MMA is still a relatively new sport in the grand scheme of things. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was only founded in 1993, and prior to that, there was an extremely limited number of sanctioned cross-combat fights, particularly in the western world. Fast forward to the present day, and not only has the sport of mixed martial arts exploded in popularity, but specifically that of the UFC. The organization is now the biggest MMA brand in the world, and with that comes the greatest talents from across the globe.
For this list, I’m going to rank the top 10 UFC fighters of all-time, based strictly upon their UFC resumes. That means, despite many all-time great fighters having a wealth of experience within other top promotions (Strikeforce, Pride FC, WEC, Bellator, etc.), I’ll be solely focusing on how they performed and what results they produced under the UFC banner.
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So, let’s get into it, here is my list for the top 10 UFC fighters of all-time:
10. Max “Blessed” Holloway
UFC Record: 18-6-0 (Overall MMA Record: 22-6-0)
Top Accolades: UFC Featherweight Champion (One time, with Three Successful Title Defenses), Most Wins in UFC Featherweight Division History (17), and Countless Statistical Records.
Most Notable UFC Wins: José Aldo (x2), Frankie Edgar, Anthony Pettis, Charles Oliveira
Number 10 is always a tricky spot to fill. You have to dig deep and decide upon who makes the cut and who doesn’t. I had legends of the sport like Matt Hughes, Randy Couture, Jose Aldo, Chuck Liddell, and BJ Penn, all contending for this place. But surprisingly, what sets Max Holloway apart from those guys, is his losses, not his wins. Unlike the others, he’s only been finished once in his career, and that was in his very first UFC fight. But since then, he’s flourished as a fighter, and has managed to contend with everyone, even when he’s out-matched.
One downside to Holloway’s legacy, is the fact that he’s been beaten twice by two opponents, Dustin Poirier and Alexander Volkanovski. But even with that going against him, his dominant 13-fight winning streak, and long-term success at the top of the featherweight division, is enough for him to squeak into my list.
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9. Henry “The Messenger/Triple C” Cejudo
UFC Record: 10-2-0 (Overall MMA Record: 16-2-0)
Top Accolades: UFC Bantamweight Champion (One time, with One Successful Title Defense), UFC Flyweight Champion (One time, with One Successful Title Defense), and 4th Simultaneous Multi-Divisional Champion in UFC History.
Most Notable UFC Wins: Demetrious Johnson, Dominick Cruz, T.J. Dillashaw, Marlon Moraes
Henry Cejudo could be a contentious top 10 selection due to his brief time spent at the pinnacle of the sport. That being said, he beat Demetrious Johnson, the consensus best flyweight, as well as Dominick Cruz and T.J. Dillashaw, two of the consensus best bantamweights of all-time, all in the space of 2 years.
It is up for debate on whether he should have been afforded the opportunity to claim two belts, or whether the UFC should have kept Demetrious Johnson around for their trilogy fight. But what isn’t debatable, is the amount of gold this man has collected, and the names that he has beaten to do so.
8. Daniel “DC” Cormier
UFC Record: 11-3-0 & 1 No Contest (Overall MMA Record: 22-3-0 & 1 No Contest)
Top Accolades: UFC Heavyweight Champion (One time, with One Successful Title Defense), UFC Light Heavyweight Champion (One time, with Three Successful Title Defense), 5th Simultaneous Multi-Divisional Champion in UFC History.
Most Notable UFC Wins: Stipe Miocic, Anthony Johnson (x2), Alexander Gustafsson, Anderson Silva Dan Henderson
If it weren’t for a man called Jon Jones, I dare say that Daniel Cormier could have gone down as the greatest in the sport’s history. Hell, if I were taking into account his Strikeforce run, he’d have forced his way into my top 5, regardless of his past with Jones.
He’s beaten the best the UFC light heavyweight division has had to offer since 2014, and if Jon Jones had pursued any other career, he would have likely retired undefeated as the UFC Light Heavyweight (LHW) Champion. Alas, that wasn’t the case, but he still went on to claim the UFC LHW title, defend it multiple times, and even capture the UFC Heavyweight Championship, despite nearly eclipsing the age of 40. He was the consummate professional, and a legend of the sport, and perhaps the most deserving man to attain double-champ status.
7. Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson
UFC Record: 15-2-1 (Overall MMA Record: 30-3-1)
Top Accolades: UFC Flyweight Champion (One time, inaugural, with Eleven Successful Title Defenses), Most Consecutive Title Defenses in UFC History, and Tied for Most Successful Title Defenses in UFC History.
