What happens when the stakes are high and an athlete is on the brink of losing control? Oftentimes, they start a fight and that can escalate into brawls. There is something very exciting about an on-field clash between opposing teams. Even though we know it’s wrong, we still root for our teams when they fight because of that primal instinct inside us. It’s like scoring a touchdown or a goal.
Today we’re going to take a look at 35 of the best on-field fights in sports in everything from NBA to soccer to football and of course, hockey. Some of these brawls are more memorable than the actual games and even defined players’ careers. There were even fights between teammates. Check out the list below via Stadium Talk.
35. The Goodwill Mission
The Georgetown Hoyas traveled to China to play an exhibition game in 2011. They took on the Bayi Rockets in what was billed as a ‘goodwill game.’ It was supposed to symbolize the bonds that sports can create but instead, it became a depressing metaphor for the U.S and Chinese relations. Ultimately, the result was one of the most embarrassing brawls in recent memory.
Chinese basketball teams have a notorious reputation for fighting with foreign opposition. The game swiftly went out of control and soon a bench-clearing brawl began. One of the Bayi players even hit Georgetown’s Henry Sims with a chair. The U.S. State Department even became involved because it threatened to become an international incident. This was a ludicrous situation.
Canada and Mexico played in the World Baseball Classic in 2013. The teams met at Chase Field with Canada leading before a bench-clearing brawl kicked off. Mexico pitcher Arnold Leon threw twice inside at Canada’s Rene Tosoni before the umpire issued a warning. However, the Mexicans felt frustrated because they thought that Canada was running up the score.
This was one of the messiest brawls in baseball. Some fans even threw bottles at the players, with one smashing a Canadian coach in the face. Officials ejected seven players from the game for their part in the chaos. It was unseemly for such a major event and the Pro-Mexico crowd definitely didn’t help matters. Furthermore, Canada threatened to pull their team from the game before things settled down.
Tulsa and Mississippi State met in a largely uneventful game that saw the Bulldogs eke out a win. However, the real story of this game was what came after. It’s fair to say that the young collegiate athletes didn’t pay tribute to the brave members of the military in the best way. There was a feeling of tension during the game but nothing bad happened until after it finished.
That’s when one of the most shameful brawls in NCAA history broke out on the field. The two teams went to war in a no-holds-barred rampage. Coaches and law enforcement officers attempted to break up the chaos but it was extremely violent. One of the Mississippi players even kicked a Tulsa player as he lay on the ground. It was embarrassing and a poor reflection upon these young men.
The Cleveland Browns defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in the biggest win of their season in 2019. But the real story of the game was the disgraceful violence that occurred after it. Garrett was the main instigator of the chaos that ensued. The Browns’ star provided an ugly moment when he got into it with the Steelers’ quarterback, Mason Rudolph. An incensed Garrett ripped the helmet off of Rudolph’s head.
Then, he proceeded to hit his opponent with it. Of course, it all kicked off from there as one of the worst brawls of the season erupted. Officials struggled to bring the two teams back under control. Rudolph did hit Garrett late, but that was no excuse for his moment of madness. The NFL threw the book at Garrett and suspended him for the remainder of the season and also issued him a hefty fine.
The Buffalo Bills faced the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2020 AFC Championship game. After a lengthy spell in the wilderness, it was fantastic to see them back in the playoffs. But ultimately, the Chiefs were too good and ran out clear winners. Meanwhile, the Bills became frustrated late in the game. Bills’ quarterback Allen, threw the ball at Alex Okafor’s head from a prone position on the ground.
Okafor immediately moved to stand over Allen, but then another Bills player came in and shouldered him out of it. Then it all became messy. When everybody watched the replay, they realized that Allen’s sly action incited the fight. The NFL doesn’t take kindly to players igniting brawls and duly issued Allen a hefty fine. However, sometimes emotions get the better of pumped-up athletes.
Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier don’t like each other. The two men have fought twice with Jones winning both fights, although the UFC overturned the second to a no-contest. But their rivalry is one of the most genuine and toxic in combat sports. It all came to a head at a press conference in the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in 2014. The two men faced off before one of the first major UFC brawls erupted.
