(L)
The late Curt Hennig shows why they called him “Mr. Perfect”; (R)
Jean-Claude Van Daaaamn, that’s a sweet haircut

When you think about it, it only makes sense that MMA and mullets
would get along famously. From its roots in vale tudo,
no-holds-barred fighting has been about the combination of styles
into an all-encompassing mixed martial art. Similarly, a
truly successful mullet is a harmonious blend of two or more
haircuts. Outside the cage or ring, the influences are there, as
well. Martial arts films of the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s were
an enormously formative influence on future mixed martial artists,
as was the kissing-cousins relationship between professional
wrestling and MMA. Along with showmanship and stylistic
aspirations, chop-socky cinema and pro wrasslin’ brought with them
a serious penchant for bi-level hairstyles.

With the relationship between the warrior’s hairstyle and the
warrior’s sport firmly established from the beginning, it is no
surprise that the history of modern mixed martial arts features a
wealth of spectacular mullets, and now that the unexpected runaway
success of the Netflix documentary “Tiger King” has brought the
world’s greatest haircut back into the public eye, there could be
no better time to immortalize them. What follows are the five
greatest mulleted fighters of all-time. The list was compiled by
the MMA Hall of [email protected]#$%^g Awesome committee, using a
complicated secret formula that took into account the career of the
fighter, as well as the aesthetic excellence of his or her
trademark mullet. Thus, the higher names on the list might not own
the most impressive records or the most splendid plumage, but they
managed to embody the best of both worlds, just like the mullet
itself.

As a final note, the committee took into account primarily those
things that a fighter accomplished while flying the flag of
Mulletania. Vitor
Belfort
, for example, has an all-time great legacy in the
sport, but only wore the mullet for a few glorious years and was
penalized as a result. The mullet is a jealous mistress and does
not smile upon those who fear long-term commitment.

Honorable Mention

Vitor
Belfort
:
“The Phenom” already had an impressive legacy
at heavyweight and light heavyweight by 2013, when he authored one
of MMA’s most remarkable career reinventions by dropping to
middleweight and felling Top 10 contenders Michael
Bisping
, Luke
Rockhold
and Dan
Henderson
with a new arsenal of spectacular head kicks. His
detractors claimed it was all due to testosterone replacement
therapy, while Belfort himself credited faith, family and good
genetics. Of course, we know the truth: It was the mullet.

Belfort’s restless pursuit of new hairstyles never before seen by
God or man meant that his love affair with the world’s greatest
haircut was short lived, and by the time 2014 rolled around, it had
already mutated into a hybrid Mohawk/mullet that barely even
qualified. Perhaps not coincidentally, he never again reached the
heights of that incredible three-fight tear.

Amanda
Nunes
:
At this point, there are two kinds of people in
the world: people who believe Nunes is the greatest female fighter
ever and those who are wrong. The two-division champ’s incredible
résumé includes first-round knockouts of the previous greatest
featherweight of all-time (Cristiane
Justino
) and the previous greatest bantamweight of all-time
(Ronda
Rousey
), as well as two wins over the greatest flyweight of
all-time (Valentina
Shevchenko
). Add to that her knockouts of Holly Holm,
Germaine
de Randamie
and Julia Budd,
plus her rear-naked choke of Miesha Tate,
and Nunes has stoppage victories over every other woman who has
ever held an Ultimate Fighting Championship or Bellator MMA title in either of the two divisions in
which she competes.

Unfortunately for the purposes of this list, the “Lioness” only
embraced the true glory of her mane in the early years of her
career, so her unparalleled dominance in the cage is held back by
her questionable commitment to the mullet. If Nunes wishes to
appear in the Top 5 next time, she knows what to do.

Keith
Hackney
/Harold
Howard
:
If there were a Mixed Martial Mullet Hall of
Fame, and it had a “pioneer wing,” these two would not only be in
it, but their names would be over the door. Both debuted at UFC 3,
bringing some sorely needed splendor to the still-new promotion.
They represented the perfect duality of the mullet. Hackney’s was
the neatly blended and carefully brushed coiffure of an 1980s
action movie hero, equally at home at the hockey rink or the
business office in the back of that hockey rink, while Howard’s
blond mane was so wild, untamed and distinctive that he was legally
allowed to present it in lieu of a passport when traveling to or
from his native Canada.

