The state of Oregon has not had many MMA fighters, but they have had multiple natives achieve plenty of success in the sport. If someone were to make a Mount Rushmore of Oregonian fighters, the top four would have to be Chael Sonnen, Paige VanZant, Matt Lindland, and Colby Covington. They all faced adversity throughout their careers but still garnered success and notoriety in the sport.
He started as an All-American wrestler at the University of Oregon but found his way into MMA and left a lasting effect on the sport. He used his wrestling base to force opponents to the ground where he could control them. He was effective even in title fights against the best in the world, but his weakness in the cage was his jiu-Jitsu. He lost nine times in his career via submission, one of them being in one of the most memorable fights in UFC history. At UFC 117, Sonnen challenged Anderson Silva for the middleweight title and dominated the entire fight. Ultimately, he tapped to Silva in the fifth round in a stunning loss.
Sonnen is still considered one of the best trash-talkers in the sport, and it was always must-watch tv when he was on the microphone. He was like a professional wrestler on the mic and was one of the first to bring that style to the UFC. Many have followed in his path since then, but he showed other fighters that being entertaining on the mic would also help your career.
The MMA career of Paige VanZant had many injuries but not many monumental wins, but she helped propel women’s MMA forward. She had five wins and four losses in the UFC and was 8-5 overall but increased popularity for women in MMA. Ronda Rousey and Amanda Nunes were undoubtedly more important to the sport, but VanZant’s popularity is worthy of credit. An instance of her popularity is when she was one of six fighters signed to a sponsorship deal with Reebok despite being the only one never to challenge for a title. She has 3.2 million followers on Instagram and is only behind Ronda Rousey.
Matt “The Law” Lindland was a silver medalist Greco-Roman wrestler at the 2000 Summer Olympics and was a dominant collegiate wrestler. He is still active in coaching wrestling and MMA at his gym in Oregon. He did not win many fights against the elite competition, which he faced outside the UFC, but amassed a record of 22-9 fighting guys like Fedor Emelianenko, Jacare Souza, Vitor Belfort, and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.
Covington was born in Clovis, California, but moved to Oregon in his youth and ended up wrestling for Oregon State, where he was an All-American. In MMA, he has a 17-3 record, with two losses coming in title fights against Kamaru Usman. Covington seems to draw inspiration from Chael Sonnen in many ways. He averages 4.05 takedowns per 15 minutes inside the octagon and has become a controversial figure outside it. His persona helped him gain popularity in the sport and more lucrative fights. People either love or hate him for what he says and his actions, which gets fans engaged and invested in him. Chael Sonnen opened the door for fighters to entertain outside the octagon, and guys like Conor McGregor and Covington ran with it.