Cormier pushed Jones who immediately reacted. Within seconds the two men were on the floor throwing punches. Their teams got involved and some of the promotional displays were destroyed. It was brilliant marketing for the UFC but also a bit embarrassing for the two men involved. The Nevada State Athletic Commission fined both men and ordered them both to complete community service.
College is full of young, testosterone-filled men who sometimes lose self-control of themselves. In 2020, Florida State played Missouri in an SEC game. Everything ran smoothly until Kyle Trask received a late hit at the end of the first half. Then a full donnybrook broke out. It’s not often that coaches find themselves in the middle of in-game brawls, but that’s exactly what happened to the Gators’ Dan Mullen.
Mullen was incensed and his staff held him back. Furthermore, he incited the crowd by waving his arms at them. A disciplinary hearing resulted in him receiving a hefty fine for his actions. Meanwhile, it looked very messy and wasn’t a good reflection on the game. However, the reality is that these things happen sometimes. One moment can result in catastrophic consequences.
Gremio and Internacional are two of the biggest soccer teams in Brazil. They are also fierce rivals. However, nobody expected that the two teams would wage war against each other when they clashed in 2020. The two teams met in the group stage of the Copa Libertadores. This is South America’s most prestigious continental tournament and tensions ran high. But things kicked off in the second half.
The game was scoreless with just two minutes of regular time left on the clock. Then two players went head-to-head but this sparked a major brawl involving both squads. Even Gremio manager Renato Portuluppi became involved. Players kicked, punched, and pushed each other as the officials lost control. Finally, it fizzled out and the referee issued red cards to no less than eight players.
The first of several MMA post-fight brawls on this list, this one was a doozy. KSW is one of Europe’s biggest promotions and regularly has massive events. Shamil Musaev took on Uros Jurisic in a welterweight clash and duly defeated his opponent. Usually, fighters put any animosity aside after their bout and move forward. However, Musaev wasn’t content just to beat his opponent.
Firstly, Jurisic put his hands on one of Musaev’s coaches before walking away. But then Musaev approached his opponent and took him by surprise. He slammed him to the ground and unloaded punches to his head. This provoked one of the biggest brawls in the history of MMA. Both teams were involved and security entered the cage in an effort to stop the violence. In the end, KSW issued heavy sanctions for both men.
Gaelic football is one of Ireland’s national sports. Amateur athletes play in front of thousands of passionate fans. But sometimes, emotions spill over and on-field brawls occur. That’s exactly what happened in one game between Kerry and Mayo. With minutes left on the clock, Mayo grew frustrated as Kerry wasted time. Meanwhile, the referee was content to let the clock run down instead of stopping time.
A brawl erupted between the two teams but it escalated. A big bear of a man waded onto the pitch because he wanted ‘to have a word’ with the referee. Stewards moved to intercept him but he was more than they bargained for. It took eight men to drag the fan known as ‘Mayo Mick’ from the field. Meanwhile, the crowd cheered him on as he resisted. It was simultaneously hilarious and ridiculous.
Let’s be real, you probably didn’t even know that these two countries had basketball teams. But in 2018, they made global news after an insane brawl erupted. The Philippines was trailing 48–79 when the brawl began. However, in the third quarter, it all blew up. Then officials suspended the game for 30 minutes as they attempted to restore order.
First of all, a Filipino player intentionally fouled one of the Australians. Then NBL star Daniel Kickert landed an elbow and a forearm to a Filipino. Cue carnage. The violence then spilled into the crowd. One of the players’ fathers even threw a chair at Nathan Soeby. Officials ejected 13 players when it all calmed down.
The Texas Rangers were playing the Chicago White Sox when this fight broke out. Ryan smashed Ventura on the shoulder with a pitch. A furious Ventura charged the mound like a bull but didn’t count on Ryan’s grappling skills. The Rangers pitcher was able to sidestep and get Ventura in a headlock.
From there, Ventura became Ryan’s punching bag. Even more shocking was the age difference between the two men. At 46, Ryan was 20 years older than Ventura. Officials ruled it as self-defense and only ejected Ventura. Talk about rubbing salt into his wounds.
This was the biggest basketball brawl since the Malice at the Palace. First of all, Knicks guard Mardy Collins committed a flagrant foul during the closing seconds of the game. The whole place ignited as both teams clashed. But it didn’t just stay on the court, as fans fought in the stands as well.
