For Whom the Em Tolls: The sound of impending doom for fighters in the UFC

[Ed. Note: The following is the grand prize winner in the CME’s White Elephant Essay Contest. Thanks to all those who entered and, even if you didn’t, thanks for your continued support of the Co-Main Event.]

By Brendan F. from West Roxbury, Mass. (@CursedDiamonds)

The Eminem Curse is real, and it is spectacular. An Eminem song during a fighter’s walkout is the surest indicator of failure in the modern UFC. In the last two years of UFC action, fighters that chose an Eminem song as their walkout music lost, lost, and lost some more. The fighter may have been a favorite or he may have been an underdog, it didn’t seem to matter; he tasted defeat regardless of betting odds. (While it was more often than not an underdog who selected Eminem as their traveling song, favorites lost with Eminem as well.) On rare occasions, a few charmed gladiators have defied the Curse, but those victories proved to be short-lived. Like all dominant champions, the Curse struck back in devastating fashion against these few victors, and handed them crushing defeats when they tried to tempt the fates twice. A few smart fighters have learned how to sidestep this Curse, using songs that merely feature Eminem, but with someone else as the primary artist. Those fighters have chosen wisely, and are currently undefeated when using those songs.

At UFC 115, Chuck Liddell entered the Octagon to the Eminem track “Won’t Back Down,” but he never even made it out of the first round. Rich Franklin ushered in the Eminem Curse with a crushing straight right hand, and the Curse was born. It didn’t wait long before striking again. The very next UFC, Kurt Pellegrino was “Not Afraid,” but unfortunately for him, he was also not a match for this opponent. George Sotiropoulos and his Black Sabbath intro got the W. Shane Carwin, Cole Escovedo, Mike Massenzio (twice), Jake Ellenberger, even Big Foot Silva tasted defeat after entering the cage, accompanied by the Eminem death knell. In the last two years, fighters using Eminem walkouts have won two fights, and lost 14. Even the eternally over-matched Sean Salmon has managed more than two victories in this last 16 fights. (Salmon is 3-13 in his last 16.)

The Curse truly flexes its MMA muscle when considering the two fighters who overcame the Curse, even if only temporarily. Tito Ortiz and Brendan Schaub, give yourselves a hand! At UFCs 128 and 132, Schaub and Ortiz both snatched victory from sure defeat, with Schaub dispatching Cro-Cop and Tito finishing Ryan Bader. Hindsight shows us that these fighters knew not how lucky they really were. They both doubled down, and kept the same music for their next battles. The Curse exploded in Schaub’s face in Brazil via some Big Nog fisticuffs, and Ortiz paid the price with his entire body more than once, getting punished by Rashad Evans and the Little Nog in successive fights. Adding insult to injury, the Curse ended Tito’s career in rather embarrassing fashion, with a fleeing, seemingly defeated Forrest Griffin getting the edge over Tito and his ill-chosen walkout music one last time. You can beat the Curse, but do not dare to try beating it twice.

UFC 139 and UFC on Fuel TV 4 showed us that you can indeed have some Eminem in your walkout music and still avoid the Curse. However, the song may only feature Mr. Mathers and not have him as the star of the song (think Nate Dogg, may he rest in peace). Alexander Gustafsson and Seth Baczynski each found that “Drop The World,” a Lil Wayne joint featuring Eminem had no negative effects on their chances. Both men cruised to victory after entering to that song, with Seth putting Matt Brown to sleep and Gustafsson ruining any remaining title hopes Thiago Silva ever had via unanimous destruction.

The lessons of the Eminem Walkout Curse are simple and direct. If you select Eminem to accompany you to the Octagon, you will almost assuredly lose. Should you somehow pull off the highly improbable and win under such a scenario, thank your lucky stars and never try to do it again, because the Curse will smash you with a ruthless fury when given a second (and third, and fourth) chance. The Eminem Curse is neutralized, possibly reversed when Eminem gets the Nate Dogg slot, but the Curse isn’t about being a Featured Artist. How or why it works are not for me to say, but the evidence shows quite clearly that the Eminem Walkout Curse is real, it is powerful, and it is vengeful. An Eminem song during a fighter’s walkout is the surest indicator of fighter failure in the modern UFC.

