Sean Strickland (born February 27, 1991) is an American professional mixed martial artist. He currently competes in the Middleweight division of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), where he is the former UFC Middleweight Champion. A professional competitor since 2008, he is a former middleweight champion of the King of the Cage. As of January 23, 2024, he is #1 in the UFC middleweight rankings,[6] and as of April 16, 2024, he is #14 in the UFC men's pound-for-pound rankings.[7]

Sean Strickland
Sean Strickland at UFC Fight Night 200
Born (1991-02-27) February 27, 1991 (age 33)
Anaheim, California, U.S.
NicknameTarzan
Height6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight185 lb (84 kg; 13.2 st)
DivisionMiddleweight (2009–2015, 2020–present)
Welterweight (2015–2018)
Light Heavyweight (2009–2010, 2023)
Reach76 in (193 cm)[1]
Fighting out ofAnaheim, California, U.S.
TeamMillennia MMA Gym (2014–present)[2]
RVCA Training Center
Syndicate MMA[3]
Xtreme Couture (present)[when?][citation needed]
TrainerEric Nicksick[4]
RankBlack belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu[5]
Years active2008–present
Mixed martial arts record
Total35
Wins29
By knockout11
By submission4
By decision14
Losses6
By knockout2
By decision4
Mixed martial arts record from Sherdog

Early life

Sean Strickland grew up in Corona, California, in a household with a physically and mentally abusive father.[8][2] During Strickland’s early childhood, he attacked his father with a guitar in an attempt to defend his mother. Strickland fled from his house and contacted his local law enforcement leading to his father being briefly arrested. However, the next day his father was released from jail as his mother paid for his bail.[9]

In Strickland’s adolescence, he developed a close relationship with his grandfather who held neo-Nazi ideologies. He adopted his grandfather’s views, which were further reinforced through his viewing of the film American History X. “I loved the life they lived, just dirty, white trash, to have respect, you know? When I was a kid, that was somebody I would hero-worship, that ideology,” Strickland stated regarding the characters in the film.[10]

Strickland recalled that he was expelled from school in the ninth grade for perpetrating a hate crime, after which his mother decided to take him to an MMA gym. He met people of different races while training who helped him, and this motivated him to abandon the ideology.[11] Strickland stated, “Then I started training and the moment I started training I was like, 'fuck man, I don’t hate anybody. Everyone’s cool. Then a lot of people who helped me out in my life, they weren’t white.'”[10]

At the age of 18, Strickland had another violent altercation with his father again resulting in police involvement. However, no charges were pressed. Following this event, Strickland and his mother moved out of his father’s house.[12]

Mixed martial arts career

Early career

Strickland made his professional debut in 2008 for the King of the Cage promotion and compiled an undefeated record of 9–0 before facing Josh Bryant in a fight for the King of the Cage Middleweight Championship at KOTC: Unification on December 9, 2012. Strickland won via split decision, and then successfully defended his title three times before being signed by the UFC.[13]

Ultimate Fighting Championship

Strickland made his UFC debut at UFC 171 on March 15, 2014, facing Bubba McDaniel.[14] Strickland won via rear-naked choke submission in the first round.[15]

Strickland made his next appearance at UFC Fight Night 41 against Luke Barnatt on May 31, 2014.[16] Strickland won via split decision.[17]

Strickland faced Santiago Ponzinibbio in a welterweight bout on February 22, 2015, at UFC Fight Night 61.[18] Strickland lost the back and forth fight via unanimous decision.[19]

Strickland faced Igor Araújo on July 15, 2015, at UFC Fight Night 71.[20] He won the fight by unanimous decision.[21]

Strickland faced Alex Garcia on February 21, 2016, at UFC Fight Night 83.[22] After a back-and-forth first two rounds, Strickland won the fight via TKO in the third round.[23]

Strickland next faced Tom Breese on June 4, 2016, at UFC 199.[24] He won the fight via split decision.[25]

Strickland was expected to face Tim Means on August 20, 2016, at UFC 202.[26] However Strickland pulled out of the fight in early August citing a knee injury.[27] He was replaced by promotional newcomer Sabah Homasi.[28]

Strickland faced Kamaru Usman on April 8, 2017, at UFC 210.[29] He lost the fight via unanimous decision.[30]

Strickland faced Court McGee on November 11, 2017, at UFC Fight Night 120.[31] This fight was back and forth for all three rounds and was initially announced a majority draw with scores of 30-27, 29-29, and 29-29. After the fight it was revealed there was an error in calculating the judges' scorecards and Strickland was declared the winner by unanimous decision.[32]

Strickland faced Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos on May 12, 2018, at UFC 224.[33] He lost the fight via knockout in the first round.[34]

