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A GIF history of MMA fighters kissing before matches

The fighters land more than just punches.


Fernando Alfonso III


Posted on May 23, 2014   Updated on May 31, 2021, 6:27 am CDT

In the days leading up to a big boxing or mixed martial arts (MMA) match, fighters will do and say anything to throw their opponent off.

Heavyweight legend Mike Tyson yelled threats like “I’m going to crush this guy’s skull.” Professional wrestler turned MMA beast Brock Lesner flexed and wagged his tongue. Muhammad Ali spit poetry.

Since 1995, four different fighters have tried a different tactic—a kiss.

Unlike the pageantry of the weigh-in press conference, these four different instances featuring fighters swapping saliva were completely unscripted. Two of the fighters responded with fists, one leaned back in disbelief, and one responded with a smooch of his own.

So here’s a brief history of the pre-fight kiss.

May 4, 1995: Jerome Le Banner vs. Mike Bernardo

Mike Bernardo was 26 years old when he faced off against Jerome Le Banner to move forward in the  K-1 World Grand Prix kickboxing tournament in Tokyo. With a professional kickboxing record of 2-1, Bernardo, of Cape Town, South Africa, was looking to continue his winning ways.

As the two men come to the middle of the ring to touch gloves in good sportsmanship, Banner plants a little kiss on Bernardo. Instead of knocking him out, Bernardo reciprocates with his own smooch and a smile.

Bernardo would end up losing that match. He would go on to have a kickboxing record of 55 wins, 18 losses, three draws, and two no contests.

On Feb. 14, 2012, Bernardo was found in his home dead after allegedly committing suicide.

See the full match between Bernardo and Banner below.

Dec. 31, 2005: Yoshihiro Nakao vs. Heath Herring

It was New Year’s Eve 2005 and 27 year old Heath Herring was facing off against Yoshihiro Nakao for K-1‘s Dynamite 2005 kickboxing show.

As the two men stood face to face in the ring, waiting for the referee to rattle off the rules, Nakao landed a big wet one on Herring. In response, Herring sighed and slugged the Japanese fighter on the jaw.

Herring was initially disqualified from the match, resulting in a win for Nakao. That ruling was ultimately overturned and the match was a declared a no contest.

Watch the full knockout below.

Aug. 6, 2011: Alex Reid vs. Jason Barrett

One of the hardest things for a fighter to do is stay retired. Alex Reid learned this in May 2011 when he announced that he was taping up his knuckles once again to face-off against Jason Barrett after weeks of taunting.

“I will beat Jason down, this will be more than just a fight worth watching, I’m going to rip up that cage and feed it to him,” Reid said, according to Fighters Only. “In Rome the Gladiators fought to the death, mentally it’s the same game in MMA, my motto—Keep the End in View—‘Respice Finem’ is part of my code of honor—I will live to fight another day, I can’t say the same for Jason but I salute his bravery.”

During the press conference and weigh-in before the MMA bout, Reid and Barrett engaged in the perfunctory staredown. At one point it was such an intense staring contest, a promoter had to step in to move the two men away from each other. But that didn’t stop Reid. He moved right back into Barrett’s grill and landed a big kiss.

Apparently the kiss worked because Reid ended up defeating Barrett through submission.

Watch the entire kiss below.

July 6, 2013: Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman

At the time, Brazilian Anderson Silva was undefeated and widely considered to be one of the greatest MMA fighters in history. Having defeated almost every legitimate contender up until this point, Silva was pitted against Chris Weidman in UFC 162.

During the weigh-in, Silva and Weidman shook hands before locking eyes. No more than three seconds after coming nose-to-nose, Silva leans in to plant the lousiest looking kiss on an unsuspecting Weidman.

The kiss didn’t work in Silva’s favor. He would end up losing the match by knock-out. Silva and Weidman would meet again for a rematch on Dec. 28 where Weidman not only dominated Silva, but broke his left leg.

Photo by World Series Boxing/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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*First Published: May 23, 2014, 4:09 pm CDT