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MMA SQUARED: 2021 Tragedy Awards, the category is ‘Life After the UFC’

There are no happy endings in MMA, but sometimes you get a money.

MMA SQUARED, Chris Rini, UFC, Awards, 2021, Jake Paul, Tyron Woodley, Ben Askren,
MMA SQUARED, Chris Rini, UFC, Awards, 2021, Jake Paul, Tyron Woodley, Ben Askren,

Our first nominee is Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson.

After winning three consecutive fights in the ONE promotion, Johnson committed the cardinal sin of saying he enjoyed how the promotion’s ruleset allowed for knees to a grounded opponent in the lead up to his championship fight versus Adriano Moraes. In the subsequent bout, Johnson was the recipient of the aforementioned grounded knees and quickly rendered unconscious.

Rory MacDonald, one of the most unfairly burdened* fighters of all time, sought to claim one last big payday in the PFL’s welterweight tournament. The Canadian started strong by slicing through Curtis Millender with a first round rear naked choke, but found himself in a close-but-he-should-have-won second round fight versus Gleison Tibau. As the scores were read and Tibau declared the winner via split decision, MacDonald threw his hand up in disgust, resignation, and a sort of hopelessness. The pose was just like one of the Burghers of Calais, by Augstus Rodin and if you know the story behind the artwork... a relatable feeling. I’m convinced this loss killed MacDonald’s momentum and contributed to his lackluster Semifinals performance versus eventual million dollar winner, Ray Cooper III.

Paige VanZant sounded like she’d made a smart move to Bare Knuckle FC. The perky pugilist promised performances that would pay princely sums. Unfortunately for Van Zant her opponents were up to the task and while both of her fights were action packed five round affairs, success hung on her winning. It is expected that PVZ will fight out her contract with BKFC in 2022.

We have said so much about Ben Askren, Tyron Woodley, and the Jake Paul experience. Reputations and legacies have been questioned, tarnished, and generally dragged through the media mudpit. But no one can argue that these men did not get paid and in the fight game, that’s a win.

Cast your sad vote below.


2021 Tragedy Awards: Life After the UFC

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Demetrious Johnson
    (83 votes)
  • 23%
    Rory MacDonald
    (228 votes)
  • 13%
    Paige VanZant
    (128 votes)
  • 7%
    Ben Askren
    (77 votes)
  • 46%
    Tyron Woodley
    (452 votes)
968 votes total Vote Now

A note about the artwork, as many of you know I publish The Fine Art of Violence, an annual book of art and essays that looks back at the year in MMA. Volume 3 is almost finished and it will feature artwork by myself, the comic artist Juni Ba, and pro illustrator, art teacher and MMA lover, Marco Bucci.

This year I wanted to try something new, putting together a grid of digital paintings that function as a snapshot of 2021, below is a rough draft. I hope you’ll pick up a digital or IRL copy of the book when it comes out. Thanks for all the support and your feedback, it’s a real pleasure on my end. The book is available at and you can email me at chris dot rini at gmail dot come to reserve a copy of the coming volume or request a reprint of a previous volume.

MMA SQUARED, Chris Rini, UFC, Awards, 2021, Jake Paul, Tyron Woodley, Ben Askren, Chris Rini

Take care of yourself and I’ll talk to you Monday.