Between 2011 and 2015, Ronda Rousey was the most dominant female mixed martial artist on the planet. She defended her title at the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship seven times – often defeating her opponents in less than a minute. During this time Rousey wasn’t afraid to voice her opinions on other fighters and would often berate them with strings of verbal taunts during pre-fight press conferences. Alas, her unexpected loss to Holly Holm in 2015 seems to have humbled her some, proving that the quickest way to shut someone up is to beat them at their own game.
Throughout the ‘90s and early 2000s, Shannon Sharpe dominated the NFL. The 6 foot 2 tight end was the perfect combination of size, speed, and skill – making it a nightmare for other players to try and defend him. He won three Super Bowls during his career and set numerous positional records. Why are we telling you this? Because Sharpe’s dominance is what allowed him to be one of the most ruthless trash talkers to ever step on an NFL field. It didn’t matter if he was giving it to opposing players, fans or even his own teammates, Sharpe could chew you up and spit you out with ease.
#8: John McEnroe
Since its inception, the sport of tennis has been synonymous with the upper class; a gentlemen’s game meant to be treated with respect. However, in the late '70s, one man came along who trash talked his opponents, berated umpires and generally got under the skin of all who opposed him – and that man was John McEnroe. The kicker was that he could back it up on the court – spending 170 weeks as the top ranked tennis player in the world between 1980 and 85. For an example of McEnroe’s trash talking abilities, look no further than the time he said of his rival Ivan Lendl, “I’ve got more talent in my pinkie than Lendl has in his whole body”.
#7: Richard Sherman
What is it about Richard Sherman that makes opponents lose their minds? The Seattle Seahawks cornerback has gone toe-to-toe with some of the NFL’s best wide receivers and more often than not they end up losing their cool. While Sherman is arguably one of the best at his position, there is a case to be made that his trash talking game is so strong it is part of the reason he continues to dominate on the field. Who could forget his battle with Michael Crabtree in the 2013 NFC Championship game? Attempting to shake a man’s hand after embarrassing him with your skill is a bold move…
#6: Conor McGregor
The UFC has produced a number of impressive trash talkers over the years. All one needs to do is listen to Chael Sonnen destroy Anderson Silva over and over again to know that MMA is a sport where you need to be tough before, during and after a fight. However, Conor McGregor is in a league of his own. The Irish fighter goes well beyond the call of duty when discussing his opponents – verbally emasculating them before the fight has even begun. This gives him the psychological edge long before he steps into the octagon. His trash talking game is so strong, one can’t help but look on in admiration – even with his loss to Floyd Mayweather at the T-Mobile Arena, this does not look to lessen any.
#5: Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Sporting an all-time record of 50-0, Mayweather is considered one of the greatest boxers to ever strap on the gloves. However, his skill inside the ring is often overshadowed by his constant need to destroy opponents with strings of profanity-laden smack talk. His list of victims stretches from opponents all the way to up to renowned boxing analyst Larry Merchant – whom he infamously said should be fired after a 2011 championship fight. To fight Mayweather is to be his punching bag in the ring and his trash talk depository outside of it, as especially evidenced during the promotional tour for the highly anticipated boxing match between him and Conor McGregor which he won after toying with McGregor for several rounds.
#4: Chad Johnson
The man formally known as “Ocho Cinco” was one of the most talented trash talkers to ever play the game of football. The Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver famously kept a list of the cornerbacks he faced in his locker, crossing out their names in post-game interviews when they failed to cover him. Johnson would climb inside the minds of his opponents and rattle their cages with stunning consistency. However, the best part about Johnson was that he could put his money where his mouth was – retiring as a six-time Pro Bowler with over 11,000 receiving yards.
#3: Michael Jordan
For two decades, the NBA watched in awe as Michael Jordan ran roughshod over anyone and everyone who got in his way; and much like the others on this list, he utilized trash talk with great efficiency. MJ would constantly call his moves during games, infuriating defenders as he swooped by them on the way to the hoop. Jordan didn’t care who you were, if you got in his way you were going to be subjected to a wave of no-holds-barred verbal abuse; and that included teammates, as one story has Jordan denying a teammate the right to wear his Air Jordan shoes by quipping, “my sneakers are for all stars”. Ouch.
#2: Mike Tyson
Whereas many of the others on this list liked to poke fun at their opponents as a way of throwing them off their game, Mike Tyson took trash talking to a much scarier level. His rants are the stuff of legend, with the ferocious heavyweight boxer once infamously threatening to eat Lennox Lewis’s children during a post fight interview - and that’s just scratching the surface. Iron Mike couldn’t cross the line because he didn’t even know the line existed. He terrified people with his pre and post fight tirades, often using profanity to hammer his points home.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Terrell Owens
- Sean Avery
- Charles Barkley
#1: Muhammad Ali
In the pantheon of sports trash talkers, one man reigns supreme. The moment the cameras began to roll, Muhammad Ali would explode into a devastating and eloquently assembled rant aimed to humiliate and mentally disable his opponents. The man who came to be known as simply “The Greatest” earned that name by being an unstoppable force in the ring and a downright vicious smack talker outside of it. He would regularly insult, taunt and berate his rivals with never before seen precision. The problem for his opponents was simple: Ali was the best… and he knew it.