No one could have predicted Sean Strickland's remarkable rise in 2023.
He embodied the Twitter troll persona, challenging cancel culture, openly discussing his controversial past, and expressing views that sparked both outrage and admiration. The UFC middleweight champion became a symbol of imperfection, offensive yet strangely beloved.
At the start of the year, Strickland was in a low point with two consecutive losses, seemingly stuck as a middleweight gatekeeper. Even his first two victories in 2023 didn't change this perception. However, Strickland's availability and willingness to fight anyone set him apart.
On short notice, Strickland faced Israel Adesanya in Australia for UFC 293's title bout. Expected to be the underdog, he unexpectedly gained favor with the Oceanic crowd, stealing the spotlight from the Adesanya vs. du Plessis matchup. The fight against Adesanya was no fluke; it showcased Strickland's dominance, marking one of the most unforgettable performances in UFC history.
Whether you love or hate him, Strickland defined 2023 in MMA. From a forgettable figure to a 3-0 record and one of the most discussed athletes, he proved that it's never too late in MMA, and the next big star could be just one good year away.