Top 10 Professional MMA Fighters Who Started Late

The MMA is characterized by youthfulness, speed, and brute and usually requires fresh blood within 21 to 25. 

However, not everyone makes it this early as some people first tried some other sports before finally settling with the mixed martial arts. 

Notwithstanding, there are many MMA fighters who started late. 

These biggest late bloomers in the sport didn’t break into the octagon in their early twenties and only joined when the average mixed martial art fighters were retiring.

Below are the top ten professional MMA fighters who started late and their reasons, proving that it is better late than never.

Professional MMA Fighters Who Started Late

10. Brendan Schaub

Started MMA at 26

Brendan Schaub was born on March 18, 1983, and is a retired mixed martial artist and currently a stand-up comedian.

Schaub first started as an American footballer and played football in high school and college.

He got signed in the Utah Blaze professional arena football team after being undrafted by the NFL in 2006 and retired from football in 2007.

Schaub started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and boxing. He met UFC fighter Shane Carwin, and they became training partners, with the latter convincing him to join the octagon. 

Schaub began a career in the UFC in 2009 at 26 and won his first fight against Demico Rogers by submission. He also won the semi-finals fight with Marcus Jones.  

In October 2015, Schaub retired with a professional mixed martial arts record of 10 wins (7 KO, 1 SUB) and 5 losses.

9. Tim Sylvia

Started MMA at 26

Born March 5, 1976, Tim is a retired mixed martial artist who didn’t start his MMA career quite late but was no stranger to fights as he is skilled in karate and wrestled in high school.

Before starting a career in MMA, he worked as a bouncer before getting a job on a construction site where he worked as a painter. 

The American also played semi-pro football For three years before finally focusing on starting a career in the octagon.

He trained with bouncer colleague Marcus Davis for one year and first ventured into grappling and boxing, where he won his first fight in 17 seconds. 

He went on to win other grappling tournaments before finally joining the UFC in 2002 at the age of 26, defeating Wesley Cabbage Correira in his first fight.

Tim recorded a series of successful matches before retiring as a 2-time UFC heavyweight champion in 2015 when his fight with Juliano Coutinho was canceled.

8. Travis Browne

Started MMA at 27

Travis Browne is an active mixed martial artist but has yet to fight since 2017.

The American started with a successful career in basketball and won the player of the year in the Coastal North league in 2000.

At the age of 26, he started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and boxing and began fighting in the MMA in 2009 at 27, where he became undefeated in the Bellator Championship and the king of the cage.

He got signed to the UFC and won his first fight against James McSweeney in 2010. 

Browne won the fight against Stefan Struve in 2011 with a superman punch that won him “knockout of the night.” He also won a fight with Chad Griggs in 2012 by submission.

Travis last competed in 2017 as a Heavyweight in the UFC against Alexey Oleynik, which he lost. He has a mixed martial arts record of 18 wins (14 KO, 2 SUB) and 7 losses.

7. Rich Franklin

Started MMA at 29

Rich Franklin is a retired MMA fighter who started late as he first pursued a teaching career. 

After high school, Franklin earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a master’s degree in education from Cincinnati.

He started teaching mathematics in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the Oak hills high school and, while teaching, got a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in October 2011 under Jorge Gurgel.

In 2003, at the age of 29, he fought for the first time in UFC against Evan Tanner and won the match. 

Franklin followed up with two other victories against Edwin Dewees and Jorge Rivera, which set him on a pretty successful career in the MMA. 

After a mixed martial arts record of 29 wins (20 KO, 5 SUB) and 7 losses, the UFC Middleweight champion retired in 2015 and was inducted into the UFC hall of fame in 2019.

6. Nate Quarry

Started MMA at 29

Nate Quarry is a retired MMA fighter who grew up in a Jehovah’s Witness family and, as such, wasn’t allowed by the church’s belief to participate in sports.

However, the American started training secretly and even had a girlfriend. He was later found and cut off from the church. 

Quarry continued his training till 2001 at the age of 29, when he first competed in an MMA fight against Drew McFedries and won. 

Quarry first competed in the UFC in the Ultimate Fighter finale against Lodune Sincaid, which he won.

He retired soon after with a mixed martial arts record of 12 wins (7 KO, 4 SUB) and 4 losses and started to co-host MMA uncensored live.