Most Notable UFC Wins: Henry Cejudo, Joseph Benavidez (x2), John Dodson, Kyoji Horiguchi, Ian McCall
Demetrious Johnson is the first of two fighters on this list who are victims of their own success. He had a strangle hold on the UFC’s flyweight division for over six years, and it wasn’t until Henry Cejudo beat him in their rematch, that we really saw him challenged. Up until then, he outclassed his opponents, but he didn’t often create a spectacle, he was typically overly methodical and risk-adverse. This was one of the main factors of what lead him to such dominance, but it certainly didn’t aid his campaign to be recognized by the fans as the greatest of all-time.
Shortly after the Cejudo fight, he left the organization, leaving us craving one more fight from him, to see if he could come out on top in the trilogy. Should he have stuck around and won that, and perhaps made a successful step up to challenge T.J. Dillashaw, the then bantamweight champion, we could be talking about Johnson as the Greatest Of All Time (G.O.A.T).
6. Stipe Miocic
UFC Record: 14-3-0 (Overall MMA Record: 20-3-0)
Top Accolades: UFC Heavyweight Champion (Two time, with Four Successful Title Defenses) and Most Consecutive Heavyweight Title Defenses in UFC History (3).
Most Notable UFC Wins: Daniel Cormier (x2), Junior dos Santos, Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum, Francis N’Gannou, Andrei Arlovski
Stipe Miocic’s accolades may not seem as impressive as some of the fighters before him, but considering how inherently volatile heavyweight MMA is, he deserves a ton of respect for his sustained success. It’s difficult to put a value on heavyweight wins against other weight classes, but there’s no prizes awarded for saying that it’s more difficult to build up win streaks against power-hitting 240+ pounders, rather than against smaller fighters who are less knockout reliant, and allow for more room for error.
Ultimately, Stipe has conquered a who’s who of the world’s baddest men, and he’s come out on top 14 times, and he’s even avenged two of his three losses. We’ll have to see how much he can build on his legacy with his limited time left in the sport, but with the book still open, a few more wins could send him a couple of spots higher on my list.
5. Amanda “The Lioness” Nunes
UFC Record: 13-1-0 (Overall MMA Record: 20-4-0)
Top Accolades: UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion (One time, with Five Successful Title Defenses), UFC Women’s Featherweight Champion (One time, with One Successful Title Defense), and Most Wins In UFC History Amongst Women (13).
Most Notable UFC Wins: Cris Cyborg, Ronda Rousey, Valentina Shevchenko (x2), Holly Holm, Germaine de Randamie (x2), Miesha Tate
Women got a later start in MMA than the men, not only at the regional level, but also on the world’s biggest stages. Bouts had been sanctioned in Japan for years, and even Strikeforce, but the UFC didn’t bring in women until early-2013. With this in mind, it’d be understandable to assume that no female fighters would crack a top 10 UFC fighters of all-time list just yet, but you’d be wrong.
Amanda Nunes has trailblazed her way to the top of the women’s bantamweight and featherweight divisions. She has collected wins against the biggest names in the sport, and outside of avenging losses against fighters who she’s long-since surpassed in ability, there’s not a whole lot more for her to achieve.
Earlier I said that Demetrious Johnson and someone else on this list was a victim of their own success, and Nunes is the other fighter. She’s tiers above her competition right now, and without a new wave of fighters rising up to challenge her, she could simply sit in championship limbo, awaiting a challenge worthy of boosting her legacy into the absolute all-time discussion.
4. Anderson Silva
UFC Record: 17-7-0 & 1 No Contest (Overall MMA Record: 34-11-0 & 1 No Contest)
Top Accolades: UFC Middleweight Champion (One time, with Ten Successful Title Defenses), Longest Title Reign in UFC History (2457 Days), and Longest Win Streak in UFC History (16).
Most Notable UFC Wins: Dan Henderson, Vitor Belfort, Rich Franklin (x2), Chael Sonnen (x2), Forrest Griffin
Without a doubt, Anderson Silva was the toughest fighter to place on my list. It was never a question that he’d be on it, but his positioning is one of the most hotly debated topics with any all-time MMA fighter list.
He didn’t start competing in the UFC until he was 31 years of age. He then went on one of the best runs we’ve ever seen in the company, winning 16 fights with 14 finishes, with him being awarded 3 “Fight of the Night”, 7 “Knockout of the Night”, and 2 “Submission of the Night” bonuses, and he did it all in just over 6 years.
If Anderson would have called it a day on his career following that historic run, he’d be sitting firmly in the #1 spot, but sadly that wasn’t the case. His illustrious legacy then took a nosedive following a 2-7 run (with his win over Nick Diaz being overturned to a no contest after Silva tested positive for anabolic steroids) (per Tapology.com). Much of the blame for his losses fall on his age and his body’s fragility, which does beg the question, “how do we evaluate his UFC tenure?”.