While neither man spent long in no-holds-barred fighting, both left
their mark. Howard, of course, blessed the sport with one of its
first immortal sound bites—“If you’re comin’ on … come on!”—while
Hackney, like some kind of time-traveling vigilante from the
future, famously unloaded a stream of punches to the cup of
Joe Son at
UFC 4—an act that would only be vindicated years later when Son
turned out to be one of the most despicable criminals ever to pass
through MMA.

Easily the youngest of the fighters on this list at 27 years of
age, Simon may not have hit his competitive peak yet. Assuming his
commitment to the mullet remains strong, he could be a fast riser
on this list, as his hair game is nearly unmatched in the annals of
major MMA. Those who have seen him ply his trade, whether in the
Octagon, during his victorious appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series or his stints in
Legacy Fighting Alliance or Titan Fighting Championship, know that Simon
flies the flag proudly. His is not a borderline mullet, but a true,
flowing, lovingly grown work of hair art.

Simon’s mullet exists in perfect synergy with his fight style,
which is characterized by a frenetic work rate—even for a
bantamweight—with punching flurries melting seamlessly into his
scrambling-heavy grappling game. Combined with his unshorn locks,
the effect is like a small, mulleted tornado. It is enough to bring
a tear to even the most jaded aficionado of mixed martial mullets
and clearly a hit with squares as well, as attested by his two
“Fight of the Night” bonuses in five UFC appearances. Disturbingly,
a mullet-less Simon was seen in the cage at UFC Fight Night 171—a
choice he attributed to his wife’s distaste for the hairstyle.
However, love makes people do crazy things, and Simon has plenty of
time to right the ship. May he keep it going strong for the new
generation of fighters.

Considering that Minowa went to work wearing nothing but a bright
red Speedo for over two decades, it is a wonder that anyone even
noticed his hair, so the fact that his mullet became just as
essential a visual trademark as his banana hammock is high praise
indeed. Minowa’s mullet was a great one: fairly conservative in
length but always impeccably trimmed, which is an achievement in
itself considering just how often it had to be camera-ready.

“Minowaman” racked up some MMA superlatives simply through the
cumulative power of his longevity and prolific schedule. With a
résumé that includes such outliers on the human genome as Bob Sapp,
Wagner
da Conceicao “Zuluzinho” Martins
, Paulo Cesar
“Giant” Silva
, Hong Man
Choi
, Eric “Butterbean”
Esch
and Jimmy
Ambriz
, he is probably MMA’s all-time career leader in fights
with opponents standing over 7-feet tall and/or weighing over 300
pounds, a remarkable statistic for a 5-foot-9 middleweight. It is
fitting that he won the Dream Super Hulk Grand Prix, as he should have been
awarded the belt as a lifetime achievement award anyway.

Similarly, with well over 100 fights in a professional campaign
that ran from 1996 to 2017 and an admirable commitment to the
strongest hairstyle, Minowa is likely Team Mullet’s all-time leader
in career appearances. We would certainly stop short of claiming
Minowa was a great fighter; he chose to embrace spectacle and
entertainment over straightforward sporting achievement just as
early and just as fervently as he embraced the mullet. However, he
was often a very good fighter and certainly a unique and memorable
one; and his was an all-time great mullet.

For several years in the late 2000s, Torres was among the top
pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. His reign as one of the top
mullets in the sport, of course, was much longer. Torres sported a
mane as unique and aggressive as his fight style: a spiky,
sidewalled shag that was often nicknamed the “wolf cut,” yet it was
undeniably a mullet in all its glory. An entire generation of fight
fans who had grown up on Final Fantasy VII and Kingdom Hearts
looked at Torres and saw the ghost of their favorite escaped lab
animal: Red XIII.

In his competitive prime, Torres offered up a formidable
combination of rangy kickboxing and a hyper-aggressive,
submission-focused guard game that was hampered by somewhat porous
takedown defense. He rode that style as far as it would carry him,
which was pretty far, especially when backed up by his natural
toughness and dogfight mentality. He started his career 37-1 and
captured the World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight belt
when it was arguably the most prestigious title in its weight class
anywhere in the world.

Torres’ reign of terror over the division finally ended at the
hands of Brian
Bowles
, though for the record, the Mullet Committee still
believes it was unfair that he had to fight a guy named Bowles who
had a bowl cut. Subsequent setbacks against Joseph
Benavidez
and Demetrious
Johnson
—even if he arguably won the latter—showed that the fun
was over, and Torres quickly disappeared from contention once he
landed in the UFC. However, nothing can erase the breathtaking
excellence of his trademark mullet or the glory of his initial WEC
run.