Supplemental Data

odds, fighter, walkout track and artist
odds, fighter, walkout track and artist
Winner, Round, Manner of Victory

UFC 115
-121 Chuck Liddell: “Won’t Back Down” by Eminem (feat. Pink)
+110 Rich Franklin: “For Those About to Rock” by AC/DC
Franklin, R1 KO/TKO

UFC 116
-154 George Sotiropoulos: “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath
+139 Kurt Pellegrino: “Not Afraid” by Eminem
Sotiropoulos, UD

UFC 121
-170 Matt Hamill: “I Want it All” by Queen
+153 Tito Ortiz: “Mosh” by Eminem
Hamill, UD

UFC 128
-274 Brendan Schaub: “Square Dance” by Eminem
+220 Mirko Cro Cop: “The Ecstasy of Gold (L’Estasi dell’Oro)” by Ennio Morricone
Shaub, R3 KO/TKO

UFC 131
-154 Junior Dos Santos: “Gonna Fly Now” by Bill Conti Gonna Fly Now
+139 Shane Carwin: “Till I Collapse” by Eminem
Dos Santos, UD

UFC 132
+451 Tito Ortiz: “Not Afraid” by Eminem
-536 Ryan Bader: “99 Problems” by Hugo
Ortiz, R1 Sub

UFC 133
-363 Rashad Evans: “Victory” by The Notorious B.I.G.
+335 Tito Ortiz: “Cinderella Man” by Eminem
Evans, R2 KO/TKO

UFC 134
+221 Minotauro Nogueira: “Come With Me” by Puff Daddy
-248 Brendan Schaub: “Square Dance” by Eminem
Nogueira, R1 KO/TKO

-183 Jake Ellenberger: “Till I Collapse” by Eminem & Nate Dogg
+165 Martin Kampmann: “It’s a Fight” by Three 6 Mafia

UFC 135
+191 Cole Escovedo: “Won’t Back Down” by Eminem
-213 Takeya Mizugaki: “Numb” by Linkin Park
Mizugaki, KO/TKO

UFC 139
+105 Seth Baczynski – “Drop the World” by Lil Wayne & Eminem
-135 Matt Brown – “I’d Love to Knock the Hell out of You” by Hank Williams, Jr
Baczynski, R2 Sub.

UFC 140
-278 Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira – “Come With Me” by Puff Daddy
+246 Tito Ortiz – “Cinderella Man” by Eminem
Nogueira, R1 KO/TKO

UFC 142
+451 Mike Massenzio: “Lose Yourself” by Eminem
-536 Rousimar Palhares: ???
Palhares, R1 Sub

-260 Thiago Silva: “Ratamahatta” by Sepultura
+231 Alexander Gustafsson: “Drop The World” by Lil Wayne & Eminem
Gustafsson, UD

UFC on FOX 3
-130 Mike Massenzio: “Rabbit Run” by Eminem
+118 Karlos Vemola: “Terminator Theme”
Vemola, R2 Sub

UFC 146
-401 Cain Velasquez: “Los Mandados” by Vicente Fernandez
+346 Antonio Silva: “Lose Yourself” by Eminem
Velasquez, R1 KO/TKO

-125 Joey Gambino: “Cinderella Man” by Eminem
+113 Steven Siler: “In the Air Tonight” by Nonpoint
Siler, R1 Sub

UFC 148
-308 Forrest Griffin: “Shipping Up to Boston” by Dropkick Murphys
+271 Tito Ortiz: “Mosh” by Eminem
Griffin, UD

**It has been reported that Mitch Gagnon entered the Octogon this weekend to Eminem, with the expected result, but are unable to confirm with solid documentation at this time.

UFC 149
+206 Mitch Gagnon
-231 Bryan Caraway
Carraway, R3 Sub



All Sean Salmon information courtesy

All fight odds reflect the closing lines at Pinnacle Sportsbook, as archived by

All official fight results courtesy

All fighter walkout music information courtesy

A final word: Despite the great advances in media coverage and statistical analysis in MMA the last few years, our knowledge of fighter walkout music remains incomplete. Not every entrance gets broadcast, and many that are can never be rebroadcast due to rights issues. We cannot say with surety that the above list is a complete one, but it reflects the best knowledge available at this time.

One comment on “For Whom the Em Tolls: The sound of impending doom for fighters in the UFC

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *