Stephan Bonnar, a UFC Hall of Famer who made history as a finalist on the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” has died. He was 45.
The UFC announced the news on Christmas Eve, citing heart complications at work as the cause of Bonnar’s death on Thursday.
“The American Psycho” Bonnar, an MMA legend, was one half of the fight that many credit with turning around the then-struggling UFC. Although he lost that fight against Forrest Griffin in the “Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale” in April 2005, the impact was felt for generations to come. In 2013, the fight was inducted into The UFC Hall of Fame’s Fight Wing.
“Stephan Bonnar was one of the most important fighters to ever compete in the octagon,” said UFC President Dana White. “His fight with Forrest Griffin changed the sport forever, and he will never be forgotten. The fans adored him, identified with him, and he always gave them his all. He will be sorely missed.”
Bonnar fought 26 times as a professional, 15 for the UFC and one for Bellator. He made his pro debut in 2001, and eight fights later, he made his UFC debut. Bonnar entered the UFC with a 7-1 record, and despite losing to Griffin, he went on to win his next three fights.
He went 2-2 in his next four matches, losing to Rashad Evans and Griffin and winning to Mark Nickals and Eric Schaefer. Bonnar then went on a three-fight losing streak, losing to Jon Jones, Marc Coleman, and Krzysztof Soszynski. He defeated Igor Pokrajac and Kyle Kingsbury before defeating Soszynski again.
His final fight for the promotion was a loss to Anderson Silva in a makeshift UFC 153 main event. After failing a drug test, Bonnar resigned from the promotion and declared retirement. However, he returned to the ring in 2014 to face Tito Ortiz in Bellator, where he was defeated by a split decision.
Following his final MMA fight, Bonnar was in the news on a regular basis. After a two-year build on the independent pro wrestling circuit, he competed for Impact Wrestling in 2019. Bonnar briefly returned to the MMA scene in 2020 as a cornerman for fellow TUF 1 contestant Diego Sanchez. When Bonnar’s house burned down in April 2022, he faced new challenges outside the cage.
Bonnar was a beloved figure in the MMA community due to his toughness and significance to the sport. Many fighters, promoters, fans, and loved ones took to social media on Saturday to express their sorrow over the death of a UFC pioneer.