Former fighter Stephan Bonnar, who helped the UFC grow into the dominant promotion in mixed martial arts, has died, according to the UFC. He was 45.
Bonnar, who was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2013, died on Thursday of “presumed heart complications while at work,” according to a statement released by the UFC on Saturday. No additional information was provided.
Bonnar, originally from Indiana, hadn’t fought in the UFC since 2014, and he had a record of 8-6 in seven years with the organization.
He competed in the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” the UFC’s long-running reality competition show, in 2005. He advanced to the competition’s finals, where he engaged in a bloody brawl with Forrest Griffin.
Griffin won the decision, but the viral attention generated by the highly entertaining fight is widely credited with introducing the little-known sport to a larger global audience online and on Spike TV, which aired it.
“Stephan Bonnar was one of the most significant fighters to ever compete in the Octagon,” said UFC president Dana White in a statement. “His fight with Forrest Griffin changed the sport forever, and he will never be forgotten. The fans adored him, identified with him, and he always gave them his all. He will be sorely missed.”