out of an almost 3-year retirement in 2017 and slid straight back into his old ways, telling upcoming opponent Yair Rodriguez that their Fight Night bout was going to look like “a professional against an amateur”.
I mean… Penn wasn’t wrong… as Rodriguez kicked him in the face and finished him with punches twenty-four seconds into the second round.
Penn is on a seven-fight losing streak and has won just one fight in his last 11 outings; a 2010 knockout of the aforementioned Hughes. Since his career’s decline, Penn’s trash-talking has – quite rightly – been curbed somewhat.
But let us not forget some of his most scathing words, whilst in his prime, for fellow divisional GOAT Georges St-Pierre.
When asked about his comments regarding wanting to – yep – “kill” St-Pierre ahead of their UFC 94 clash, Penn said:
“If you’re not thinking that in your head, then what are you doing in that ring? If you’re not thinking that you’re going to go across and you’re going to kill this guy — and you’re going to annihilate this guy — what are you doing there?”BJ Penn, UFC 94
“We’re going to go to the death”.
I think it’s fair to say that “Kos” is one of the least liked fighters in UFC history.
Maybe it was his antics on the inaugural series of The Ultimate Fighter, or perhaps it was him famously faking being hit with an illegal knee in two separate fights… or maybe, just maybe, it was purely down to his stupid, smug face when he badmouthed his opponents.
The most perfect example of Koscheck bad-mouthing his opponent before, during, and after the fight, is in his UFC 113 welterweight clash with British striker Paul Daley.
This bout has gone down in MMA infamy, for the fact that Daley tried to sucker-punch Koscheck after the bell… and – while the act has quite rightly been universally slammed by the entire Mixed Martial Arts community – when you hear Koscheck talk about the incident afterward, you kind of see where Daley was coming from.
Koscheck said, following his decision victory over Daley, which saw him utilize his superior grappling and spend the majority of the fight on top of the Brit:
“I kicked his a** for three rounds and he couldn’t even touch me in the fight, so he has to try to sucker punch me after the fight”Josh Koscheck, UFC 113
“I remember at one point we were talking and he was telling me, ‘Let me up and fight me like a man.’ I said, ‘Let you up, you p***y? Get up!’ I kept telling him to get up, that little b***h.”
Tito Ortiz has been part of some of the most iconic rivalries in UFC history.
Ken Shamrock, Chuck Liddell, and Randy Couture have all experienced “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” talkin’ greasy. And yes, while his nickname is far too long and his head far too large, Ortiz had a real knack for getting under his opponent’s skin.
Shamrock, in particular, was incredibly prone to having his huge, beefy buttons pushed by Ortiz.
Whether it was calling him a “cowardly lion” on TV in front of a live audience, claiming “I am Rick James, and you are my bi**h”, or screaming with laughter when Shamrock announced he would “beat (Tito) into the living death” – I don’t blame him; what does that even mean?! – Ortiz always came out of his verbal exchanges with the former pro-wrestler with the W.
His words for Liddell were a little more personal, as the two had once been friends, and while the ultra-cool Liddell came out on top of the rivalry with two knockout wins over Ortiz in 2004 and 2006, Ortiz finally got the last laugh (and boy did he revel in it) when he finished Liddell in 2018 in their Golden Boy Promotions headlining fight.
You know the originator of “Don’t be scared, homie” had to make the list, right?
Nick Montgomery Diaz (no, his middle name is actually not Montgomery) loves to chat. He likes to chat before, after, and during a fight. He also likes to give the finger and lay down, before, after, and during fights too, sometimes at the same time. Seriously.
The older Diaz brother talked himself into a title fight against arguably the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in history, Georges St-Pierre… coming off a loss.
He was dominated by GSP during their UFC 158 showdown, he then said he wanted a rematch in a post-match press conference, flexed a little bit… and people were talking about it as a genuinely viable option!
Despite not winning a fight for over a decade now, you still feel that Diaz is only ever one grimace and a couple of gang-signs away from a title shot. Which is crazy, if you think about it.
The power of the trash talk is strong with this one.
Dominick Cruz has been incredibly unlucky with injuries, with gaps of over three years between fights at times.
Any periods of inactivity, however, haven’t stopped Cruz from keeping his tongue as sharp as his fighting skills.
Cruz has made a career of feuding with Team Alpha Male, and whether that’s Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez, TJ Dillashaw, or Cody Garbrandt, it’s always a heated exchange on the microphone before and after the bout.
In fact, Cruz claimed to Dillishaw that he “was able to buy a house with all the wins he had over (his) team”.
He once said of the tattooed Garbrandt – the only fighter of the aforementioned quartet that Cruz doesn’t hold a win over – “you just got out of High School and you think you’re tough”, whereas his words for Faber are too numerous to mention.
The Cruz/Faber trilogy took place over almost a decade, with Faber taking the first bout via submission in 2007 before Cruz put the series level 4 years later with a decision victory.
The decider came in 2016, and with the most intense trash-talking the bantamweight division has ever heard, as Cruz ramped up the disrespect towards Faber, his family, his team, and his career on route to a victory in the rubber match at UFC 199.
The greatest British Mixed Martial Artist of all time, former UFC Middleweight Champion, Michael “The Count” Bisping is a legend in and out of the octagon.
Inside, for being the only British fighter to ever capture UFC gold and for holding notable victories over the likes of Anderson Silva and Dan Henderson, and out of it… for that glorious – and incredibly British – trash talk.
In fact, it’s not so much trash talk, as just… insults, really.
So, let’s enjoy some of Bisping’s Best British Barbs.
After listening to Luke Rockhold talk inspiringly about believing in himself:
“Sounds like the worst self-help book I’ve ever read. Conceive, believe, achieve… shut the f**k up!”
