In a sport like mixed martial arts where fighters can win or lose in multiple ways, combatants are not expected to keep undefeated records for the length of their careers. A strong striker has the chance to lose in a grappling exchange. A talented submission specialist may get knocked out trying to close the distance.
Even undefeated combat sports greats such as Floyd Mayweather and Khabib Nurmagomedov have controversial decisions on their records.
The difference between fighters earning title shots in boxing than MMA is that the fighter is typically signed by a promoter in boxing, who will challenge for a title which are owned by sanctioning bodies. This would then be on the responsibility of the promoter to build up their fighter in order to earn enough marketing power to warrant a title shot.
In MMA, the fighter would be signed to a promotion, who would then challenge for a title held by the promotion.
The main sticking points between both would be that a fighter's marketability can easily be derailed with a loss in boxing, as the fighters would have to negotiate between camps, promoters and television networks in order to navigate their way to the title. With MMA, if the fighters continue to fight the best, they can continue to make their way back up toward the top no matter what their record is, as there is a ranking in who reaches the top.
With that being said, we look at the five worst mixed martial arts records to earn title shots in the UFC.
Maurice Smith (5-7) vs. Mark Coleman at UFC 14 for UFC Heavyweight Title
Smith was a champion kickboxer winning titles for WKA/WKC, plus fighting for K-1 in the later stages of his career. He was first introduced to mixed martial arts in mixed-rules competition knocking out legend Minoru Suzuki in 1989.
In the early stages of MMA, Smith fought for Pancrase and Rings, until being invited to face Mark Coleman for the UFC heavyweight title in July 1997. At the time, Coleman was an undefeated 6-0, unifying the UFC heavyweight title and Superfight Championship with a submission win over Dan Severn at UFC 12, following Coleman's tournament victories at UFC 10 and UFC 11. Smith was a huge underdog going into the bout.
During the fight, Coleman utilized his Olympic-level wrestling for takedowns and attempted to use his famed ground-and-pound to wear out Smith. Using his guard, Smith survived the onslaught, tiring out Coleman. Smith would eventually get back to his feet and control the remainder of the fight, winning a unanimous decision to claim the UFC title with a record under .500.
Mark Hunt (10-8-1) vs. Fabricio Werdum at UFC 180 for UFC Heavyweight Title
Fabricio Werdum defeated Travis Browne at UFC on FOX 11 to earn a title shot against Cain Velasquez. Werdum and Velasquez were scheduled to coach the first season of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America and would fight for Velasquez's belt at UFC 180.
Just under four weeks from the fight, Velasquez would withdraw from the bout due to a knee injury.
At the time, Hunt was ranked sixth in the division with Velasquez, Werdum, Junior Dos Santos, Travis Browne, Stipe Miocic and Josh Barnett all ranked ahead.
How did Hunt end up receiving the title shot?
Just one month prior, Junior Dos Santos was scheduled to face Stipe Miocic to headline their own event in December. Also, during this time, UFC would only schedule title fights for fighters who have won their latest fights. This would eliminate Browne, who just lost to Werdum for the shot at the title, and Barnett who had not fought since losing to Browne almost a year before. With Velasquez injured and Werdum looking for a dance partner, this leaves Hunt who was fresh off knocking out Roy Nelson.
Hunt would put on a spirited bout against Werdum eventually getting knocked out by a flying knee midway through the second round.
Nicco Montano (3-2) vs. Roxanne Modafferi (21-14) at TUF 26 Finale for inaugural UFC Women's Flyweight Title
Surprisingly, two of the worst winning percentages to earn UFC world title shots happened to be in the same fight.
The Ultimate Fighter 26 was to introduce a women's flyweight division to the UFC. While the likes of an undersized women's bantamweight contender, Valentina Shevchenko, was looked at as the champion-in-waiting, a tournament was underway to see who would hold the inaugural belt.
With TUF bouts being considered exhibition fights, the wins during the competition would not be added to the fighters' professional records.
Montano would enter the finale with only five professional fights to her name, while Modafferi would enter the bout with just over a winning percentage of 60%.
Montano would win a unanimous decision to claim the title, but be stripped just prior to UFC 228 after being hospitalized and pulled out of her first title defense after complications due to weight cutting.
Raquel Pennington (9-5) vs. Amanda Nunes at UFC 224 for UFC Women's Bantamweight Title
Pennington may be unwarranted on this list as she had an extensive amateur career going 9-2 in amateur and exhibition bouts, including a stint on The Ultimate Fighter 18.
Most of 'Rocky's' losses came prior to her UFC career as she had a decent winning percentage heading into her title fight going 6-2 in the promotion. At three points during Pennington's career she was sporting a .500 record. However, it is worth mentioning that in her fifteen professional fights in the UFC, she has faced eight former UFC champions or title challengers.
After defeating and retiring previous women's bantamweight champion Miesha Tate to extend her four-fight winning streak, Pennington got her title shot against Amanda Nunes. Pennington would face the Brazilian eighteen months later. Nunes would dominate Pennington in striking exchanges throughout the fight to retain her bantamweight title.