In the early days of any promotion, the biggest challenge is building a talented roster that people will watch. Most shows accomplish this by getting fighters cut from their competitors for one reason or another.
Sometimes this helps fighters rebuild their credibility and use it as a road to get back in the big show. However, sometimes it becomes a sad confirmation of their faded place in the sport before going into obscurity.
Here are five fighters you didn’t know fought in ONE Championship.
The man known as “The New York Badass” was one of the most ruthless and brutal finishers that ever came into MMA. He is the absolute farthest thing from the kind of fighter ONE keeps promoting itself to support.
Phil Baroni made his name by fighting in the UFC from 2001-2005 before he would bounce around the world, fighting for Pride, Strikeforce and Elite XC. He struck a bunch of rivalries with Evan Tanner, Frank Shamrock and Matt Lindland.
Baroni was a guilty pleasure for fans of pre-USADA UFC and Pride. He was an avatar of savage aggression that had little regard for his opponent or himself. The video of Baroni head-stomping Ikuhisa Minowa is still despicably breath-taking. His knockout of David Menne is also uncomfortably perfect.
He would return to the UFC, losing to a debuting Brad Tavares before globe-trotting again.
One of the destinations that kept Baroni afloat was ONE FC. He fought on the very first card of the promotion, ONE: Champion vs. Champion, losing a Unanimous Decision against Yoshiyuki Yoshida in the co-main event.
He would bounce back in his next appearance at ONE: Pride of a Nation by knocking out Rodrigo Ribeiro in the first round. However, he would again face defeat to eventual inaugural Welterweight Champion Nobutatsu Suzuki.
A true pioneer that was one of the sport’s faces during the Dark Ages of MMA, Baroni announced his retirement late last year. His last adventure being a title shot for the RFC Middleweight belt against Sai Wang in September of last year.
There was a time (circa 2006-2007) when Roger Huerta was the absolute biggest star in MMA. He had the skills, he had the looks, he had everything.
He began fighting professionally in 2003 and began fighting for the UFC in 2006. Up until the end of his golden age in 2007, Huerta had a 19-1 record. The only man to beat him in all those years was eventual IFL Lightweight Champion Ryan Schultz.
In a pre-Rousey and Conor era, the hype and star power around Huerta was unprecedented. Everyone wanted a piece of him and he eventually became the first UFC athlete to go on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Eat your heart out Anthony Pettis.
But then he lost to Kenny Florian and Gray Maynard and just fell off everyone’s radar. Even THE GOAT Chael P. Sonnen wasn’t sure where Huerta went. But we know. He kept fighting and going around the world to do so.
First, he went to Bellator and lost to Pat Curran, Eddie Alvarez, and War Machine. Then he fought in ONE, where he didn’t fare much better. He lost to Zorobabel Moreira, Koji Ando, and Ariel Sexton.
He did win a split decision against Adrian Pang but chose to leave the promotion to go back to Bellator.
After losing to former UFC Champion Benson Henderson in his return fight, Huerta would also lose his next two fights. This brings his once-vaunted record to 24-12.
This Light Heavyweight Dutch Kickboxer is most famous for his dog collar and his current run with Bellator.
However, before signing with the UFC’s biggest rival, Manhoef was bouncing from one promotion to another trying to stitch together a winning run. One of these places was the early ONE FC.
Manhoef first fought in ONE: War of Lions against Yoshiyuki Nakanishi. The fight ended as a No Contest because Manhoef lacerated his shin on Nakanishi’s head, which also got a nasty cut.
He’d have better luck against Ryo Kawamura in ONE: Rise of Kings, but got beat via Unanimous Decision by Brock Larson in the co-main event of ONE: Kings and Champions.
That would be his last fight with the promotion, as Manhoef chose to take his talents elsewhere.
He seems set on sticking it out with Bellator, as he’s fought there and only there since 2014. This is a bit of a shame for ONE fans, as the Light Heavyweight division could really use him.
Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski
The rivalry between Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski was one of the greatest in the sport. These two absolutely don’t like each other and would tear each other apart whenever given the chance.
In an interview with Ariel Helwani back in 2011, Arlovski said that it was his dream to fight Sylvia again. While Sylvia has thrown jabs at Arlovski over the years.
Most people think that their story ended in the main event of UFC 61. But the feud continued as they fought in ONE: Pride of a Nation.
The first two rounds of the fight were already much better than the entire third fight. However, it would all ultimately end in an even more disappointing way.
Thanks to ONE’s not very well thought out rule set, there was a lot of confusion regarding soccer kicks. Nowadays, kicks to the head of a grounded opponent are just a no-no. However, back then, they were legal if the referee gives him clearance to do so.
To this day, not a single official from ONE has explained how that would work.
Late in the second round, Arlovski drops Sylvia with a three punch combination. Sylvia seems legitimately out of it, but Arlovski made sure by kicking him in the face twice. Yuji Shimada jumps in and everyone thought Arlovski just evened out the rivalry.
But since Shimada never cleared Arlovski for the kicks, the fight was ruled a No Contest.
After the match. the two could be seen talking and agreeing to meet one more time. However, such a fight has not materialized.
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