The 5 Greatest Comeback Stories In Martial Arts History

The basic elements of a great comeback story are as follows: a protagonist who manages to triumph despite all the setbacks life has thrown at him, or someone who conquers adversity through sheer will and perseverance. Yes, everyone loves a comeback story because it’s a true test of how unbreakable the human spirit can be.

Today, Evolve Daily takes a look at some of the greatest comebacks in martial arts:


1) Frank Mir 


In an unfortunate series of events, Mir found himself a victim of a motorcycle accident, breaking his femur and tearing several ligaments in his knee. Doctors doubted that he could fight in the UFC, let alone run again. Instead of giving up, Mir rehabilitated his knee and decided to fight again.

After suffering several embarrassing losses, Mir persevered and went on to win his next three fights and reclaim the Heavyweight title by defeating Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 92.


2) Sugar Ray Leonard

In 1982, Leonard made the decision to retire from boxing as the reigning and undisputed Welterweight champion due to a detached retina. Two years later, he made a comeback, fighting an unknown Kevin Howard. Refusing to give up his boxing career, he decided to fight Marvin Hagler, the Middleweight titleholder at the time who had quickly earned himself a reputation as a pound-for-pound king.

Although many doubted Leonard, he pressed on and beat Hagler via split-decision. As if this victory wasn’t enough, Leonard went on to win the WBC Super Middleweight and Light Heavyweight titles.


3) Georges St-Pierre

Possibly one of the greatest upsets in MMA history, Matt Serra defeated GSP in UFC 69, who was defending the UFC Welterweight title for the first time. It was a horrible loss for GSP, who lost via TKO in the first round. Before the fight, it was reported that GSP had just gone through surgery, which many fans speculated, could have attributed to his loss.

After going through rehab with Tristar Gym head trainer Firas Zahabi, GSP went on to win his next nine fights before tearing his ACL once again in training for UFC 143. He went on to get surgery and rehab for over 18 months then went on to successfully defend his belt against Carlos Condit at UFC 154.


4) George Foreman

In the 1970s Foreman was known as one of the greatest and most feared boxing heavyweights. Known for his knockout power, he valiantly defeated big names such as Joe Frazier and Ken Norton.  In 1977, however, he became a born-again Christian and dedicated himself to his newly found faith, spending ten years as a preacher. During this time, his weight rose to over 300 pounds. 10 years later, he announced a return to boxing to help his youth ministry, cutting weight and training to get back into shape to fight again.

In 1991, Foreman got his first title shot, lasting 12 rounds with Evander Holyfield. His second shot at a title wasn’t so successful either, losing to Tommy Morrison in 1993. However, later on that year, at 45 years of age, he was able to knockout Michael Moorer. This made him the oldest man at that time to ever win a world championship title.


5) Muhammad Ali 

Because of his stance against the Vietnam War and his activism for racial equality, Ali was not only imprisoned several times but also forced into retirement by various athletic commissions for three years.

Upon his return to the boxing scene in the 1970s Ali faced many challenging contenders in the Heavyweight division. This included undefeated champion Joe Frazier, whom he lost to in 1971 but beat in 1974. Ali would also go on to defeat the up and coming athletic George Foreman and go down in history as one of the “greatest there ever was.”


There’s no doubt that these athletes have shown true determination to overcome their unfortunate circumstances and achieve their dreams. They continue to serve as inspiration, especially to those who have encountered many setbacks and have lost hope.

Tell us, what’s your favorite comeback story?


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