Carmelo Anthony infamously punched Collins in the face. But it wasn’t as bad as Pistons-Pacers brawls because the players didn’t fight in the stands. Finally, it fizzled out and the court officials ejected 10 players from the game. The NBA suspended seven players for 47 games.
It was Game 3 of the 2003 American League Championship Series. The rivalry between the Red Sox and the Yankees is one of the fiercest in baseball. Tied 1-1 coming into this game, tensions were rife. Martinez hit New York outfielder Karim Garcia with a fastball.
Garcia slid hard into second base, knocking down the Red Sox’s Todd Walker. A bench-clearing brawl ignited. Suddenly, 72-year-old Zimmer was charging at Martinez like a bull. The Dominican threw him aside like a sack of flour. He later said it was the biggest regret of his career.
Fights are synonymous with ice hockey. It’s almost accepted that brawls are a part of the game. But some are more serious than others. If you go back to 1991, the St. Louis Blues took on the Chicago Blackhawks. This game contained 278 penalty minutes, which included 24 minor, 12 major, and 17 misconduct penalties.
Officials ejected 12 players from the game (six from each team). It all kicked off after St. Louis Blues defenseman Glen Featherstone took exception to Chicago Blackhawks forward Jeremy Roenick’s hit on Harold Snepsts. Suddenly there were fights breaking out all over the ice. In short, it was classic hockey.
This was the culmination of one of the most toxic rivalries MMA has ever seen. Conor McGregor is the biggest star in MMA and known for his trash talk. But he took it too far against Khabib Nurmagamedov. After a bus attack and exchanges where the Irishman literally condemned Khabib’s religion and country, there was a lot of hate.
It looked like it was finally over when Khabib beat the Irishman at UFC 229 in New York. But ‘The Eagle’ had a rush of blood and attacked McGregor’s teammate and cornerman Dillon Danis. This ignited a brawl between both men’s camps in a night of shame watched by millions around the world.
In the early 2000s, the Red Sox and Yankees had a very competitive rivalry. In this 2004 installment, the Yankees were 3-0 up when a fight broke out. First of all, Bronson Arroyo’s pitch hit Rodriguez on the elbow. The Yankees batsman didn’t take too kindly to this and went after him.
However, Varitek intercepted Rodriguez and shoved his glove in the Yankee star’s face. The benches cleared straight away. Finally, the brawls ended and the Red Sox came back to win 11-10. In many ways, the image of Varitek and Rodriguez facing off defines the era.
Rob Ray and Donald Brashear had a history. The Flyers and Senators enforcers came toe-to-toe at the Wachovia Center in 2004. With 1:45 left in the third period, Brashear hit Ray from behind. Ray fought back and it all blew up from there. Linesmen dragged Brashear off the ice but couldn’t stop him from hitting two more players.
Fights broke out all over the ice. It took the officials over 90 minutes to allocate the penalty minutes. The two teams combined for 419 penalty minutes, an NHL record. It really doesn’t take that much to set off hockey brawls though. You’ve got to love this sport.
Dallas and Toronto are a long way from each other, so you’d think they wouldn’t have the strongest rivalry. But they did have a toxic spat back in 2016. Jose Bautista and Texas second baseman Rougned Odor got into a fistfight behind the bag after a hard slide by the Toronto slugger at Odor’s legs in the midst of a double play in the top of the eighth inning.
Both of their teams came running onto the field as tensions escalated. Odor shoved Bautista before punching him in the face. Umpires needed about 10 minutes to restore order to the game. Officials ejected Bautista and Odor as well as Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson and Texas bench coach Steve Buechele after the brawls finished.
The 1984 edition of Spain’s most important soccer cup final saw Athletic Bilbao take on Barcelona. This game is most famous for the massive brawl that kicked off right at the very end. Superstar Diego Maradona was right in the middle of it, in his very last game for Barcelona.
Maradona blew up after Bilbao’s Andoni Goikoetxea told him where to go. Nicknamed ‘The Butcher of Bilbao,’ Goikoetxea broke Maradona’s leg in a previous game. The Argentine charged at his nemesis like a raging bull and the two teams went at it. Bilbao won the game but Maradona won the fight. One of soccer’s most dramatic brawls.