Let us be honest: It would be disappointing if a fighter who went
by the nickname “Big Country” did not have a mullet and an
impressive one at that. Fortunately, the longtime heavyweight
contender did not let us down, sporting a truly spectacular set of
plumage that at its best—and before he let his beard grow
unchecked—left him looking like an alternate-universe Billy Ray
Cyrus that had just eaten his own twin.

Nelson’s career accomplishments are as impressive in their own way
as his mullet. Going into the all-heavyweight Season 10 of “The
Ultimate Fighter,” Nelson was picked ninth, in spite of being the
final International Fight League heavyweight champion
and the most experienced fighter in the cast. Nelson won with
relative ease—he defeated No. 1 pick James
McSweeney
, No. 2 Kevin
Ferguson
, No. 3 Brendan
Schaub
and No. 5 Justin Wren
along the way—to secure the Ultimate Fighting Championship contract. The
sight of UFC President Dana White presenting Nelson “The Ultimate
Fighter” trophy, looking more miserable than he would ever look
while giving an award to a fighter not named Tyron
Woodley
, all while Nelson rubbed his ample gut, made “Big
Country” an instant anti-hero to a certain sector of fans.

Nelson’s success story continued from there, as he settled into a
lengthy run as a Top 10 heavyweight in the UFC. He looked like an
everyman—if every man had a fantastic mullet—and fought like every
fan’s dream: a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who appeared to
loathe grappling and instead knocked out one contender after
another with his crushing overhand right. After an impressive UFC
run that included two “Knockout of the Night” bonuses and one
“Performance of the Night” for a knockout, Nelson carried his
oversized belly, power and personality to Bellator MMA, where his future is unclear after a
string of losses.

Ultimately, Nelson’s blend of mullet aesthetics and fighting legacy
is hard to top, and the only thing keeping him from the top spot is
a breakdown in mullet discipline in recent years. The
once-immaculate meeting of No. 2 clippers and hair gel depicted in
his picture has given way to a hairstyle that is sometimes long on
the sides—not a mullet—or tied up in the back with a rubberband.
Mullet or not, that is just a questionable life choice.

Disturbingly, Nelson’s rugged beard has been allowed to take over
the show more and more in the last few years. While it is
forgivable that he has cut his hair shorter in the back from time
to time, there have been numerous occasions when his beard has been
longer than his hair, which is unacceptable unless he was trying to
see if he could spend a day walking backwards everywhere without
anyone noticing. In any event, the lack of mullet grooming and the
beard takeover have left Nelson looking less like a member of the
Rock and Roll Express and more like a walking ad for that shredded
beef jerky that comes in cans like Skoal, which is unfortunate.

Here is where we contradict much of what we have proclaimed up to
now. Pyle went for long stretches of his career without wearing a
mullet, a sin for which we have penalized several of his worthy
colleagues. The Church of the Holy Mullet frowns on divorce, yet
“Quicksand” has broken and remade his vows to the world’s greatest
haircut several times. Why is this allowed?

Frankly, it is a matter of quality. For those periods that Pyle
chose to embrace the mullet, he epitomized its sheer majesty in a
way about which normal mortals could only dream. When Pyle went to
his barber and said, “Give me the Kentucky Waterfall,” what
resulted was literal perfection. Look at the image. There is no
angle from which his mullet is not visible—and beautiful. Like a
Gale Sayers or Sandy Koufax, the briefness of his mullet’s career
only serves as a heartbreaking reminder of what could have been.
For an example that might be more relatable to a younger generation
of sports fans, every other haircut Pyle ever had was the
equivalent of those two years that Michael Jordan played baseball:
sad and distracting but ultimately not that big a deal. He is still
greater than LeBron James.

Pyle’s fight career stacks up, as well. One of MMA’s ultimate late
bloomers, he debuted in the 1990s yet was still a Top 10 fighter in
the mid-aughts, a remarkable feat for a non-heavyweight. Beyond
simply sticking around, he retooled his game and evolved in a way
very few fighters do. Along the way, he racked up an impressive
record and an even more impressive highlight reel. In fact, his
underrated one-of-a-kind career has the HOFA committee discussing
him this month for reasons other than his hair.

Ultimately, Pyle stands as the exception that proves the rule.
Outside of his example, this list of the greatest mixed martial
mullets rewards the only truly devoted, because otherwise, the
other candidates would have had to match his perfection—an
impossible feat. Pyle’s mullet reminds us to appreciate greatness
while we can, and so we shall.

Sherdog Senior Editor Ben Duffy does not have a mullet but kind
of looks like he does from the side.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here