Several professional fighters took to social media to respond to the sudden death of UFC Hall of Famer Stephan Bonnar, who passed away on Thursday. He was 45.
The UFC announced on Saturday that Bonnar died on December 22 from “suspected cardiac complications,” prompting several people, including UFC President Dana White and others, to remember his legacy and impact on the sport.
In a statement, White highlighted the role of Bonnar, nicknamed “The American Psycho” when he launched The Ultimate Fighter series.
Bonnar, a season one finalist, is widely recognized as the pioneer behind UFC’s early success following his thrilling three-round duel with season one winner Forrest Griffin at the April 9, 2005 TUF Finals.
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“Stephan Bonnar was one of the most important fighters to ever compete in the Octagon,” said the UFC president.
Former Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar commented, “Stephan Bonner is a key ingredient in the growth of our sport. I remember watching him and Forest fight and thought I have to try this. RIP a true pioneer!”
BJ Penn, another former lightweight champion, added, “RIP Legend.”
“Terrible news. One of the nicest guys in MMA,” he added in another tweet.
UFC welterweight contender Michael Chiesa similarly noted, “My condolences go out to Stephan Bonnar’s family. His fight with Forrest Griffin changed the landscape of MMA and took it to the next level. He’s a big part of the reason we’re here today.”
UFC flyweight champion Cody Durden added: “RIP to the man who helped keep the sport alive! Prayers for your friends and family!”
Former middleweight champion Michael Bisping also got involved. As did longtime UFC referee John McCarthy.
In the TUF1 Finals, Bonnar and Griffin took part in one of the UFC’s most iconic fights – one that forever changed the UFC as a place to sport and entertain.
“His fight with Forrest Griffin changed the sport forever and he will never be forgotten,” White said Saturday. “The fans loved him, were related to him and he always gave them his best. He will be missed.”
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Griffin won the bloody brawl by decision, but both men received UFC contracts for their remarkable performances.
In July 2013, just over eight years after the competition, both fighters were inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“As far as this company goes, sure, but as far as this sport goes, that was the most important fight in the history of this company,” White said at the time, according to the Bleacher Report. “By the time that fight happened, you know where we were at that time and what was happening with the sport. We were $44 million in the hole in this deal.”
“In the six minutes of this fight, 12 million people tuned in. Do you know how crazy that is? Do you know what crazy numbers those are? There has never been a more important fight in UFC history. There has never been a more important important fight than perhaps UFC 1 in mixed martial arts history,” White added at the Hall of Fame ceremony.
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The two men engaged in a rematch on August 26, 2006, in which Griffin also won by decision.
A native of Hammond, Indiana, Bonnar has competed in fights with several former champions including Griffin, Tito Ortiz, Anderson Silva, Rashad Evans, Jon Jones, Lyoto Machida and Mark Coleman.
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He ended his career with a record 15 wins and nine losses.
Also last month, former UFC veteran Anthony “Rumble” Johnson died after a long battle with an undisclosed illness.
Fox News’ Ryan Morik contributed to this report.