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The 12 greatest MMA fighters of all time

It is very hard to score multiple wins in a row, especially when you’re squaring off against the most legendary names in the world. Our list of the greatest MMA fighters of all time focuses on the achievements inside and outside of the UFC.

Of course, the Ultimate Fighting Championship brings the best of the best, but we mustn’t ignore the power of other lovely promotions. This article focuses on the greatest warriors who have ever stepped inside of any MMA promotion.

greatest MMA fighters ever

We tried to create a list of the best Octagon and ring warriors who have ever walked down the Earth. They represent different eras, levels of power, innovations, and the ability to stay ahead of their age.

Most of the fighters on this list are the owners of different belts and rewards. In UFC, the trash talk matters, but other promotions give a shot to humble fighters who respect their opponents too!

These are the greatest fighters in the MMA history:

  1. Georges St-Pierre
  2. Anderson Silva
  3. Jon Jones
  4. Fedor Emelianenko
  5. Demetrious Johnson
  6. Khabib Nurmagomedov
  7. Jose Aldo
  8. Daniel Cormier
  9. Amanda Nunes
  10. Valentina Shevchenko
  11. Jiri Prochazka
  12. Kyoji Horiguchi

Georges St-Pierre

Georges St-Pierre was 10 years ahead of his time thanks to his great coaches Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn. The guy who brought interceptive takedowns into the world of the fastest-growing sport in the world is also known for great angling and mid-range Karate strikes.

He is the first all-around fighter to step inside the Octagon. When GSP appeared as a newcomer, it was a style vs. style era. But he’s officially the first fighter who hasn’t been a striker or a grappler/wrestler.

This guy outwrestled the best wrestlers, outpaced the greatest cardio machines, out-struck the most dangerous strikers thanks to his great all-around game, and stayed undefeated for 10+ years.

This legend is not officially retired but his last combat happened in 2017 when he became double champ via rear-naked choke win over Michael Bisping.

Anderson Silva

Anderson Silva used to be a mixture of athleticism, counters, crisp strikes, and superb head movement. He is the first guy who showed the power of boxing evades and ducking.

And here’s an even weirder fact: The Spider originates from Taekwondo and Muay Thai, he has never been a boxer!

He reminded me of the UFC version of Canelo Alvarez with his stunning head moves. Plus, he was a better kicker and clinch expert than Edson Barboza! No matter how hard you hit, you were unable to send him to the canvas!

Anderson Silva mixed martial artist
Image credit: Jeff Bottari, Zuffa LLC

The former UFC 185-pound champion is also the owner of one of the longest UFC undefeated win streaks with a score of 16. The ex-Cage Rage king too and the all-time greatest southpaw warrior in MMA!

Silva is the owner of some of the most legendary knockouts in the history of this sport, but he’s also known for the legendary UFC 168 leg break against Chris Weidman. An inside low kick was checked and the Brazilian’s leg split in two. He has never been the same fighter after that.

Jon Jones

Mr. Controversy or the all-time greatest Octagon warrior with the longest undefeated streak (17 wins in a row)? I’d call this a million-dollar question!

Jon Jones is the only fighter who was stripped three times off the title due to his behavior outside of the Octagon, but he’s also the creator of side-kicks and oblique kicks to the knee.

One of the most fearsome legends only lost a single fight to Matt Hamill because of his 12-6 foul, but his fight IQ will be remembered forever!

Jones won many five-round wars because of his amazing fight IQ and superb ability to survive the early storm and bounce back in championship rounds.

He was making a lot of problems outside the ring, but nobody has ever f*cked him up inside of it! He’s undefeated since 2009!

Fedor Emelianenko

Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko is the all-time greatest Sambo fighter who has ever stepped inside the ring. He was undefeated in 30 consecutive bouts before his winning streak was snapped by Fabricio Werdum and his superb triangle armbar.

Fedor Emelianenko during Bellator fight night
Image credit: Dave Mandel, USA Today Sports

Fedor is the former Pride FC, WAMMA, and Combat Sambo champion of the world. He is the armbar specialist with violent punches, stunning pressure, and an amazing ability to survive the most powerful bombs and bounce back with impossible victories.

Emelianenko is 40+ years old but he still competes in Bellator. Despite he was one of the most dominant fighters of his era, the dominant Stary Oskol native has never fought in the UFC.

Further reading: The greatest Russian UFC fighters of all time

Demetrious Johnson

Legend among legends, the former UFC flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson! Unfortunately, his humble personality cost him too much because the UFC boss Dana White was waiting for a single mistake.

When Johnson lost to Henry Cejudo via a questionable split decision, he was traded to ONE FC where he continued his title reign.

Demetrious Johnson mixed martial artist
Image credit: ONE Championship

His dominance was stopped in the bout against Adriano Moraes because of the different ruleset (ONE FC rules allow knees to the head of the grounded opponent). Yet, The Mighty Mouse avenged the loss and he’s the division king again.

The former UFC 125-pound king has found the perfect home for his humble personality and his career isn’t going to end soon!

Khabib Nurmagomedov

Khabib was a pretty boring fighter in the early stages of his career, but he brought the power of Dagestani wrestling into the game, which was a huge problem for the majority of the opponents.

The one and only guy who gave him a hard time throughout his career were Gleison Tibau at UFC 148. Other than that, Nurmagomedov easily outwrestled every single enemy and scored so many dominant victories.

The former UFC 155-pound champ is one of the rare fighters who left the promotion undefeated (29-0). Unfortunately, he has never been interested in chasing more records, so nowadays he works as an Eagle FC head honcho and coaches Tagir Ulanbekov, Islam Makhachev, and other Dagestani fighters. He is arguably the best MMA wrestler ever!