One of the biggest brawls on this list, it went down between two NHL rivals in 1997. The Colorado Avalanche were playing the Detroit Redwings in a grudge match. There was bad blood between the sides after an earlier incident that saw the Avalanche’s Claude Lemieux shatter the Red Wings’ Kris Draper’s face.
This game saw nine fights with the biggest coming in the 18th minute. Red Wings players targeted Lemieux. He covered up as he tried to protect himself. Fights erupted all over the ice and soon there were patches of blood everywhere. The Red Wings went on to win their second Stanley Cup in a row.
These two men hated each other back in the early 90s. Zo publically complained about how much money Johnson was making during their time together in Charlotte. This bitter rivalry finally came to a head in the final quarter of a 1998 game between the Miami Heat and the New York Knicks.
The two men squared off and took turns throwing punches at each other, narrowly missing each time. Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy and player Charles Oakley tried to restrain Zo. Oakley took the top while Van Gundy hilariously hung onto his player’s leg. They should definitely stick to basketball over brawls.
El Clasico is one of the tensest rivalries in all of sport. The two biggest teams in Spanish soccer, games between Barcelona and Real Madrid usually decide who will win the league. This time they were playing in the 2011 Supercopa when tensions flared. The tetchy game had already seen the referee send David Villa off. But soon one of Spanish soccer’s nastiest brawls ignited.
Marcelo scythed down Cesc Fabregas to ignite a scuffle. The referee lost control as the players pushed and shoved each other. Madrid manager Mourinho poked his counterpart Tito Vilanova in the eye. Real Madrid officials had to literally drag the livid German off the field. Apart from the red cards a further eight players received warnings.
Bizarrely, this notorious event happened just a day after ‘The Malice at the Palace.’ Known in NCAA circles as ‘The Brawl,’ it went down in November 2004. Clemson was winning in the final quarter when it all kicked off. After the SC quarterback took a shot to head, Clemson players lay on him and prevented him from getting up.
Chaos ensued. Officials suspended the game for six minutes as state troopers poured onto the field to stop the violence. The enduring image from this game was Clemson’s Yusuf Kelly kicking a helmetless USC player in the head as he covered up on the ground. It was a truly sickening occasion and one of the worst brawls to watch.
Usually, nobody really cares that much about minor league baseball unless Michael Jordan is playing. But this clash between the Dragons and the Chiefs served up all sorts of violence. After Julio Castillo hit two batters in the head, Dayton manager Donnie Scott turned to complain. Castillo stupidly fired a ball into the crowd, hitting a fan.
This set off a bench-clearing brawl. Police arrested Castillo for assault because the ball hit a fan. Meanwhile, officials ejected a total of 15 players from the game. This is as bad as any baseball clash we’ve ever seen. We knew that there was a reason that the minor leagues exist. The Ohio judge sentenced Castillo to 30 days in jail.
This NASCAR fight came after the 2013 Auto Club 400. Stewart had the opportunity to pass Logano. But Logano had other ideas and frustratingly blocked Stewart off. The congestion caused Stewart to fall behind and out of contention. So he had vengeance on his mind after the race.
He searched for Logano and shoved him in the chest. Soon, punches were flying between the two men. Finally, their pit teams pulled them apart after the emotional exchange. Logano also caused Denny Hamlin to crash out hard in the same race. To sum up, he’s not in the business of making friends.
In short, this game had more fights than a UFC event. The North Stars were playing the Bruins back in 1981. Bobby Smith and Steve Kaspar went at it straight from the drop-off. That pretty much set the tone for the rest of the night. The night saw 12 players ejected and 406 minutes of penalties assessed because of the chaos.
Later Bruins coach Gerry Cheevers explained that he didn’t believe that there was anything wrong with the night of chaos. He said that because they didn’t use sticks it was ok and just part of hockey. To sum up, the penalty record stood for a total of 23 years. That’s an achievement of sorts.
Normally, it’s athletes who get into fights on the field. Coaches usually know better because they’re older and wiser. However, everybody has a line and sometimes we cross it without thinking. In 2012, former Fiorentina soccer manager Delio Rossi made that mistake because of an annoying player on his own team.
