In the current NBA, there aren’t as many fights or skirmishes as there were back in the days of Charles Barkley, Bill Laimbeer and Ron Artest. Most “fights” are simply shoving matches between players while they wait to be separated. After they’re separated, that’s usually when most of the chirping is done. That wasn’t the case when the Portland Trail Blazers hosted the Miami Heat on Wednesday night. Instead of me describing what transpired for you, take a look to yourself at what happened when Jusuf Nurkic set a hard (legal) screen on Tyler Herro.
Back in 2015, the Detroit Pistons traveled to the UFC’s training center in Las Vegas as part of a team-building exercise. The players had workouts with UFC Hall of Fame fighter Forrest Griffin, Stefan Struve and then-Strawweight Champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Griffin went on the record saying: “I’m so good I can make professionals out of these guys — if I had seven days. I only got five days. If I had a full seven days, you’d see UFC pros.”
That statement got us at FlurrySports thinking: If Forrest Griffin did have the time with NBA players, who would make the best UFC fighters? Here are five NBA players who’d fare well in the UFC.
Robert Williams III (Boston Celtics)
The heavyweight division is currently pretty solid, with Francis Ngannou firmly at the top. I have a feeling Robert Williams III could make a bit of a run, however. Williams is a big guy, at 6’9″, but is lean, at 237 pounds. The biggest asset to his prospective fighting profile, however, is his mammoth 7’6″ wingspan. At just 24 years old, Williams would have his best fighting years ahead of him. The only thing that could slow him down is himself. Off the court issues with making basketball a priority and showing up on time would make it tough for him to be relied on to show up to training and fights.
Obi Toppin (New York Knicks)
Few players in the NBA rival Obi Toppin’s athleticism. At just 22 years old, Toppin has the body of a grown man. Standing at 6’9″ tall, Toppin is a lean 220 pounds. Much like Williams, Toppin has a massive wingspan measuring 7’2″. The reach advantage alone will make him a force.
Toppin would likely have to gain some weight in order to not get manhandled by the bigger guys in the division. His stamina would wreak havoc for many of the heavyweights like Derrick Lewis who get exhausted early in fights. As long as he could stay just out of reach of some of the heavy hitters, he could surprise some people.
Isaiah Stewart (Detroit Pistons)
If there is anyone in the league who we know can take a hit, it’s Isaiah Stewart. After being hit in the face by LeBron James and bleeding profusely, he still kept trying to run back into the skirmish and drop some bombs. If there’s one thing you need to be able to do in UFC, it’s being able to take a shot and keep going.
Stewart’s background should provide him with a head start, as he grew up boxing and playing soccer before basketball. He already has a background in fighting, albeit a small one, and has often talked about how his father instilled a hard work ethic in him from a young age. At 250 pounds, he has the weight to not be pushed around by the big heavyweights, and he also flashes an impressive wingspan of 7’4″.
Bobby Portis (Milwaukee Bucks)
As previously mentioned, most NBA skirmishes these days don’t amount to anything. However, Bobby Portis has shown in the past that he won’t back down from a real fight. Not only that, but Portis has some absolute power in his fists.
The fan-favorite in Milwaukee is beloved for his aggressive play and tenacity on the court. What many might forget is how little you want to mess with him. While with the Chicago Bulls, teammate Nikola Mirotić charged at him during practice. Portis punched Mirotić in the face with such power that Mirotić had to go to the hospital to be treated for a concussion and multiple facial fractures. Portis already has the power and the drive. With the right training, Portis would be a force to be reckoned with.
Patrick Beverley (Minnesota Timberwolves)
To have staying power in the UFC, you have to be scrappy. No other NBA player encapsulates scrappy like Patrick Beverley. The Minnesota guard is also widely known to be a pest to every opponent he faces. His ability to get under his opponents’ skin would be a great weapon to have in the UFC. He could easily throw guys off their game and possibly capitalize off of it.
On top of all that, Beverley is not scared of anyone. There are compilations on YouTube that are upwards of eight minutes long of Beverley ready to scrap with opponents. He doesn’t care who you are and isn’t afraid to square up with anyone, as seen with him getting chippy with Jonas Valanciunas earlier this season. Beverley has that “dog mentality” and fearlessness that you just can’t teach.