Stephan Bonnar, one of not only MMA’s all time greats, but one of MMA’s trailblazers, has died.
It’s taken me a while to come to terms with the passing of Stephan Bonnar, and it’s taken me longer still to find the words to adequately describe both the legacy and the void left by the passing of a man who was one half of the reason that MMA as a sport is even where it is today, let alone the UFC. Without Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar, none of us would have the sport that we love as it is today.
The man who obtained his purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Carlson Gracie started off his professional career by rocketing to a 4-0 record in his first 4 fights, before appearing in THE most important matchup in the history of the UFC, and arguably in MMA as a whole.
On April 9th, 2005, Bonnar took part in a fight that would go on to shape the landmark of combat sports forevermore. Little did he know that when he walked through the curtain for the finale of the debut season of the Ultimate Fighter, Season 1 that Bonnar and his dance partner that night, fellow UFC legend Forrest Griffin, would put on a display that not only had the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas bouncing, but would lead to the top brass of SpikeTV negotiating a new deal for the Ultimate Fighter to stay on Cable TV. Bonnar and Griffin had literally saved the future of the UFC as well as the Ultimate Fighter, thereby not only opening the door for the next generation to have a chance, but kicking its hinges off the wall.
To those who are newer fans or those uninitiated with who Stephan Bonnar was, his record of 15-9 might seem unremarkable, average even. But take a closer look and you will quickly unearth the calibre of fighter that Bonnar was, as well as the calibre of person he frequently fought. Wins against notable tough fighters such as James Irwin, Keith Jardine and Kyle Kingsbury solidified “The American Psycho” as being a willing opponent to anyone and everyone, whilst losses only came against the very best the game has ever had to offer. Household names such as Rashad Evans, Jon Jones, Lyoto Mashida and Mark Coleman all rank as opponents to have bested Bonnar, an incredibly distinguished, gold-filled list indeed, whilst his loss to Forrest Griffin came in an incredibly tight decision that would result in saving the company. That Bonnar was awarded a UFC contract even in a losing effort should tell you pretty much all you need to know.
Sadly, Bonnar suffered with some very severe and very public issues with both his health and with the authorities. Whilst these issues will always be within the public domain and will be remembered alongside his career, I prefer to remember and celebrate Stephan Bonnar, the man who gave literally everything (and then some) to the sport we all call home, and the man whom, without his sacrifice and involvement when MMA was relegated to being little more than “human cock-fighting”, we simply wouldn’t have a sport as we all know and love today.
Rest easy, Stephan Bonnar. You will be truly missed, and the legacy of “The American Psycho” will forever be intertwined with the fundamental DNA of our sport.