The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back in the news, and fans are preparing for September’s card in Las Vegas. The night’s main attraction is Valentina Shevchenko vs. Alexa Graso as the warring pair prepare for a hotly anticipated rematch. Grasso caused an upset at UFC 285 when submitting long-term champion Shevchenko despite entering the bout as the underdog. Will she do it again, establishing herself as the division’s future, or will the former champion bounce back, proving that defeat was a speedbump?
As regular readers of our pages already know, we have a few fans of the UFC on our team. That’s to be expected, as those passionate about tattoos have plenty of choices in combat sports. Inked warriors are a fearsome breed, but the tattoos chosen are often weird and wonderful, reflecting the fighter’s brutal past, accomplishments, and bravery.
Conor McGregor’s roaring lion is a fine example of a martial arts fighter who uses tattoos to leave an impression or strike fear into the hearts of opponents. But he’s not the only one. Keep reading as we remind ourselves of that scrapping trailblazer that was McGregor and investigate some famous names from the fight game that have followed the Irishman’s example by going tattoo crazy.
McGregor remains the main man.
After a painful defeat, he may be retired from the octagon, but McGregor remains the biggest name in UFC history. The Irishman, known in the fight game as Notorious, helped launch the promotion into orbit with his fast-talking, often controversial press conferences and devastating knockout wins. Even if McGregor never wears a pair of gloves again, he has cemented his legacy in mixed martial arts, and it’ll be many years before we see anyone as dedicated, charismatic, and talented as McGregor.
Conor is deadly serious and all-business inside the fight arena, but he’s flamboyant, excitable, and confident away from the sport. There’s no danger of you missing a gladiator who has never been a shrinking violet. He loves to stand out and make an impression in MMA, WWE, or the business world. You’ll often hear him before you see him, and there’s only one Notorious McGregor. Fight fans will accept no substitutes. Part of Conor’s success is due to his unique style. From the fiery red hair to the chiseled physique and six-pack, he stands out in a crowd.
The now 34-year-old from Dublin is famous for his tattoos, including stunning ink across his chest and torso. We won’t include him in our list of the best and worst tattoos out of respect for what he’s done in the sport. He has had some impressive work done throughout his career, and his tattoos are as famous as his fighting style. But Conor also has the odd bit of ink he probably wishes never happened.
If McGregor is the leading man in UFC for fighting, promotion, and tattoos, let’s check on the best of the rest. And to help balance things out, we’ve added our take on the worst MMA has to offer the world of tattoos.
Alexander (The Great) Volkanovski
Alexander is a Macedonian-Australian rugby player and MMA Featherweight champion. He is probably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world at this moment. He’s got a big dragon on his right arm, an orthodox cross on his back, a lotus flower on his biceps, and a tribal design.
If you’re a big and imposing guy, standing 6ft 7 inches tall and competing in the heavier-weight divisions of combat sports, there’s plenty to work with regarding a canvas. Volkov has a stunning tattoo of a manta ray on his back, and it’s pretty spectacular.
Even if you’re not the biggest fan of prizefighting, you can’t help but love the tattoo. It has a tribal design and may have a double meaning, as we know manta rays as gentle and shy creatures. Those aren’t words you’d necessarily use when speaking about Volkov, as his 36 wins and 24 knockout victories prove. We last saw Volkov stop Alexander Ramanov with punches in Las Vegas earlier this year.
American middleweight fighter Brad Tavares is quite a sight at 5ft 11 and 185 lbs. He’s an experienced and dedicated fighter, hoping his skills can catapult him to the big-money fights this season. One thing you’re sure to notice about Brad is his love of tattoos, and there’s one that stuck in our minds after watching his last fight against Bruno Silva.
He may be American born and bred, fighting out of Las Vegas, but Brad has a solid Hawaiian heritage, and it shows with an impressive chest and half sleeve. There’s no shortage of tribal tattoos in this sport, but some are more authentic than others. Tavares gets pass marks from us. But having lost four of his last six outings in UFC, his ink may out-rank his fighting skills.
He may be retired now, but Cowboy Cerrone is a fighter who will go down in history. He wasn’t as skilled or successful as McGregor, but he was just as popular with the American boasting a huge fanbase. His retirement certainly left a gap in the game, one the promotion will do well to fill in the future.
It’s not only Cowboy’s interesting tattoos we loved, but that is a major contributing factor. His real name is Donald Cerrone; Cowboy has two lower leg tattoos that say ‘Play’ and ‘Time.’ These are ideally suited to a warrior once labeled everyone’s favorite fighter. His high kicks were commonplace with a background in Thai Boxing, giving fans a good look at those sleeves. If you want to see for yourself, you’ll find lots of footage of Cowboy’s fights and humorous antics online.
You may be surprised to see Alan Belcher’s name included in a list of great UFC tattoos or famous fighters. He is somewhat less well-known than the others on this list, and Belcher can learn a thing or two from McGregor and Cowboy about tattoos. His are awful.
One that particularly annoyed us is an arm tattoo of the legendary singer Johnny Cash. What’s wrong with respecting a great like Cash, we hear you ask? As Belcher grew in size and strength, Johnny looked somewhat stretched and deformed. In the end, the tattoo didn’t do either man any justice.