Strickland faced Nordine Taleb on October 27, 2018, at UFC Fight Night 138.[35] He won the fight via technical knockout in the second round.[36] Strickland became a free agent after the fight by fighting out his contract.[37]

Return from injury

Returning from a two-year layoff after a motorcycle accident,[38] Strickland was scheduled to face Wellington Turman on October 31, 2020, at UFC Fight Night 181.[39] However on September 29, Turman pulled out due to COVID-19 sequelae that rendered him unable to train after his two-week quarantine ended on September 2,[40] and he was replaced by Jack Marshman.[41] At the weight-ins, Marshman weighed in at 187.5 pounds, one and a half pounds over the middleweight non-title fight limit. The bout proceeded at catchweight and Marshman was fined 20% of his purse, which went to Strickland.[42] Strickland won the fight via unanimous decision.[43]

As a result of Ian Heinisch contracting COVID-19,[44] Strickland replaced Heinisch on short notice and faced Brendan Allen on November 14, 2020 in a 195 lb catchweight bout, at UFC Fight Night: Felder vs. dos Anjos.[45] He won the fight via technical knockout.[46] This win earned him the Performance of the Night award.[47]

Strickland faced Krzysztof Jotko on May 1, 2021, at UFC on ESPN: Reyes vs. Procházka.[48] He won the bout via unanimous decision.[49]

Strickland was expected to face Uriah Hall on August 7, 2021, at UFC 265.[50] However on June 4, 2021, the bout with Hall was moved to headline UFC on ESPN 28 on July 31, 2021.[51] During his training camp in the build up to this fight, he got into a physical altercation with sparring partner Orlando Sanchez, who he accused of trying to injure him.[52] Strickland defeated Hall via unanimous decision.[53]

Strickland was scheduled to face former UFC Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold on November 6, 2021, at UFC 268.[54] However, on October 11, Rockhold withdrew due to a herniated disc.[55]

Strickland faced Jack Hermansson on February 5, 2022, at UFC Fight Night 200.[56] He won the fight via split decision.[57] 21 out of 21 media outlets scored the fight for Strickland.[58] Judge Sal D'Amato, who scored the fight 48-47 for Hermansson, received widespread criticism for his scorecard.[59]

Strickland was scheduled to face Alex Pereira on July 30, 2022, at UFC 277.[60] However, the promotion moved the pairing to UFC 276 on July 2, 2022.[61] Strickland lost the fight via knockout in the first round.[62]

Strickland was scheduled to face Jared Cannonier on October 15, 2022, at UFC Fight Night 212.[63] However, the bout was scrapped after Strickland withdrew due to a finger infection.[64] The pair was re-booked for UFC Fight Night 216 on December 17, 2022.[65] Strickland lost the fight via split decision.[66]

In a quick turnaround, Strickland faced Nassourdine Imavov, replacing Kelvin Gastelum in a light heavyweight bout on January 14, 2023, at UFC Fight Night: Strickland vs. Imavov.[67] He won the fight via unanimous decision.[68]

Strickland faced Abusupiyan Magomedov on July 1, 2023 at UFC on ESPN 48.[69] Strickland won the fight via TKO in the second round.[70] This win earned him the Performance of the Night award.[71]

UFC Middleweight Championship

Strickland faced Israel Adesanya for the UFC Middleweight Championship on September 10, 2023, at UFC 293.[72] He won the fight via unanimous decision in what was considered a major upset, as Adesanya was a 7/1 betting favorite.[73][74] The win also earned Strickland his third Performance of the Night bonus award.[75]

Strickland had his first title defense against Dricus du Plessis on January 20, 2024 at UFC 297.[76] The pair were in attendance at UFC 296 on December 16, 2023, seated within two rows of each-other by Dana White's arrangement.[77] While exchanging words, Strickland gestured for audience members to move and attacked du Plessis. The brawl was quickly broken up and Strickland was escorted out of the event.[78][79][80] Strickland lost the fight via split decision.[81] This fight earned him the Fight of the Night award.[82]

Post championship

Strickland faced Paulo Costa on June 1, 2024, at UFC 302.[83] He won the fight by split decision.[84]

Fighting style

Fighting in a notably upright, orthodox stance,[85] Sean Strickland is distinguished for his defensive striking. This is evident in the UFC’s official Significant Strike Defense statistic, where he boasts a 65.4% defense rate—the highest among active fighters in the middleweight division.[86]

UFC commentator Joe Rogan stated regarding Sean Strickland’s defense, “He spars more than anybody in the UFC and they put a mouthpiece that measures how many times you get hit. He gets hit less than anyone [and] he’s got phenomenal defense.” [87]

Central to Strickland’s defensive approach is his incorporation of the Philly Shell guard, referring to the positioning of the lead hand on the lower torso and the back hand closer to the side of the face.[88] This allows Strickland to fight defensively, deflecting strikes with his raised lead shoulder as well as actively parrying strikes and checking kicks.

