Mixed martial artists come from every corner of the globe, bearing a variety of styles. Sometimes, fighters are products of their environment, favoring disciplines prevalent in the country or state from which they hail. Various regions of the United States are considered factories for great fighters, though that certainly is not the case with each state. In this weekly Sherdog.com series, the spotlight will shine on the best mixed martial artist of all-time from each of the 50 states. Fighters do not necessarily need to be born in a given state to represent it; they simply need to be associated with it. For example, reigning Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight titleholder Robbie Lawler may have been born in San Diego, but few would recognize him as a Californian.
Some states are overflowing with talent, but others, like Arkansas, do not quite fit the mold. However, that does not mean “The Natural State” has been a desolate wasteland of fighters over the years. When speaking about Arkansas, one name in mixed martial arts quickly springs to mind: Alan Belcher.
Belcher was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and enjoyed a terrific career that was defined by his lengthy stay in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. “The Talent” competed mostly in the middleweight division and fought inside the Octagon a whopping 15 times, going 9-6 during his time under the Zuffa umbrella. Belcher never was given the opportunity to fight for the promotion’s championship, largely because he seemed to flip flop between wins and losses. With that said, he thrilled the crowd with a sensational head kick knockout of Jorge Santiago for his first UFC win in December 2006 and scored several other quality victories along the way: Ed Herman (split decision), Patrick Cote (rear-naked choke), Denis Kang (guillotine choke) and Rousimar Palhares (technical knockout). History will likely remember him as one of the most underappreciated middleweights the UFC has ever had under contract.
During his UFC run, Belcher went on a four-fight stretch in which he earned post-fight performance bonuses in each bout. He snatched up “Fight of the Night” in back-to-back wars with Wilson Gouveia and Yoshihiro Akiyama, as well as “Submission of the Night” honors versus Cote and Kang. Derailed by a series of injuries and the wear and tear of a 26-fight career, Belcher retired in November at the age of 31.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Roli Delgado, Seth Kleinbeck, Mike Wessel.