The world of combat sports reflects on the life of Hall of Famer and UFC pioneer Stephan Bonnar

The combat sports world was shocked to learn of the passing of UFC Hall of Famer Stephan Bonnar last weekend.

According to, Bonnar died of a suspected heart condition while working. He was 45 years old.

“Stephan Bonnar was one of the most important fighters to ever compete in the Octagon,” UFC President Dana White said. “His fight with Forrest Griffin changed the sport forever, and he will never be forgotten. The fans loved (and) connected with him, and he always gave them his best. He will be missed. “

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Bonnar was immortalized in MMA lore when he fought Griffin in the season one finale of “The Ultimate Fighter.” The fight created a massive viewership boost for the UFC while the promotion was still on Spike. Bonnar and Griffin’s performance was credited with single-handedly saving the organization at a time when the UFC was in debt and there were selling ideas.

Stephan was many things: he was always the most interesting person in the room, he had the biggest heart, and most importantly, he was my friend. I always liked people getting excited when they found out we were really friends. I will always miss you, my brother.

— Forrest Griffin (@ForrestGriffin) December 28, 2022 Who was Stephan Bonnar?

Bonnar was part of the world of combat sports from the age of 10. The two-time Golden Gloves amateur boxing champion learned Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at 22 and Muay Thai at 24. His background in jiu-jitsu comes from Carlson Gracie.

He made his professional debut in 2001. Four years later, he took part in the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter”. Bonnar fought Griffin in the final of the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, losing by unanimous decision. Not only was this fight one of the best fights in company history, but it was also the most important.

The two engaged in a Marvin Hagler-like first round against Thomas Hearns. From there, Bonnar and Griffin continued at a nonstop pace, landing a total of 145 shots. The judges scored the fight for Griffin, but Bonnar got a contract for his efforts.

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Many credit this fight with saving the company and introducing it to a new generation of fans. The UFC might not have been the juggernaut it is today if not for Bonnar vs. Griffin. Both were inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2013 on the fighting wing.

The two faced off again a year after their infamous fight, with Griffin once again victorious.

After that fight, Bonnar went 8-6 with the UFC, fighting James Irvin, Rashad Evans, Jon Jones and Krzysztof Soszynski. His last UFC fight was a TKO loss to Anderson Silva in 2012. Bonnar’s last fight in MMA was a split decision loss to Tito Ortiz in Bellator in 2014.

Outside of MMA, Bonnar has competed in professional wrestling for a number of promotions including House of Glory and Impact Wrestling.

The world of combat sports remembers Stephan Bonnar

The Bonnar-Griffin fight helped attract new fans and inspire future fighters.

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From sports legends to the current generation, the combat sports community honored Bonnar after his death.

Stephan Bonner a key element in the growth of our sport. I remember seeing him and Forest fight and thinking, I have to try this. RIP to a true pioneer!

— Frankie Edgar (@FrankieEdgar) December 25, 2022

I heard about it early this morning. Truly a heartbreaking loss. So sad. Thoughts go out to his family.

— Michael (@bisping) December 24, 2022

It was Stephan Bonnar at UFC 116 after beating Krzysztof Soszynski.

It was the most moving post-fight speech of his career and it illustrated why he was loved.

— MMA History Today (@MMAHistoryToday) December 25, 2022

Bonnar/Griffin changed the UFC forever! If you knew @StephanBonnar, it was impossible not to love him, a loyal friend with a great sense of humor who once occupied an entire floor of our hotel in Australia cooking his own kangaroo meal! RIP American Psycho, gone too young!

— Mike Goldberg (@GoldieOnTV) December 25, 2022

As all MMA fans know, Stephan was a pioneer in the sport. But he was also so nice and fun to work with. Whenever we saw him, even after his fighting career, he always lit up the room. Prayers for him and his loved ones at this difficult time.

— Megan Olivi (@MeganOlivi) December 24, 2022

My condolences go out to the family of Stephan Bonnar. His fight with Forrest Griffin changed the landscape of the sport of MMA and pushed it to the next level. He’s a big part of why we’re here today.

— Michael Chiesa (@MikeMav22) December 24, 2022

Stephan Bonnar vs. Forrest Griffin was the first mma fight I ever watched, and it completely changed my life.

It is incredibly heartbreaking to hear the news of Stephan’s passing. Another party too soon. My thoughts are with his family during this time 🙏🏻

— Megan Anderson (@MeganAnderson) December 24, 2022

Stephan Bonnar, you were one of the toughest, funniest guys I’ve ever met. You left far too soon but you accomplished so much in a short time. You helped change the sport forever, inspired a whole generation of fighters and your impact will be forever remembered. 💔

— Kenny Florian (@kennyflorian) December 25, 2022

😔 Caption RIP

— Alpha Cat Zingano (@CatZingano) December 24, 2022

End of TUF1 there was a casting party. I’m limping on crutches in the casino and I get a call.
“Hey. We have to go. A bouncer got hold of Stephan and Stephan kicked him in the head and knocked him out.
He lived hard and fast.
Nothing but love, my brother.

— Nathan Quarry (@NateRockQuarry) December 25, 2022

RIP to Stephane Bonnar. He was always great fun, gone too soon but will never be forgotten! Thanks for the memories 🙏

— FILTHY トム・ローラー (@FilthyTomLawlor) December 26, 2022

Absolutely devastated by the news of Stephan Bonnar’s passing. One of the most genuine and solid human beings I have ever met. My heart goes out to his family. Relax my friend. I am so grateful that our paths crossed and for the time we spent together.

— Gray Maynard (@GrayMaynard) December 25, 2022

I did a few gigs with Stephan Bonnar. Such a nice/real guy.

I remember a sold-out curtain for his match at @BLabelPro once. He hit a random “Street Fighter Guile” jump kick out of nowhere. Biggest pop I’ve ever seen from the boys.

Oh and he also saved the UFC.

RIP to a legend.

— Josh Alexander (@Walking_Weapon) December 25, 2022

RIP to American Psycho, Stephan Bonnar. I remember watching it with Anderson Silva.

From what I’ve read, without him and Forrest Griffin, the UFC might not have been successful.

— Jake Paul (@jakepaul) December 24, 2022

Stephan Bonnar called my phone one day in 2019 and I thought it was a prank.

He wanted his family (who are local to us) to see him wrestle.

He came to Crown Point and he and @THELoganJames1 blew us all away.

RIP Stephane. Thank you for giving us this memory.

— Black Label Pro (@BLabelPro) December 24, 2022

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