At the end of the day, he was 38 when he finally lost and dropped his title to Chris Weidman. It was at an age where most fighters could barely compete at a UFC-level, and he was still considered the world’s best. And since then, he’s still fought the very best, and has made fights competitive for the most part, with injuries playing a huge role in his shortcomings. It’s for this reason that I still consider Anderson as highly as I do, and I still see him as deserving of fourth place on my list.
3. Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov
UFC Record: 13-0-0 (Overall MMA Record: 29-0-0)
Top Accolades: UFC Lightweight Champion (One time, with Three Successful Title Defenses) and Most Consecutive Wins in Lightweight Division History (13).
Most Notable UFC Wins: Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, Justin Gaethje, Rafael dos Anjos
Khabib Nurmagomedov is the only fighter on here without a single blemish to his record. He announced his retirement at UFC 254, and he stepped away having won every fight he ever had, and having faced minimal adversity along the way.
His resume doesn’t quite yield the same depth of high-end competition as some of the others on this list, but the manner in which he went about his wins, was masterful, and overwhelming. Should Khabib wish to return to the sport in the coming years and seek to add to his legacy, I don’t see any reason to think that he couldn’t climb even higher in the “all-time” debate.
2. Georges “Rush” St. Pierre (GSP)
UFC Record: 20-2-0 (Overall MMA Record: 26-2-0)
Top Accolades: UFC Welterweight Champion (Two times, with Nine Successful Title Defenses), UFC Middleweight Champion (One time), 4th Mutli-Divisional Champion in UFC History, and Most Wins in UFC Welterweight Title Fights (14).
Most Notable UFC Wins: Matt Hughes (x2), BJ Penn (x2), Michael Bisping, Johny Hendricks, Josh Koscheck (x2), Matt Serra
If you wanted to rank Georges St. Pierre number 1, I couldn’t fault you, it’s so ridiculously close. The names on his record are unbelievable, and he’s beaten many of them twice. He wasn’t always the most exciting, at least not down the home stretch of his career, but he got the results and did so decisively.
He did bow out of the sport with two losses to his name, one to Matt Hughes in just his 8th fight (when Hughes had 40 fights under his belt), and Matt Serra, in what is remembered as the biggest upset in MMA history. But what I love about GSP, is that he avenged both of those losses, and against Hughes, he did so twice.
Questions can be asked about whether he should have got the decision over Johny Hendricks in his last fight before his first retirement, but as you’ll read in my analysis of my number 1 fighter in UFC history, it’s not uncommon for even the best ever to get a favorable decision, or two.
His comeback fight was up a weight class against UFC Middleweight Champion, Michael Bisping. Bisping was arguably a little bit past his prime at this point, but he remained one of the toughest, and well-conditioned fighters in the sport. So for GSP to return after a 4 year hiatus, in a different weight class, and to finish an opponent like Bisping, it was an incredible career-capping moment.
1. Jon “Bones” Jones
UFC Record: 20-1-0 & 1 No Contest (Overall MMA Record: 26-1-0 & 1 No Contest)
Top Accolades: UFC Light Heavyweight Champion (Two times, with Eleven Successful Title Defenses), Longest Light Heavyweight Title Reign (1501 Days), Tied for Most Successful Title Defenses in UFC History, Most Wins in UFC Title Fights (14), and Youngest Fighter to Win a UFC Championship (23 Years, 242 Days)
Most Notable UFC Wins: Daniel Cormier, Maurício “Shogun” Rua, Alexander Gustafsson (x2), Lyoto Machida, Quinton Jackson, Vitor Belfort, Rashad Evans, Ryan Bader
Jon Jones hasn’t had the smoothest of careers within the UFC, but in my opinion, he’s had the best. He’s had his issues with USADA and getting flagged for an anti-doping violation in his second fight against Daniel Cormier. He’s had two close decisions go his way against Thiago Santos and Dominick Reyes. But looking at what he’s achieved at the highest level, and how he did it, how can I not put him on top of my list?
Above, I list a whole host of fighters that Jones has beaten, many of whom are considered truly great light heavyweights, if not pound-for-pound all-time greats, and that’s with me still omitting a couple of big names. The only person he’s lost to is Matt Hamill, and that was a DQ due to Jones throwing illegal elbows. Should he have elected to throw almost any other strike, he would have finished Hamill in the first round with no issues. It will forever tarnish his record from being perfect, but it will never take away from his legacy.