Offensively, Sean Strickland prefers to utilize his boxing within his fights. Strickland applies pressure by constantly walking forwards and forcing his opponents into boxing range, in which he then applies jabs often in volume and followed by a right cross.[89] His defensive stance largely prevents him from generating power and he has only finished two fights by knockout since moving to middleweight full-time in 2020.

Strickland generally applies his wrestling defensively to great effect, with a high takedown defense statistic of 84%.[90] Strickland may pursue top position to engage in powerful ground and pound.[89]

Personal life

In 2017, Strickland's father died from cancer at the age of 50.[91] According to Strickland, his father was physically and psychologically abusive to both Sean and his mother.[92]

In December 2018, Strickland was hit by a car while he was riding a motorcycle in Los Angeles, rendering him unconscious. He suffered numerous injuries and needed a knee operation after the accident.[93]

Strickland is training partners and close friends with fellow UFC middleweight Chris Curtis.[94]

Comments on LGBT issues

In January 2022, Strickland responded to a question on Twitter, "If I had a gay son I would think I failed as a man."[95] In May of 2022, Strickland was suspended from Twitter for inflammatory comments about LGBT topics ahead of Pride Month.[96][97] During the press conference for UFC 297, Strickland responded to a reporter asking about his previous comments, also criticizing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's handling of the Canada convoy protest and Bud Light's advertising campaign featuring transsexual influencer Dylan Mulvaney.[98][99]

On January 18, 2024 at UFC 297 media day, when a reporter mentioned Strickland's controversial tweet, Strickland responded:

You’re part of the big problem, a spineless creature who asks me stupid questions. Just ten years ago, being trans meant you were mentally ill, but people like you suddenly decided to change everything. You are an infection, you are the definition of weakness—everything wrong that happens to this world is because of you. The good thing is that the world didn't buy into this—it didn't buy into this nonsense and the agenda that you are pushing. There are two genders, and I don't want my children to be taught in school what their preferences should be. This guy is the fucking enemy! Look at the enemy of our world—here he is, sitting right here and asking his stupid questions.[100]

Comments about women's rights

Strickland has made a number of controversial comments about women and women's rights. He has advocated for removing the right of women to vote. He has also advocated for removing women from the workforce, and said that they need to be "put back in the kitchen".[101][102] He has also commented negatively about women's MMA. In an interview, he said "Sure, have women’s MMA, have it be a thing. I don’t like to watch it. I don’t think most people like to watch it. If the female MMA was to separate from the male MMA no-one’s going to watch that shit".[103]

