The UFC announced on Saturday, Christmas Eve, that Stephan Bonnar, whose fight with Forrest Griffin put the promotion on the map, died Thursday from presumed heart complications at the age of 45.
Born in Indiana, Bonnar had a background in wrestling and taekwondo before starting Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Carlson Gracie. He began fighting professionally in 2001 earning a spot on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter reality show in 2004. Bonnar’s bout with Griffin in the show’s finale was a thrilling war that many credit with saving the then floundering UFC. The bout was inducted into the company’s hall of fame in 2013.
Finishing with an official career record of 15-9, Bonnar fought the best the UFC had to offer including Anderson Silva, Jon Jones and Lyoto Machida. But both his professional and personal life were marked by controversy including two positive tests for anabolic steroids and multiple DUI arrests. Coming out against vaccination during the COVID epidemic, Bonnar posted angry rants on his social media getting kicked out of a gym for not masking and arguing with hospital personnel as he sought treatment for fractured vertebrae which eventually led to a severe staph infection.
UFC president Dana White said, “Stephan Bonnar was one of the most important fighters to ever compete in the Octagon. His fight with Forrest Griffin changed the sport forever, and he will never be forgotten.”
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