With Fiorentina trailing 2-0 to Novara, Rossi brought off his striker Ljajic. The Serbian applauded him sarcastically as he walked past and gave him the thumbs up. Rossi’s response was to literally assault his player, pushing and attempting to punch him. Fiorentina sacked Rossi and the Italian FA banned him for three months.
What happens when two teams of testosterone-filled college students don’t like each other? In short, you get a massive on-field brawl like the one between the Golden Panthers and the Hurricanes in 2006. Towards the end of a game filled with trash talk and needless fouls, frustrations finally spilled over.
The massive brawl saw punches, kicks, and brandished helmets. FIU’s A’Mod Ned even came onto the field swinging his crutches. State troopers and FIU police poured onto the field to defuse the carnage that had erupted. Finally, the Sun Belt Conference suspended an incredible 31 players from both schools.
1962 saw one of the most chaotic games of soccer ever. World Cup hosts Chile were playing Italy amid one of the most toxic rivalries in the history of the game. The media insulted each other’s countries before the game, stoking hatred and inciting violence. This didn’t dissipate on the playing field.
The first sending off happened in the eighth minute but the police intervened at four different stages of the game. The next red card came when an Italian tried to stamp on a Chilean’s head. Later a Chilean player broke one of the Italians’ noses with a left hook. This wasn’t a game, it was war. There were more brawls than goals because these two teams loathed each other.
On-ice fights are a tradition in hockey but they usually only last for a few seconds before simmering down again. It’s extremely rare that they boil over into something as ludicrous as what happened in Madison Square Garden in 1979. The New York Rangers were playing the Boston Bruins when an insane melee broke out.
The teams came together at the end of the game with bad blood between them. Then, a Rangers fan smacked Stan Jonathan with a game program. Suddenly the Bruins were fighting the crowd who had belts and bottles in their hands. But the iconic image is of Mike Milbury slapping a man with his own shoe.
It’s not uncommon for two players from opposing sides to get into a fight. But two players from the same team? Now that’s something special. Enter Dyer and Bowyer whose on-field fight is the stuff of Premier League legend. Both men were playing for Newcastle United against Aston Villa in 2005.
Frustration was rife after Newcastle went 3-0 down. Bowyer confronted Dyer because he believed the latter was deliberately refusing to pass to him. Dyer stoked the flames and the pair squared off. Suddenly, punches were flying. Then the referee sent them both off so all they did was embarrass themselves. This was one of the dumbest brawls in soccer history, but it was hilarious.
Forget about UFC 229, this is the worst MMA brawl ever. Jake Shields defeated Dan Henderson in the main event. But then his former rival Jim Miller got in his face. Tensions that were already building suddenly ignited. Then Nick Diaz threw the first punch. This kicked off a savage fight.
The Diaz brothers, Gilbert Melendez, and other high-profile fighters were all involved. Finally, security, aided by Dan Henderson’s camp, was able to separate the two sides. But the worst part was that Showtime was broadcasting it live to the world. In short, this did a lot of damage to MMA’s reputation.
In 2004, the world saw one of the most infamous bust-ups in sports history. The Denver Pistons took on the Indiana Pacers in Auburn Hills, Michigan. With less than a minute left in the game, the Pistons were up 97-82. Then Ron Artest shoved Ben Wallace hard in the back. To sum up, the pair went head-to-head and an on-court fight kicked off.
A fan threw a drink at Artest after things had cooled down. This sparked a second and even bigger brawl between the players and spectators. After the game, the NBA suspended nine players for a total of 146 games. Meanwhile, five of those players faced assault charges. The suspensions saw them lose a combined $11 million in salary. In sum, this is one of the most notorious brawls in sports history.
The Soviet Union and Canada once had the most competitive rivalry in all of hockey. However, they really came to a head in Piestany, Czechoslovakia in 1987. Canada was still in with a chance of winning the gold medal at the World Junior Hockey Championship but didn’t count on the vitriol of the Soviets.
In short, this was an intense game from start to finish. But a massive fight broke out at the end of the second period between both squads. Almost every player came off the benches. A headbutt broke a nose amid pure violence. The organizers turned off the lights in a desperate attempt to end the mayhem. Following the brawl, the IIHF suspended the players involved for 18 months and the coaches for three years.