5. Sean McCorkle

Started MMA at 29

Sean McCorkle is also a retired American mixed martial artist who started his MMA career late because of his high school and college basketball involvement.

However, he dropped out of college to start his own business. 

Sean started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in 2005 and met 2 UFC fighters, Jake O’Brien and Chris Lytle, who persuaded him to join the MMA.

That same year at the age of 29, he joined the octagon and fought under the Super-Heavyweight division.

In 2006 on New Year’s Eve, he ended up with a broken arm and a dislocated shoulder during his fight with Jeremy Norton. The injury took him out for fourteen months before returning to the octagon. 

After an MMA record of 20 wins (11 KO, 8 SUB) and 7 losses, Sean retired in 2014 at 38 due to a back injury he had been nursing.

4. Chuck Liddell

Started MMA at 29

Chuck Liddell is a retired mixed martial artist who learned boxing from his maternal grandfather as a child.

He played football in high school and joined wrestling at the California Polytechnic State University.

Liddell kicked off his MMA career as a trainee under Jon Lewis in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He fought in the UFC for the first time in 1998 at 29, defeating Noe Hernandez. 

He was also the first UFC fighter to fight in pride and won Guy Mezger by knockout. Liddell won several titles and was inducted into the hall of fame in July 2009.

He retired in March 2020 with a mixed martial arts record of 21 wins (13 KO, 1 SUB) and 9 losses.

3. Greg Hardy

Started MMA at 30

Greg Mckarl Hardy is one of the oldest mixed martial artists currently. The American started his MMA career quite late as it was more of a second option after his American football career.

Greg played college football for the University of Mississippi and six seasons with several NFL teams like the Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys, and the Richmond Roughriders. 

Despite having a pretty successful career in football, he revealed his intention to pursue a career in the MMA in 2016 and that he has been training for months.

Actualizing his wish, he started as an amateur fighter with his first fight against Joe Hawkins the following year. He won the match in 32-seconds. 

Hardy fought Austen lane in the 2018 Dana White’s contender series and won the match convincingly. His win earned him a contract with the UFC at 30 and has been entirely convincing.

As of date, Greg Hardy has a mixed martial arts record of 7 wins (6 KO, 1 SUB) and 5 losses.

2. Matt Mitrione

Started MMA at 31

Matt Mitrione is a mixed martial artist who recently competed for Bellator after leaving UFC. As a child, the American trained in Shotokan karate to help control his high hyperactivity.

He later started a career in football and got a football scholarship for college. He was undrafted by the NFL in 2002 but was signed by the New York Giants.

Mitrione’s interest in MMA began after Jayson Werth, his friend and baseball player, invited him to fight in his inaugural promotion.

He joined the UFC at the age of 31 in the 2009 Ultimate Fighter heavyweight finale, where he won against Marcus Jones in the second round. 

Mitrione also won Tim Hague in January 2011 in the first round. He was Scheduled to fight Tyrell Fortune on April 2, 2021, but he pulled out and got replaced by Jack May. 

He eventually fought Fortune at Bellator 262 on July 16, 2021, and lost the bout by submitting. Mitrione has a total of 13 wins (11 KO) and 9 losses.

1. Kevin Ferguson

Started MMA at 33

Kevin Ferguson, popularly known as Kimbo Slice, was a Bahamian-American mixed martial artist and professional boxer.

After graduating from the University of Miami through a football Scholarship, Ferguson was tried out in the Miami Dolphins in 1997 but couldn’t break into the team.

He took up a bouncer job in a strip club before working as a bodyguard and then as a driver for RK Net media.

Ferguson started street fighting and soon after became an internet sensation. He fought for the first time in MMA in June 2007 at 33 and won his first fight against Mercer.

In October of the same year, he got signed to ProElite and joined Bellator MMA in 2015, where he won his first fight against Ken Shamrock. 

Slice was to fight James Thompson in a rematch in 2016 when he sadly passed away due to heart failure.

Bottom Line

“It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.”

― George Washington

No matter how old you are, it is never too late to chase your dreams and succeed. 

If any of these professional MMA fighters who started late dwelled on their ages as an excuse to abandon their dreams, they would have lived an ordinary life, telling themselves bullshit stories about why they couldn’t.

If you enjoyed this article, also check out Top 10 Professional Boxers Who Started Late.

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Featured Image: Esther Lin / MMA Fighting