Warning: sorry for the long post, turned out way longer than expected. To me athleticism is a very broad term, but in context of the discussion that constantly arises on Sherdog regarding top athletes, I mainly refer to fighters that are fast, quick twitch, and explosive, as athletic. Why Sherdog has chosen to only consider those traits as athleticism is beyond me. Nick Diaz for example might not be the fastest, explosive, or most powerful fighter around, but the guy is a hell of an athlete when it comes to conditioning and endurance. I think this Sherdog definition of what encompasses a top athlete comes from all the American posters that only use the American golden standard of athleticism, which is the NFL. There is this myth that the UFC is only filled with these D-level athletes that couldnt cut it in any other sport so they tried their hand at MMA. Although I do think that MMA in general has a high number of low level athletes compared to other big sports, but saying that there are no high level athletes in MMA is in my opinion false. Lets take a look at some fighters which I consider high level athletes (following the American golden standard), and lets see what they've accomplished: - Chad Mendes: Probably the best athlete in the FW division. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Is obviously a top level fighter but got his ass handed to him by Aldo, McGregor, and Frankie. Of course there is no shame in losing to those guys, but it is very telling that with his background, athleticism, team, and experience, he still gets beat by guys that are considered lower level athletes. - Melvin Guillard: Freak athlete with insane speed and explosiveness. Could never seem to figure out how to create openings or effectively counter. Joe Lauzon who is no top level athlete by any stretch of the imagination probably had his easiest win in Melvin Guillard. - Uriah Hall: His body is like a Ferrari thats racing against Fiats. But unfortunately he's the shitty driver that cant do anything worthwhile with the horsepower he's got under the hood. He has the reach (79), speed, and power advantage over most of his opponents, yet he gets beat by guys like Rafael Natal who should be an easy win for him. He doesnt know how to use his reach at all, cant create openings if they arent presented to him, distance and timing he seems to struggle with, and cant throw a combination to save his life. Of course he isnt a shitty fighter, far from it, but he's definitely underwhelming for someone who according to Sherdog with his athleticism should run through the MW division with no problem. - Brendan Schaub: I dont know a whole lot about the NFL and at what level Schaub was considered to be, but apparently he's considered a high level athlete in comparison to other heavyweights. Didnt do him any good against subpar athletes in Big Nog, Nelson, Rothwell. - Matt Mitrione: Basically same story as Schaub. - Tyron Woodley: Great fighter, great athlete. Still lost to old man Nate, and Jake "seems like he's always moving underwater" Shields. I mean Jake Shields is a monster, but an amazing athlete like Woodley should run right through him, right guys, right? - Shawn Jordan: Another comparable story to Schaub and Mitrione. Beast athlete with impressive numbers, still not doing anything special in the HW division. OSP, Barboza, Koscheck, Randleman, Lesnar, Melvin Manhoef (thanks HHJ), Todd Duffee (props BigPapaShango) etc etc, the list goes on if you delve deeper into the UFC roster. Of course a lot of the guys I've mentioned in my post have or have had good careers, Lesnar was even champ for a while. But its very interesting to note how these upper echelon athletes get beat by guys like Werdum, Cerrone, Bader, Rory, Nelson, Varner, etc., all fighters that arent particularly athletic if we maintain the American golden standard of athleticism. Fighters like Weidman were able to beat the superior golden standard athletes by using timing and distance. McGregor said it himself, he beats speed and power with timing and precision. Nelson and Rothwell will walk through your former NFL aspiring punches and land a big punch. It goes to show that there are more ways to be a succesful fighter than just speed and explosiveness. Chin, heart, fight IQ, timing, distance, precision, technique, endurance, cardio, ability to learn and adapt and improvise, coordination, balance, sense of depth, the list goes and on and on and onnnn. There are so many factors that decide whether or not someone becomes a champ, speed and explosiveness is just a smalll part of the equation. NFL or NBA skills dont automatically transfer into a succesful fighting career no matter how gifted you are and how fast you can run or high you can jump. TLDR: There are plenty examples of fighters that are very athletic (following the classic defintion of athleticism) who get beat up by less athletic fighters. Being gifted in one sport doesnt mean you are automatically gifted in every sport, especially not fighting.