Championships and achievements

Mixed martial arts record

Professional record breakdown
35 matches 29 wins 6 losses
By knockout 11 2
By submission 4 0
By decision 14 4
Res. Record Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Location Notes
Win 29–6 Paulo Costa Decision (split) UFC 302 June 1, 2024 5 5:00 Newark, New Jersey, United States
Loss 28–6 Dricus du Plessis Decision (split) UFC 297 January 20, 2024 5 5:00 Toronto, Ontario, Canada Lost the UFC Middleweight Championship. Fight of the Night.
Win 28–5 Israel Adesanya Decision (unanimous) UFC 293 September 10, 2023 5 5:00 Sydney, Australia Won the UFC Middleweight Championship. Performance of the Night.
Win 27–5 Abusupiyan Magomedov TKO (punches) UFC on ESPN: Strickland vs. Magomedov July 1, 2023 2 4:20 Las Vegas, Nevada, United States Performance of the Night.
Win 26–5 Nassourdine Imavov Decision (unanimous) UFC Fight Night: Strickland vs. Imavov January 14, 2023 5 5:00 Las Vegas, Nevada, United States Light Heavyweight bout.
Loss 25–5 Jared Cannonier Decision (split) UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs. Strickland December 17, 2022 5 5:00 Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Loss 25–4 Alex Pereira KO (punches) UFC 276 July 2, 2022 1 2:36 Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win 25–3 Jack Hermansson Decision (split) UFC Fight Night: Hermansson vs. Strickland February 5, 2022 5 5:00 Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win 24–3 Uriah Hall Decision (unanimous) UFC on ESPN: Hall vs. Strickland July 31, 2021 5 5:00 Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win 23–3 Krzysztof Jotko Decision (unanimous) UFC on ESPN: Reyes vs. Procházka May 1, 2021 3 5:00 Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win 22–3 Brendan Allen TKO (punches) UFC Fight Night: Felder vs. dos Anjos November 14, 2020 2 1:32 Las Vegas, Nevada, United States Catchweight (195 lb) bout. Performance of the Night.
Win 21–3 Jack Marshman Decision (unanimous) UFC Fight Night: Hall vs. Silva October 31, 2020 3 5:00 Las Vegas, Nevada, United States Return to Middleweight; Marshman missed weight (187.5 lb).
Win 20–3 Nordine Taleb TKO (punches) UFC Fight Night: Volkan vs. Smith October 27, 2018 2 3:10 Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada
Loss 19–3 Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos KO (spinning wheel kick and punches) UFC 224 May 12, 2018 1 3:40 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Win 19–2 Court McGee Decision (unanimous) UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs. Pettis November 11, 2017 3 5:00 Norfolk, Virginia, United States
Loss 18–2 Kamaru Usman Decision (unanimous) UFC 210 April 8, 2017 3 5:00 Buffalo, New York, United States
Win 18–1 Tom Breese Decision (split) UFC 199 June 4, 2016 3 5:00 Inglewood, California, United States
Win 17–1 Alex Garcia KO (punches) UFC Fight Night: Cowboy vs. Cowboy February 21, 2016 3 4:25 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Win 16–1 Igor Araújo Decision (unanimous) UFC Fight Night: Mir vs. Duffee July 15, 2015 3 5:00 San Diego, California, United States
Loss 15–1 Santiago Ponzinibbio Decision (unanimous) UFC Fight Night: Bigfoot vs. Mir February 22, 2015 3 5:00 Porto Alegre, Brazil Return to Welterweight.
Win 15–0 Luke Barnatt Decision (split) UFC Fight Night: Muñoz vs. Mousasi May 31, 2014 3 5:00 Berlin, Germany
Win 14–0 Bubba McDaniel Submission (rear-naked choke) UFC 171 March 15, 2014 1 4:33 Dallas, Texas, United States
Win 13–0 Matt Lagler TKO (punches) KOTC: Split Decision August 29, 2013 1 4:59 Highland, California, United States Defended the KOTC Middleweight Championship.
Win 12–0 Yusuke Sakashita Decision (unanimous) KOTC: Worldwide July 5, 2013 5 5:00 Manila, Philippines Defended the KOTC Middleweight Championship.
Win 11–0 Bill Albrecht KO (punch) KOTC: Restitution February 7, 2013 1 2:41 Los Angeles, California, United States Defended the KOTC Middleweight Championship.
Win 10–0 Josh Bryant Decision (split) KOTC: Unification December 8, 2012 3 5:00 Highland, California, United States Defended and unified the KOTC Middleweight Championship.
Win 9–0 Brandon Hunt TKO (punches) KOTC: Hardcore April 26, 2012 1 3:24 Highland, California, United States Won the KOTC Middleweight Championship.
Win 8–0 Brandon Hunt TKO (punches) KOTC: Steel Curtain December 17, 2011 1 3:48 Norman, Oklahoma, United States
Win 7–0 Brett Sbardella KO (punches) KOTC: Demolition August 6, 2011 1 1:03 Walker, Minnesota, United States
Win 6–0 Donavin Hawkey Submission (rear-naked choke) KOTC: Platinum November 25, 2010 1 1:21 Durban, South Africa Return to Middleweight.
Win 5–0 Adriel Montes TKO (punches) KOTC: Underground 63 October 2, 2010 2 1:05 Laughlin, Nevada, United States
Win 4–0 George Interiano Decision (unanimous) Long Beach Fight Night 7 January 3, 2010 3 5:00 Long Beach, California, United States
Win 3–0 William Wheeler Submission (rear-naked choke) KOTC: Jolted October 3, 2009 1 1:55 Laughlin, Nevada, United States Light Heavyweight debut.
Win 2–0 Brandon Ellsworth TKO (punches) KOTC: Last Resort March 14, 2009 1 1:28 Laughlin, Nevada, United States Middleweight debut.
Win 1–0 Tyler Pottett Submission (rear-naked choke) KOTC: Protege March 22, 2008 2 1:53 Laughlin, Nevada, United States Welterweight debut.

[114]

Pay-per-view bouts

No. Event Fight Date Venue City PPV buys
1. UFC 293 Adesanya vs. Strickland September 10, 2023 Qudos Bank Arena Sydney, Australia Not Disclosed[115]
2. UFC 297 Strickland vs. du Plessis January 20, 2024 Scotiabank Arena Toronto, Ontario, Canada Not Disclosed[116]

See also

References

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Awards and achievements
Previous:
Israel Adesanya
14th UFC Middleweight Champion
September 10, 2023 – January 20, 2024
Succeeded by