Back in the very early stages of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Brazilians and white fighters dominated the sport. An African-American fighter was winning from time to time, but none of them reached the promotion belt.
It all changed at UFC 8 when Trinidad-born Kuk Sool Woon 4th degree black belt Gary Goodridge stormed the scene and destroyed two opponents in the row to reach the tournament finals, but unfortunately, Don Frye stopped him in the bout for the belt.
The first-ever African-American UFC champion was Maurice Smith, who defeated both Kevin Jackson and Mark “The Hammer” Coleman to earn the belt at UFC 14 in 1997 (Fight of the Year).
There were many excellent black UFC fighters, and Octagon Radar chooses the top 8 warriors who will be remembered in the history of the fastest-growing fighting discipline forever.
About the author
These are the best black UFC fighters:
Jon Jones is a real example of superb fight intelligence, innovative potential, and the crazy behavior that cost him a title loss.
Jones has never been a true finisher, but he’s also recognized as the first switcher in the history of the sport.
He’s the only fighter who was stripped of the title three times due to controversial decisions inside and outside of the Octagon, but also the greatest legend on the list of black UFC fighters.
Technically, Jon Jones has never lost a single fight. He was disqualified against Matt Hamill after unloading questionable 12-6 elbows on the grounded opponent (Steve Mazzagatti’s weird call).
Other than that, Jon Jones was very successful and almost untouchable. The first guy to take Jon Jones down was Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165.
Jon Jones is known for oblique kicks and sidekicks to the knee, potential career-ending strikes that cause a serious amount of damage to the opponent. He’s the former UFC light heavyweight champ, who defended the strap 10 times.
Anderson Silva is one of the most dangerous strikers in the history of the sport and the man with the greatest number of 185-pound title defenses ever.
Silva was known for unorthodox kicks, great boxing, keeping his hands low, tricky movement, and outstanding BJJ off the back.
Silva defeated some of the greatest legends of the sport – Vitor Belfort, Chael Sonnen, Demian Maia, Yushin Okami. Silva was known for perfectly-timed counters and was one of the first counter-specialists in the history of UFC, bringing a whole new fighting style inside the Octagon.
“The Spider” was patiently waiting for his foes to attack, then he was unloading tricky shots after a hard-to-anticipate ducking. His counters put to sleep Forrest Griffin, Vitor Belfort, James Irvin, and even legendary Rich Franklin.
He’s also one of the first fighters with the perfect transition between the clinch and mid-range strikes. Ten finishes in title fights, such an impressive name on the list of black UFC fighters!
Demetrious Johnson is the best flyweight competitor in the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The first fighter to move on the tips of his fingers, and also the one and only guy with 11 title defenses in a row.
Johnson’s cardio is one of the best you’ll ever see. He pushes the same pace and pressure all the time. He’s also the owner of the latest UFC finish (Kyoji Horiguchi, armbar win, 4:59 of round 5).
Yet, he has never been a trash-talker, and Dana White didn’t like that, so Demetrious was later traded to the Asian promotion ONE FC, where he also won the title.
Demetrious also holds notable wins against Henry Cejudo, Wilson Reis, Ray Borg, John Dodson, Ali Bagautinov, Joseph Benavidez, and many other 125-pound stars. Maybe he’s the most dominant name on the list of African-American UFC fighters.
Daniel Cormier is the first-ever black two-division champion. Cormier’s trademark was superb offensive wrestling, trips and throws, and fantastic top control. You don’t wanna end up on the mat with “DC” because he’ll not let you go until the final bell.
Interestingly, after domination at 205, Cormier lost the fight to Jon Jones at UFC 214 but was later promoted to the champ because Jones was positive on Turinabol. Then he choked out Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 220 and decided to test his luck in the heavyweight division.
Interestingly, his clinch punch turned the lights out on Stipe Miocic at UFC 226, which led to a massive upset and historical success. Cormier defended the 265-pound strap against Derrick Lewis, but then suffered two back-to-back losses to Miocic and retired.
Nowadays, DC works as a color commentator.
Kamaru Usman is TUF 21 tournament winner and the first-ever Nigerian UFC champion. He’s also the most technical wrestler on the list of black UFC fighters.
Kamaru has never been the fan favorite due to his boring fighting style and sandwiching opponents against the cage, so he tried to change his fighting style upon winning his 170-pound strap.
Kamaru’s greatest knockouts are the ones over Jorge Masvidal and Gilbert Burns. His chin is rock solid, “The Nigerian Nightmare” can take a beating.
Usman nearly overtook Georges St-Pierre on the list of the most successful welterweight fighters. Leon Edwards knocked Usman out cold and dethroned him at UFC 278, but you never know, Dana White is talking about the potential third fight between the two, as Usman outworked Edwards in their first fight for a decision win.
Israel Adesanya is a very modern UFC fighter known for unorthodox moves, superb kicks, and some of the best footwork in the history of the sport.
Adesanya doesn’t make too much damage with his punches or feet, but it is almost impossible to drag him to the ground and stay on top of him. “The Last Stylebender” moves like a cat and counters from all angles. And he’s not even on the tips of his toes!
Adesanya outworked many high-level names: Marvin Vettori, Jared Cannonier, even legendary Anderson Silva! His trademark is the right Brazilian kick and all kinds of tricky counterstrikes.
The best knockout of his UFC career happened at UFC 243 when the Taekwondo kickboxer from Nigeria stopped Robert Whittaker with a ferocious right and put him to sleep in 185-pound title combat.
Francis “The Predator” Ngannou. A decorated boxer and the first-ever UFC champion from Cameroon. Ngannou was living a harsh life on the streets of Paris before the MMA Factory Paris coach Fernand Lopez spotted him and invited him to train in his gym.
In the first place, Francis planned to chase his boxing dream, but then he switched to MMA and it was a hell of a decision. Upon his arrival into the UFC, he KO’d the majority of legends, including Alistair Overeem, Curtis Blaydes, Andrei Arlovski, Cain Velasquez.
Francis’ trademarks are a big powerful right hook and an outstanding tricky left uppercut.
He’s the man with the greatest number of heavyweight title defenses and the reigning defending 265-pound champ at the moment.
Of course, we have an old-school name on the list – Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. The decorated wrestler and a pressure toe-to-toe fighter who has never backed down from a fight.
Jackson is remembered for violent slams and ferocious hooks that turned the lights out on many opponents. Also, his ground and pound skills were way ahead of his era! He’s the most powerful name on the list of black UFC fighters!
Rampage destroyed Chuck Liddell at UFC 71, then defended it once against Dan Henderson at UFC 75.
This 205-pounder was successful out of the UFC too – he won Bellator Season 10 light heavyweight tournament and nearly earned the Pride FC middleweight strap (stopped by Wanderlei Silva via violent knees at Pride 28).
There were many top-notch, high-level black UFC fighters throughout history, but we tried to give you the best African-American names that brought some innovations and left an undeletable trail in the world of the Ultimate Fighting Championships.
These guys are former and current champions, tricky martial artists, superb toe-to-toe fighters, fight intelligence experts… you name it!
Did we forget to put your favorite black UFC fighter on the list?