Further reading: Khabib’s hat – The story behind traditional papakha

Jose Aldo

Jose Aldo is known for his pretty much hard life story. A poor kid from Manaus, Brazil didn’t have enough money to eat in the early stages of his career, but he has never given up. His wish to become the best was too strong, and Aldo has never surrendered.

When you ask MMA historians, most of them will say that Jose is the guy with potentially the best MMA Muay Thai (takedown defense, knees, leg kicks).

Jose Aldo Brazilian MMA fighter
Image credit: Gary A. Vasquez, USA Today Sports

The former 145-pound division king chopped down Urijah Faber, Frankie Edgar, and Kenny Florian. There are many spectacular knockout victories under his belt: Chad Mendes, Chan Sung Jung, Jeremy Stephens, Renato Moicano.

Aldo also tried to compete at 135, but it didn’t go well, as he failed to win the title against Petr Yan. Despite three back-to-back decision wins, the legendary Brazilian decided to hang up his gloves following his UFC 278 loss to Merab Dvalishvili.

Daniel Cormier

Daniel Cormier is the former two-division champion and one of the toughest guys in the history of mixed martial arts.

Cormier joined UFC as a powerful wrestler and a slam specialist, then stormed through the 205-pound division before losing to a Turinabol version of Jon Jones. His trademarks are offensive wrestling, top control, and short-range punches.

In the next title fight, Cormier out-powered and submitted the Swiss legend Volkan Oezdemir, then transitioned to the heavyweight, where he instantly destroyed Stipe Miocic with a powerful right hook to claim the belt.

The first title defense against Derrick Lewis looked easy, but the second and third bouts against Stipe Miocic didn’t go well, as Cormier lost via TKO (second fight) due to liver shots and decision (third bout), which forced him to retire.

The legendary Octagon warrior now works as the commentator and analyst, and mostly covers the events with British star Michael Bisping.

Further reading: The best UFC commentators right now

Amanda Nunes

Are you surprised to see the female name on the list? Well, don’t blink, this girl is the first-ever female two-division champion in the history of UFC and one of the most destructive right-hands in the history of combat sports!

Nunes has always been a powerhouse, but her ground game was critical, which was notable in her UFC 178 bout against Cat Zingano, where she lost via TKO. After that, Nunes changed her mind significantly and started working on her takedown defense, which led to one of the longest consecutive UFC winning streaks.

She destroyed some of the most legendary names with ease before her legendary streak was snapped by Juliana Pena at UFC 230. Nunes had CoVid-19 before the bout, so it affected her performance, but she quickly avenged the loss in the rematch. She’s the female 135 and 145-pound division queen.

Valentina Shevchenko

Let me guess the question… Another woman on the list, why? Well, I kindly advise you to look at Valya’s spinning backfist and spinning heel kick counters, superb movements, takedown offense, crucifix traps on the ground, and extremely great fight IQ!

She’s the first-ever female all-around Octagon warrior and the all-time greatest southpaw woman in MMA.

In the early stages of her career, Shevchenko was losing via close decisions, but then she improved her power and put kicks to the next level. She combines Judo, Muay Thai, Taekwondo, and boxing with some of the best movements and angling you’ve ever seen.

The current UFC flyweight champion is riding on a 9-fight winning streak, and there’s a chance she’s gonna move up on our list of the greatest MMA fighters in the years to come.

Her most notable victims are Taila Santos, Jennifer Maia, Katlyn Chookagian, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Jessica Eye, Priscila Cachoeira. Just look at her left high kick KO over Eye and you’ll see why she’s such a legend!

Further reading: The best and hottest female UFC fighters of all time

Jiri Prochazka

Jiri Prochazka build his name as a Rizin champion, then arrived in the UFC as a guy with one of the most unorthodox fighting styles. Prochazka keeps his hands low, and moves like a cat, his angles and counters are outstanding.

He’s probably the fastest 205er with excellent takedown defense, stunning cardio, and an even better ground game.

Prochazka is a fan favorite because he eats and lands so many shots. He ate three big bombs from Volkan Oezdemir, but bounced back and won via TKO, then turned the lights out on Dominick Reyes via spinning back elbow.

In the title fight, we’ve seen one of the greatest upsets ever, as he choked out the BJJ black belt Glover Teixeira in the fifth round to win the belt, the odds for the fifth-round submission win of Prochazka were insane!

Kyoji Horiguchi

Kyoji is a former UFC name who lost a title bout to Demetrious Johnson, but no worries, the former Rizin and Bellator king deserves the spot on our list of the greatest MMA fighters of all time thanks to his achievements outside of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Kyoji Horiguchi Japanese mixed martial artist
Image credit: Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The Japanese Karateka is known for excellent movements, outstanding combos, and excellent defensive wrestling. His speed is out of this world, you must be faster than lightning to close the angle and hit him. This guy never stays on the central line.

Kyoji was on a 13-fight winning streak before a brutal loss to Kai Asakura, he won only once in his last four bouts, but it’s probably just a temporary phase in his life. Watch his bouts, you might learn something new!

Conclusion

We’re sorry because we couldn’t put all the greatest MMA fighters of all time on this list. Let’s add a few honorable mentions: BJ Penn, Matt Hughes, Stipe Miocic, Max Holloway, Alexander Volkanovski.

Some stars have never won the belt, plus we mustn’t forget the king of the old-school MMA era – the legendary Royce Gracie and the man who brought grappling into the world of MMA, Kazushi Sakuraba.

What are your thoughts on the list of the greatest MMA legends? Did we forget to add your favorite fighter?

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