A Timeline of Sean Strickland’s Descent into Madness ahead of UFC 297

Sean Strickland

Prior to 2020, Sean Strickland was a poster child for the increasing frequency of UFC events and the subsequent expansion of the roster. With an unassuming look befitting a video game create-a-fighter feature, a solid overall game that lacked any distinguishing features, and a comparatively understated personality, there was very little to separate Strickland from the pack.

Sean Strickland’s welterweight run proved that he was a skilled fighter capable of having an impact in the division but losses to names like Santiago Ponzibnibbio and Kamaru Usman established a ceiling on what we could expect from him in the future. 

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After a motorcycle accident that sidelined him for two years and prompted a move to the middleweight division, Sean Strickland transformed into the brash personality that went on to author one of MMA’s biggest championship upsets in history. Ahead of his first title defense this Saturday at UFC 297, we’ve decided to look back on some of the key moments leading up to an improbable and controversial stint on the throne. 

This is far from an exhaustive list. Including every wild sparring video or wayward interview would make this an endless deep dive into the self proclaimed “piece of shit with money.”

Sean Strickland: Middleweight Contender

Upon his return to competition following a lengthy recovery from catastrophic leg injuries sustained in his motorcycle accident, Sean Strickland instantly showcased a more memorable version of himself. 

In a complete destruction of Jack Marshman for his UFC middleweight debut, “Tarzan” laid the foundation for his eventual title run. Superior boxing skills, constant pressure, and deceptively good defense in the pocket were on full display. 

But the highlight of the bout has to be the verbal barrage that accompanied every punch. Strickland engaged in full conversation with Marshman for the duration and as the final seconds ticked down, invited him to trade shots despite having a clear path to victory on the scorecards.

Sean Strickland: The Last Action Hero

Sean Strickland

Shortly after this past Thanksgiving, Strickland surprised social media with a vigilante exploit caught on video. A drunk man fleeing the scene of an alleged assault unwittingly picked the champion’s driveway as a hiding spot.

Complete with a heavy metal soundtrack, the Ring camera video shows Strickland shoving the man into the street and holding him at gunpoint before the authorities arrive. He admitted to mistaking the assailant for a car thief in the Instagram caption.

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Sean Strickland: Marriage Counselor 

When Ian Garry married Layla Machado, they probably didn’t anticipate the union becoming a talking point for an outspoken UFC champion. Thanks to unfounded rumors surrounding their marriage, that’s exactly what happened. 

Strickland weighed in on those rumors by calling Layla a “sexual predator” which sparked one of the more unlikely feuds of recent memory. A series of inflammatory videos followed with Strickland doubling down on his dislike for the welterweight contender as recently as the UFC 297 pre-fight press conference.

Sean Strickland: Trauma Victim

Unsurprisingly, a personality like Sean Strickland’s is typically forged through traumatic experiences. While admitting to growing up with affinity towards Neo-Nazi ideology and his belief that MMA saved him from a life of crime, those words always came with either a poker face delivery or some sort of attempt at comedic sugar coating.

However in an appearance on comedian Theo Von’s podcast, the middleweight champion dropped the facade and opened up about his turbulent upbringing. Tearfully recounting stories of his childhood, including hitting his abusive father with a guitar in defense of his mother, it was the rawest emotion he had ever displayed. 

It was also a complete contradiction to the persona that catapulted him into headlines.  

Sean Strickland: DDP’s Frenemy

With two of the middleweight division’s more polarizing fighters paired with one another for the highest stakes, it makes sense that Strickland and Dricus Du Plessis would have some sort of friction heading into Saturday’s main event. 

At a seasonal press event last month, DDP made light of Strickland’s childhood abuse leading to a brief cageside physical altercation the next day at UFC 296. The fallout resulted in the hypocritical callout of family-related trash talk on the aforementioned podcast appearance and DM threats.

Tempers have apparently cooled off as they both since downplayed any bad blood. If any feelings are lingering, they will surely be dealt with in the Octagon soon enough.

Sean Strickland: LGBTQ “Thoughts”

Strickland’s feelings towards the LGBTQ community have been a consistent point of contention. His apparent embrace of gay men as “cool people” has been accompanied by hateful slurs, and venom towards Bud Light for a pro-trans marketing campaign.

This came to a head at the UFC 297 media day when MMA Fighting’s Alexander K. Lee asked the champion about his past remarks.  Strickland responded by calling the veteran journalist “a weak man” before going on an extended rant about the world accepting transgender people.

Ant Walker is a native of the Washington DC area that now lives in Los Angeles. He has been... More about Anthony Walker

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