Mauricio “Shogun” Rua won the 2005 Pride middleweight grand prix. | Photo: Sherdog.com Staff
5. Mauricio Rua: “Shogun”
Rua is rumored to have received his nickname because “Shogun” was the brand of a gi he wore while training Brazilian jiu-jitsu. In Japanese history, a shogun was a powerful military commander, while the literal meaning of the term is “commander of force,” which applies quite well to Rua himself.
A native of Curitiba, Brazil, Rua’s explosive fighting style earned him plenty of comparisons with Chute Boxe teammate Wanderlei Silva. However, “Shogun” would come into his own during the 2005 Pride Fighting Championships middleweight grand prix, where he bested Quinton Jackson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Alistair Overeem and Ricardo Arona to win the tournament. That performance helped launch Rua to the top of many 205-pound rankings -- a spot he would unofficially hold until an upset loss to Forrest Griffin in his UFC debut.
For the most part, however, Rua has commanded the fight arena like his Japanese military counterparts did the battlefield hundreds of years ago. Of his 21 career victories, 19 have come by way of knockout or technical knockout, many in impressively violent fashion. Oftentimes fighters seek out catchy nicknames for themselves, but in the case of “Shogun,” the appropriate alias found him.
4. Randy Couture: “The Natural”
Couture was 34 years old when he made his mixed martial arts debut at the UFC 13 heavyweight tournament in 1997. A three-time NCAA All-American wrestler at Oklahoma State University, he tore through the competition that night, finishing opponents Tony Halme and Steven Graham in a combined 4:09. As it turned out, that was just the beginning. At an age when many athletes were coming to terms with the fact that their primes had come and gone, Couture began making waves in an upstart sport.
When he defeated a 20-year-old and heavily favored Vitor Belfort in his next outing at UFC 15, it was abundantly clear that Couture was going to be pretty good at this MMA thing. By the time he retired following a loss to Lyoto Machida at UFC 129, his resume was unassailable: three-time heavyweight champion, two-time light heavyweight champion, UFC hall of famer and ageless badass.
As his swan song against Machida approached, UFC President Dana White summed up Couture’s tenure with the company to the Las Vegas Sun: “The guy just never ends. Couture is the master of going out there and figuring out a game plan to beat anybody with any style.”
In other words, the man was nothing short of a “Natural.”
3. Quinton Jackson: “Rampage”
Jackson is one of the sport’s few athletes who are recognizable by a single name.
During an interview with TMZ, Jackson revealed that his cousin had dubbed him “Rampage” thanks to a penchant for playing the Midway arcade classic of the same name. In the video game, Jackson favored the King Kong-like character George, whom he used to tear down buildings, eat civilians and generally wreak havoc on the world. In real life, Jackson has lived up to his childhood moniker both inside and out of the cage.
The Tennessee native rose to prominence in Pride Fighting Championships before moving to the UFC and winning the Las Vegas-based promotion’s light heavyweight crown with a technical knockout victory over Chuck Liddell in 2007. Known for entering the cage with a chain around his neck and a menacing glare, Jackson’s power has been evident through his heavy hands and thunderous slams.
“Rampage” has also had his run-ins with the law. While wrestling at a community college in California, Jackson was charged with assaulting a teammate who had allegedly hit him in the face with a phone. Jackson was later arrested at gunpoint after leading police on a high speed chase in California, plowing into several vehicles in the process, just days after he relinquished his belt to Forrest Griffin at UFC 86.
“I don’t see myself doing anything crazy again,” Jackson would later say. “I want to be a positive role model.”
2. Mirko Filipovic: “Cro Cop”
The nickname is not on the birth certificate of the K-1, Pride and UFC veteran, but it sure feels like it should be. Filipovic is one of a handful of fighters whose handle is more commonly used than his given name, whether he is referred to as Mirko “Cro Cop” or simply “Cro Cop.”
Filipovic’s MMA career is littered with memorable moments. Victims of his vaunted left high kick include Wanderlei Silva, Igor Vovchanchyn, Aleksander Emelianenko, Dos Caras Jr. and Yuji Nagata. Additionally, “Cro Cop” owns triumphs over former UFC champions Josh Barnett, Mark Coleman and Kevin Randleman, and he compiled a 16-4-2 record while fighting in Pride, including a victory in the promotion’s loaded 2006 open weight grand prix.
Before he become famous for the “right leg, hospital; left leg, cemetery” routine, Filipovic was a member of Croatia’s elite police Special Forces tactical unit.
Filipovic began his amateur kickboxing career while serving as a commando in a Croatian anti-terrorist unit, and he sometimes competed under the tag “Tigar,” which is Croatian for tiger, in his early kickboxing days. When Filipovic joined Pride in 2001, he left his law enforcement career for good. However, “Cro Cop,” a shorthand nod to his previous calling, stuck with him.
1. Wanderlei Silva: “The Axe Murderer”
Outside of the mixed martial arts arena, Silva is as nice they come: friendly and accommodating to fans, media and fellow fighters alike. However, one does not get a nickname like “The Axe Murderer” for being sweet, and Silva, thanks to an intimidating demeanor and bloodthirsty fighting style, has long been one of the most feared competitors to step into a cage or ring.
Also known as “Cachorro Louco,” or “Mad Dog,” in his native Brazil, Silva’s legend was forged while competing for the International Vale Tudo Championship, where he captured the promotion’s light heavyweight crown in 1999. It is believed that Silva earned his more well-known moniker after he captured the IVC belt with a 32-second triumph over Eugene Jackson. The longtime Chute Boxe Academy standout offered his most serial killer-worthy violence in Japan while competing for the now-defunct Pride Fighting Championships promotion.
There, he authored a 20-fight unbeaten streak that included battles with the likes of Quinton Jackson, Kazushi Sakuraba, Mirko Filipovic and Dan Henderson, to name a few.
Since leaving Pride, Silva has had an up-and-down tenure with the UFC, but his long-awaited encounter with Chuck Liddell at UFC 79 was one of 2007’s best scraps, and his 36-second knockout of Keith Jardine some six months later offered fight fans a brief glimpse of his vintage former self. At his peak, “The Axe Murderer” was known for his fearsome whirlwind of punches, knees and soccer kicks -- a frightening combination indeed.
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order): Jon “Bones” Jones, Brad “One Punch” Pickett, Frank “Twinkle Toes” Trigg, Bas “El Guapo” Rutten, Roy “Big Country” Nelson, Keith “The Dean of Mean” Jardine, David “Tank” Abbott, Jason “Mayhem” Miller, Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko, Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell, Dan “The Beast” Severn, Renato “Babalu” Sobral.