UFC Hall of Famer Stephan Bonnar, who made history as a finalist on the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” has died. He was 45 years old.
The The UFC announced the news on SaturdayChristmas Eve, and cited heart complications at work as the cause of Bonnar’s death, which occurred Thursday.
A legend in the world of martial arts, “The American Psycho” Bonnar served as one half of the fight for turning around a then-struggling UFC. Although he lost that fight to Forrest Griffin in “The Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale” in April 2005, his influence was felt for generations. Eventually, the fight was inducted into the Fight Wing of the UFC Hall of Fame in 2013.
“Stephan Bonnar was one of the most important fighters to ever compete in the Octagon,” UFC president Dana White said in a statement. “The fight with Forrest Griffin changed the sport forever, and it will never be forgotten. The fans loved him, related to him, and he always gave them his best. He will be missed.”
Bonnar competed 26 times as a pro, with 15 UFC appearances and one in Bellator. He made his professional debut in 2001, eight fights later with his UFC debut. Bonnar entered the UFC 7-1, and although he lost his fight to Griffin, he won his next three.
He went 2-2 over the next four with losses to Rashad Evans and Griffin, followed by wins over Mark Nickals and Eric Schaefer. Bonnar then went on a three fight streak with defeats to Jon Jones, Marc Coleman and Krzysztof Soszynski. He won a rematch against Soszynski before defeating Igor Pokrajac and Kyle Kingsbury.
His loss to Anderson Silva in a main event at UFC 153 was his final fight for the promotion. Bonnar left the promotion after failing a drug test and called for retirement. However, he re-entered the competition to fight Bellator’s Tito Ortiz in 2014 and lost by split decision.
Bonnar was in the headlines intermittently after his last MMA fight. In 2019, he competed in Impact Wrestling after two years of building up the independent professional wrestling circuit. In 2020, Bonnar briefly entered the MMA circuit as a corner for TUF 1 competitor Diego Sanchez. In April 2022, Bonnar had more fights outside the cage when his house burned down.
Throughout the MMA community, Bonnar was a beloved figure for his toughness and importance to the sport. Many fighters, promoters, fans and loved ones took to social media on Saturday to mourn the loss of a UFC pioneer.
Scroll down to see some of those reactions.
The UFC family is saddened by the passing of UFC Hall of Famer Stephan Bonnar. We send our sincerest condolences to his family and friends.
— UFC (@ufc) December 24, 2022
RIP to American Pyscho, Stephan Bonnar. I remember watching him and Anderson Silva.
From what I’ve read, without him and Forrest Griffin, the UFC may not have made it.
— Jake Paul (@jakepaul) December 24, 2022
Terrible news. It’s no hyperbole to say that without Stephan Bonnar’s input, the sport of TUF 1 (and the finale) wouldn’t be what it is today. He will forever be a very important part of MMA history.
May he rest in peace. https://t.co/32e0wIr3fj
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) December 24, 2022
RIP Stephan Bonnar – UFC Hall of Famer and one half of one of the most iconic fights in UFC history https://t.co/qS5QZev9uX
— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) December 24, 2022
My condolences to the family of Stephan Bonnar. His fight with Forrest Griffin changed the landscape of the sport of MMA and took it to the next level. He is a big part of the reason we are here today. https://t.co/NtGaVAN96M
— Michael Chiesa (@MikeMav22) December 24, 2022
Tragic Christmas Eve news. Stephan Bonnar was a critical player in helping the UFC rise to the global powerhouse it is today. Let’s never change that contribution. RIP ❤️ https://t.co/WZc26SdtI1
— Mike Bohn (@MikeBohn) December 24, 2022
The first time I heard about mixed martial arts was when I was 14 years old and saw my first fighter. That started the dream that led me to where I am today. The final between Stephan and Forrest saved the UFC from the bottom. RIP pic.twitter.com/vtR9wkmxCF
– Kyle The Monster Nelson (@THE__MONSTER) December 24, 2022
Ohhhh man 😢
– Big Ben Rothwell (@RothwellFighter) December 24, 2022
As all MMA fans know, Stephan was a pioneer in the sport. But it was also very pleasant and fun to work with. Every time we saw him, even after his fighting career, he lit up the room. Prayers for him and his loved ones at this difficult time. https://t.co/dMSUuBczdt
— Megan Olivi (@MeganOlivi) December 24, 2022
“Suspected Heart Complications” 45. Damn, sad news.
Stephan Bonnar may very well be the most important fighter in UFC history to never win a UFC title as one half of the iconic TUF 1 finale with Forrest Griffin. It was as tough as they come.
May he rest in Peace. 🙏🏽 https://t.co/XyjYmHoJsH
– Simon Samano (@SJSamano) December 24, 2022
Some hyperbole and myths persist about Bonnar-Griffin. What is undeniable is the pivotal role he played in ushering in the ‘UFC on Spike’ era, which changed the sport forever. This is really sad to hear. RIP to American Psycho https://t.co/ziw48kezd9
— caposa (@Grabaka_Hitman) December 25, 2022
Stephan Bonnar, you were one of the toughest and funniest guys I’ve ever met. You passed too soon, but you accomplished so much in such a short time. You helped change this sport forever, you inspired an entire generation of fighters and your impact will always be remembered. 💔 pic.twitter.com/LyYA5FzRmG
— Kenny Florian (@kennyflorian) December 25, 2022