Mixed martial arts promotions still don’t cross-promote fights often enough, leading to some of the best MMA fighters in the world never getting to test their skills against one another. For example, a cross-promotional fight featuring Anderson Silva vs. Cung Lee during their primes could have been one of the biggest fights in the history of the sport. Both were middleweight champions in their respective promotions, with entertaining high-level striking games that had the potential for lots of fireworks.
That fight never materialized, but there have been a few that did.
Top Cross-Promotional Fights In Mixed Martial Arts History
Let’s take a look at some of the most memorable cross-promotional fights in MMA history:
1) Chuck Liddell Vs. Guy Mezger
Liddell made MMA history when he stepped inside the ring with Guy Mezger at Pride 14 – Clash of the Titans. Liddell fought as a representative of the UFC, making this fight the first cross-promotional fight between major mixed martial arts promotions. PRIDE FC was the largest, most successful MMA promotion at the time, and the fight gave the UFC some much-needed recognition.
“The Iceman” had built up a 7-1 record at the time, while Mezger was a UFC tournament winner and former King of Pancrase champion. It turned out to be an entertaining fight, with Liddell scoring a second-round knockout after getting knocked down during the first round. That opened doors for more cross-promotional fights between the two organizations.
2) Chuck Liddell Vs. Alistair Overeem
That’s right; these two fought back in the day. Chuck was coming off a loss against Randy Couture, and he entered the 2003 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix as the UFC’s representative. His first opponent at the tournament was a young, skinny Alistair Overeem.
Unfortunately for Overeem, he wasn’t ready for the step up in competition and got knocked out in the first round after rocking Liddell earlier in the fight.
3) Chuck Liddell Vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson
This matchup did more for Jackson’s career since he pulled off a huge upset. Liddell looked impressive in his first fight against Jackson, and he was the bigger name going into the matchup. However, Jackson didn’t fight like an underdog. He penetrated Liddell’s seemingly impregnable takedown defense and busted him up on the ground. “Rampage” was so dominant during the performance that UFC president Dana White was forced to throw in the towel.
4) Kyoji Horiguchi Vs. Darrion Caldwell
This bout was made possible by Rizin and Bellator agreeing to loan each other fighters. Caldwell was Bellator’s bantamweight champion at the time, and the inaugural Rizin bantamweight champion was on the line. Both men had their moments during the fight, but Horiguchi emerged victorious with a third-round submission.
As per the contract terms between Bellator and Rizin, these two squared off again six months later at Bellator 222, with the promotion’s bantamweight title on the line. Horiguchi would emerge victorious once again, winning the fight via decision. That made him the first MMA fighter to hold titles in two major promotions simultaneously.
5) Randy Couture Vs. Tsuyoshi Kohsaka
Randy Couture was already the UFC’s heavyweight champion when he entered the Rings: King of Kings 2000 Final tournament. His first fight was against Kohsaka, a decorated Judoka who was coming off a win against Fedor Emelianenko.
An entertaining grappling contest ensued during the match, with Randy edging out the exchanges slightly. That earned him a unanimous decision victory and a spot in the tournament’s next round.
6.) Randy Couture Vs. Valentijn Overeem
Unless you’re a hardcore MMA fan, you probably didn’t know Alistair Overeem has an older brother who was one of the best heavyweights in mixed martial arts during the early days. Many expected this to be an easy fight for Couture, given the discrepancies in their grappling abilities, but Overeem had a trick under his sleeve.
Valentijn caught Couture in a guillotine choke during the first round of their fight, forcing the UFC’s reining champion, at the time, to tap out.
7) Kayla Harrison Vs. Courtney King
The global Covid pandemic forced PFL owners to allow their fighters to compete in other promotions as long as it wasn’t the UFC or Bellator. Kayla Harrison was the biggest name on their roster that took advantage of that opportunity.
A former training partner of Ronda Rousey, Harrison won two Olympic gold medals for Judo before transitioning to MMA. She signed with Invicta to challenge their featherweight champion for the fight. It wasn’t much of a contest, as Harrison took King down at will and delivered vicious ground strikes. The referee was forced to step in and stop the fight during the second round due to how much damage King was taking.
8) Ed Herman Vs. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza
Strikeforce had been recently purchased by the Ultimate Fighting Championship when this fight took place. Souza had already made a name for himself as one of the most dangerous submission specialists in MMA at that point, and Strikeforce didn’t have an opponent for him for their final fight card.
The UFC agreed to loan Herman out for the fight after others declined the matchup. The fight didn’t last long, with Jacare taking Herman down and tapping him out with a kimura a few minutes into the contest.
9) Quinton “Rampage” Jackson Vs. Fabio Maldonado
“Rampage” was one of the first high-profile fighters in the UFC to defect to Bellator. However, things didn’t go smoothly for the former UFC light-heavyweight champion as he found himself in a contract dispute with his new promoters. That fiasco led to “Rampage” returning to the UFC to try to work things out. The UFC agreed to allow “Rampage” to fight at their events while under a contract with Bellator.
Unfortunately for “Rampage”, contract disputes with the UFC led to a few of his fights getting canceled until he eventually squared off with Maldonado at UFC 186. “Rampage” edged out a decision against Maldonado and hasn’t fought for the UFC since then.
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