A good nickname should do several things. It should accurately describe a fighter. It should set him apart from others. It should intimidate, at least on some level. And, perhaps most importantly, it should be memorable.
This list is necessary mainly because there are so many bad nicknames in the world of mixed martial arts. There are just too many clichés and monikers that don’t fit the fighter they’re applied to at all.
“Sugar” Rashad Evans is one such example of the latter problem. Nothing about Rashad Evans’ appearance, demeanor, or fighting style is reminiscent of sugar. Nothing. That’s why it’s a bad nickname.
Similarly, Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski (see above) is also a bad nickname, but not because it isn’t accurate. Arlovski is not unlike a hyper-aggressive dog in many ways, but it’s just so bland. It’s too easy to name yourself after a scary animal. Same is true of all the guys who go by “The Executioner” of “The Hitman” (unless you’re Thomas Hearns).
Because so many people in MMA have gotten the art of the nickname wrong, it’s time we take a look at the guys who have gotten it right. Maybe we can all learn a little something from them. I know I have.
10. Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis
At first glance, this nickname appears to be cool just because it’s so specific and odd. But take a minute to think about it. What does a hand grenade do? It blows up, causing tremendous destruction to everything around it, but it also destroys itself in the process.
And that’s just a regular hand grenade. I assume that an Irish hand grenade would not only cause a huge explosion, but it would also be drunk and probably go off for no reason. That’s pretty cool.
9. “The Dean of Mean” Keith Jardine
At first glance this looks like a nickname that was chosen simply because it rhymes, which would be stupid. But it’s great because of the idea it evokes. Imagine not only a school of mean, but think about how bad-ass the dean of that school would have to be.
Of course, after his knockout loss to Houston Alexander, you have to reconsider whether he still holds that position. In the past I referred to him as “The Guidance Counselor of Mean”, but if he gets beat by Chuck Liddell (which seems likely) he may drop down to “The P.E. Teacher of Mean”, which wouldn’t rhyme at all.
8. Vladimir “The Janitor” Matyushenko
I like this because it’s straight-forward, and almost self-deprecating. Nobody wants to be a janitor in real life. It’s a crappy job. But it’s a necessary job, because someone has to clean up.
That gives us an idea about who Matyushenko is. He doesn’t really want to hurt you. But you did sign up to be his opponent and he has a job to do. That job? Mop the mat with your broken carcass. I wonder if he also carries a huge ring of keys. I hope he does.
7. Chris “The Professor” Wilson
What I like about this nickname is it isn’t trying to intimidate you. It’s as if Wilson sees fighting as a way of teaching others about the ways in which they are deficient. It’s almost nice of him, when you think of it like that.
This nickname also could have been easily screwed up by trying to make it too scary, such as “The Professor of Pain”, or something similarly lame. Wilson didn’t go that route, and you have to admire that.
6. Jeff “The Snowman” Monson
Not only is this nickname completely weird, it’s also very fitting. First, Jeff Monson is kind of a weird guy. He holds some very extreme political beliefs, and has tattoos of both the anarchy symbol and the Soviet hammer and sickle (which would seem to be a direct contradiction, but I’m not going to be the one to tell him).
Second, Monson physically resembles a snowman. He’s really white and kind of round, so it works. A snowman doesn’t seem intimidating at first, but imagine a snowman that’s really good at jiu-jitsu. That’s spooky.
5. Matt “The Law” Lindland
Simple, yet distinct. My only beef with Matt Lindland’s nickname is that he doesn’t take advantage of it by making enough witty remarks involving his nickname. If I were nicknamed “The Law”, I would constantly be warning my opponents about the strong arm of The Law, about how The Law is going to break you for a change, so on and so forth.
Now that I think about it, it’s probably a good thing I’m not nicknamed The Law. Still, it works well for the no-nonsense Lindland.
4. Mark “The Smashing Machine” Kerr
Though it’s remembered now as the title of the harrowing documentary about Mark Kerr, “The Smashing Machine” is a great nickname because it’s almost childlike, but also very accurate. Just ask that Army Ranger – the one who made up his own martial art (R.I.P.) – what it felt like to get knocked out by Kerr, and I’m guessing he’ll describe some sort of machine that smashes things, assuming he remembers the fight at all.
Sherdog and Pride list Kerr’s nickname as “The Titan” for some reason, which is not only uninspired, but also untrue. Would a titan get beat by Mustapha Al Turk? I’m just saying.
3. Brandon “The Truth” Vera
It’s direct. It’s simple. Best of all, it says a lot while saying very little. By calling himself “The Truth”, Vera is suggesting that other fighters are lies. He, like Jesus, is the truth. Of course, one could argue that Jesus would have a better ground game, but that’s neither here nor there.
It just makes you wonder, whither Brandon Vera these days, when we need the truth more than ever?
2. Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos
There’s no way to misunderstand this nickname. Santos is saying he is part machine, and that’s scary. For some reason, I don’t think he’s one of the good cyborgs, like Robocop. He’s definitely an evil one, like the Terminator.
Now instead of flooding me with emails about how the Terminator wasn’t technically a cyborg, ponder this instead: if Santos is a cyborg, why doesn’t he have better cardio? I mean, since when do robots get winded? Something to think about.
1. Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva
I know this seems to go against what I’ve claimed to appreciate about nicknames, but this one is so specific I think it works. I mean, would you even be scared of an axe murderer in an MMA fight? He can’t bring the axe into the ring.
It’s really a nickname that tells you more about the guy’s temperament and the value he puts on human life, which is none. And when that same guy stares at you and does the crazy hand thing that Wanderlei does, it’s bound to make you nervous.