UFC Hall of Famer Stephan Bonnar, who made history as a finalist on the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” has died. He was 45.
Bonnar and Griffin were both inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2013. Their knockdown, drag-out fight on April 9, 2005, is regarded as one of the most important fights in the history of the promotion.
“The Ultimate Fighter” reality series and that fight in particular were critical to landing and keeping the UFC on cable.
The drama of Griffin vs. Bonnar, with both men digging deep in a bloody brawl, has long been an example of what the sport of MMA can be, allowing it to form its own identity separate from other combat sports such as boxing.
Griffin won the fight via unanimous decision to earn a six-figure UFC contract. But the fight was so good that UFC president Dana White awarded Bonnar a contract, as well.
Bonnar competed 26 times as a professional, with 15 UFC appearances and one for Bellator. He made his pro debut in 2001, with his UFC debut eight fights later. Bonnar entered the UFC at 7-1, and although he lost the fight to Griffin, he won his next three.
He split his next four at 2-2 with losses to Rashad Evans and Griffin, and subsequent wins over Mark Nickals and Eric Schaefer.
Bonnar then entered a three-fight skid with defeats to Jon Jones, Marc Coleman, and Krzysztof Soszynski. He won a rematch against Soszynski before defeating Igor Pokrajac and Kyle Kingsbury.
A loss to Anderson Silva in a makeshift UFC 153 main event was his final bout for the promotion. Bonnar parted ways with the promotion after a failed drug test and claimed retirement.
Stephan Bonnar Cause Of Death
The UFC announced the news Saturday, Christmas Eve, and cited heart complications at work as the cause of Bonnar’s death, which occurred Thursday.
However, he reentered competition to fight Tito Ortiz in Bellator in 2014 and lost by a split decision.
In his career, Bonnar faced seven future or former UFC champions: Griffin, Ortiz, Silva, Evans, Jon Jones, Lyoto Machida and Mark Coleman. Bonnar named his first son Griffin after his most significant rival, who went on to become a good friend.
Bonnar, who finished his career with a 15-9 record, also did color commentary over the years for the WEC promotion and worked several times as an MMA analyst for ESPN and Fox Sports.
Following his MMA career, Bonnar took up professional wrestling and made multiple appearances with Impact Wrestling in 2019.