Unlike most other sports, MMA does not benefit from a constant stream of youthful talent being pumped in annually from amateur high school or college athletic programs. There is nothing to compare to the NFL, NBA or MLB drafts, all of which produce elite talent every year, nor the massive youth programs that feed into golf, tennis or soccer on a worldwide level. Instead, MMA’s phenoms are an exceptionally rare breed, generational talents who come along only once in a blue moon.
In honor of Vitor Belfort’s crack at the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight title and what was supposed to be Jon Jones’ ninth defense of his light heavyweight belt at UFC 187, the latest edition of the Sherdog Top 10 series explores the topic of phenoms. These are the fighters who started at a young age or found themselves awash in hype from the very beginnings of their careers, with special emphasis on those competitors who fulfill both of those criteria.
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Number 10 » He might not have started his career at a particularly young age by the standards of the sport, but the speed with which he ascended through the ranks and the sheer volume of hype that attached itself to his rise marks him as one of the sport’s true phenoms.