When he was asked if he could ever make the flyweight limit of 125-pounds to take on Joseph Benavidez:
“No. I’ve hit puberty”.
Talking about his UFC 159 opponent Alan Belcher:
“He needs to focus on having a fight with his tattoo artist for that abomination on his arm and leave me alone”.
Talking to the entire UFC roster after winning the Middleweight Championship:
“Guys, step your game up, I’m a champion now. If you thought I was a pain in the arse before, you’ve got no idea what you’re in for”.
Where do we start with a guy that wears a red Make America Great Again baseball cap and channels Donald Trump in his words and views?
By his own admission, Colby Covington will say whatever it takes to sell fights, and maintains that “This isn’t the feelings championship, this is the fighting championship”… would have worked better if he’d have said ‘Ultimate Feeling Championship’, but whatever, he’s a fighter, not a motivational speaker.
He has openly said that he wants people to hate him and that it was his “business model”. He’s definitely someone who has graduated from the professional wrestling school of How To Be A Bad Guy with straight A’s… and those A’s stand for Antagonistic, Aggravating, and Arrogance.
He said of former training partner and now bitter rival Jorge Masvidal:
“Jorge Masvidal is a piece of s**t father, he’s a piece of s**t fighter”.
“Are you guys talking about Marty Juiceman’s (Kamaru Usman) hair? He’s got 30-percent of is hairline left, isn’t that disgusting?!”
“Everybody knows I’m the greatest of all time. GSP’s a bum, he’s out in Canada eating Poutine, I’m out in America eating Poontang!”
MY OH MY!
Another fighter that epitomizes the whole mouth writing cheques that his fighting ability couldn’t cash, is one Chael “yes, he still has a side-parting in the year 2021” Sonnen.
Not only did he talk himself into not one, but two middleweight title fights with Anderson Silva, but he did the same against Jon Jones for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.
There will be people that feel Sonnen should be in the number 1 spot on this list, and if you look at some of the quotes he’s been responsible for over the past decade, then maybe they’d be right.
After he was submitted late in their first title fight by Anderson Silva, Sonnen still referred to himself as undefeated… despite the fact that he had 10 losses on his MMA record, with 9 of those coming by stoppage.
His verbal hand grenades are legendary, whether they’re aimed at the aforementioned Silva and Jones, Michael Bisping, Vitor Belfort, Tito Ortiz, the Nogueira Brothers, promoters, politicians, the whole World Wrestling Entertainment roster, or the ENTIRE COUNTRY OF BRAZIL!
However, I feel that the below quote from Sonnen – said lovingly about probably his most bitter rival Wanderlei Silva – is some of the man’s very best work and sums up his skillset perfectly:
“Listen Wanderlei, I will do a home invasion on you. I will cut the power to your house and the next thing you’ll hear is me climbing up your stairs in a pair of night-vision goggles I bought in the back of Soldier of Fortune magazine.Chael Sonnen
I’ll pick the lock to the master room door, take a picture of you in bed with the Nogueira brothers working on your ‘jiu-jitsu’.
I’ll take said quote unquote photograph, post it at dorksfrombrazil.com, password – not required, username – not required. That, Wanderlei, is how you threaten someone.
As if it was going to be anyone else!
“The Notorious” Conor McGregor is quite simply in a league of his own when it comes to trash talk, and it’s because of this that he is the Highest-Paid Sportsman of 2021, with an estimated net worth of circa $200,000,000. Them’s a lot of zeros.
When he first came on the scene in the UFC, McGregor would pick the round he’d finish his opponents, and this spooky talent garnered him the nickname “Mystic Mac”.
From there came more notoriety and more money, and with the money came the suits and the swagger, and with the suits and the swagger came a higher profile and a persona that seemed to run away like a lairy, loudmouthed locomotive.
Sitting back in his chair, his feet on the desk and proclaiming that he ran Rio, whilst in Rio, with the fans of Rio booing him, is the kind of stroke of genius/stupidity that sets McGregor apart.
He snatched Jose Aldo’s featherweight belt from in front of him, he shouted opponent’s children’s names at them, he called Khabib Numagomedov a “dirty Dagestani rat” and poked fun at his deceased father. The man is different gravy. A very dark gravy. With extra added hatred.
The best trash talk from McGregor, in my opinion, isn’t the more recent trend of extreme bile that he spews, that is – again, in my opinion – born of his frustrations at his inability to get any consistency in the Octagon, winning just one fight in the last five years.
Indeed, I also don’t think McGregor’s best work is the petty jibes, the likes of which we saw him throw at Dustin Poirier in the voice note he sent him on his phone, repeatedly calling him “Pea-Head”… hardly Muhammad Ali levels of oral dexterity there.
Instead, vintage McGregor was the best.
“Who the f**k is that guy?!” – a line delivered to Jeremy Stephens after Stephens called McGregor out at a UFC press conference – is still one of the most simple, effective, and low-key devastating lines the Irishman ever delivered.
McGregor gets under his opponent’s skin and into their heads in a way that I have never seen before.
I truly believe that he had then UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo beat before they stepped inside the Octagon in December 2015. Aldo just didn’t look right, he looked preoccupied, rattled. McGregor had done the hard work over months of press conferences and interviews.
Then, in the Octagon, it took just 13 seconds.
Whether he’s telling Chad Mendez he could rest his balls on his head, informing Urijah Faber that he looks “like a 50-year-old retired surfer”, or Dennis Siver that he’s a “Midget, German steroid-head”, McGregor is at his best when he’s being comical.
But, I certainly don’t get to choose, because as the man said himself, ever so poetically… “The king speaks however he wants”.
That covers the best UFC trash talkers we’ve ever seen, but not forgetting that there are also the worst trash talkers in UFC worth seeing!