In almost 30 years, the UFC has produced some truly epic champions. Let’s take a look at some of the most famous and successful fighters ever to have graced the octagon.
The notorious Mr McGregor holds the record for fastest victory in the UFC (13 seconds, versus José Aldo), as well as being the first fighter to hold titles in 2 weight divisions at once (Featherweight and Lightweight). A star attraction like no other, he has fought in 5 of the top 6 highest-selling UFC pay-per-view events.
The Spider holds the record for the longest reign of any UFC champion, dominating the Middleweight division from 2006 to 2013 with a record 16 consecutive victories. A renowned stand-up fighter and known as one of the most effective strikers in the sport, many have called Silva one of the greatest ever practitioners of mixed martial arts.
Arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Jones was the UFC’s youngest ever champion when he defeated Mauricio Rua at the age of just 23. An unorthodox but incredibly effective fighter, Jones’ career has involved numerous controversies. His fight with Alexander Gustafsson at UFC165 is considered to be one of the greatest ever.
A former Olympian, Rousey was the UFC’s first female champion, defeating Liz Carmouche at UFC 157. Known for her fast victories and effective grappling style, Rousey was voted the greatest female athlete of all time in a 2015 ESPN poll. As well as her accomplishments in the UFC, Rousey has enjoyed notable success in judo, professional wrestling and acting.
The Eagle dominated the Lightweight division, holding the title from 2018 until his retirement in 2021. In fact, it wasn’t until his first title defence (vs. Conor McGregor) that Nurmagomedov had even lost a round in a UFC fight. Using a relentless grappling style based on the Soviet martial art sambo, the Russian’s undefeated record of 29-0 includes 19 victories by KO or submission.
The Natural was a three-time UFC Heavyweight champion, making his debut back at UFC 13, and holds the record for the oldest fighter to have won a championship fight. His trilogy of fights with Chuck Liddell have been credited as helping to bring the UFC to mainstream attention.
The fourth fighter in UFC history to claim titles in multiple weight divisions, the Canadian known as ‘Rush’ made his debut at UFC 46 and went on to hold the Welterweight and Middleweight crowns. Along with his versatility, one of his most notable strengths was his longevity: having dominated the Welterweight division for over a decade, St-Pierre returned from retirement to claim the Middleweight title over 15 years after his first Welterweight Championship.
After bursting onto the UFC scene in 2015 with his victorious showing on season 21 of The Ultimate Fighter, Kamaru Usman has made short work of the professional competition as well. A former Welterweight Champion, as of October 2022, Usman sat #4 in the UFC’s pound for pound rankings, and #1 in the welterweight rankings, despite not currently holding the welterweight title.
Though current UFC fans will know Cormier more for his work in the announcer’s booth than the octagon, make no mistake, this multi-time champion is one of the great mixed martial artists in history. Cormier was also one of the UFC’s earliest breakout stars, as he was just the second UFC fighter to hold titles in multiple weight classes (light heavyweight and heavyweight), and the first to successfully defend both of those cross-class titles. Cormier is also famous for his wrestling career, which has seen him represent the United States in the Olympics or World Championships six times.
Born in Ohio, Miocic began his fighting career as a Division 1 wrestler and Golden Gloves Boxing champion, before graduating to the UFC in 2011. Since then, Miocic, a two-time UFC champion, has earned the reputation as the sport’s greatest ever heavyweight, due to a combination of success and longevity. At 40 years old, Miocic remains a highly competitive heavyweight contender, currently sitting at #14 overall in the pound for pound rankings, and #2 in the heavyweight class.
Recently retired, José Aldo is generally considered the greatest featherweight MMA fighter of all time. Prior to the UFC/WEC merger, Aldo competed in the WEC, where he began a ten-year unbeaten stretch that lasted from 2005 to 2015. This period included Aldo successfully defending his title a whopping seven times. Toward the end of his career, the Brazilian competed briefly in the bantamweight class, but will always be known primarily for his extraordinary tenure as a featherweight.
Although Demetrious Johnson currently fights for ONE Championship, the prolific flyweight is nonetheless one of the greatest UFC fighters of all time. Not only was Johnson the first ever UFC Flyweight Champion, the Kentucky native holds the UFC record for most consecutive title defenses, at 11, and well as the record for most successful takedowns in UFC history. Joe Rogan, a longtime UFC commentator and enormously successful podcaster, has famously gone on record with his opinion that Demetrious Johnson is the best MMA fighter of all time.
Though Ronda Rousey was the first bonafide celebrity amongst female UFC fighters, Amanda Nunes has long since taken the mantle as the greatest female MMA champion of all time. Not only was the Brazilian born Nunes the third UFC fighter of any gender to hold multiple titles at once—Featherweight and Bantamweight, in Nunes’ case—she is the first female fighter to accomplish this feat, and the only UFC fighter, male or female, to defend titles in two weight classes while simultaneously holding both.
Way back in 1998, Chuck Liddell made his professional debut at UFC 17. While the former Light Heavyweight Champion rarely graces top-10 lists of the greatest UFC fighters, Liddell has nonetheless made an enormous impact on the sport, as he and fellow light heavyweight Tito Ortiz were the UFC’s two biggest faces when it exploded in popularity in the mid-2000s. Though limited as a submission artist, Liddell’s extraordinary striking earned him a number of legendary UFC knockouts, including the right hook that took down Randy Couture at UFC 52 in 2005, earning Liddell his first Light Heavyweight Championship.