UFC has been around for nearly three decades now. The promotion is responsible for MMA’s surge to mainstream popularity, and the development of the sport in general.
Over the years, we’ve seen some spectacular fighters entering the octagon. It’s hard to determine who the best UFC fighter ever is, but it’s a bit easier to create a top 30 list.
Here’s the list of the 30 best UFC fighters of all time, in alphabetical order.
While he was never a UFC champion, nobody can deny the legendary status of Alistair Overeem not only in UFC but MMA and combat sports in general. The Reem fought the best of the best, racking up almost 70 professional MMA bouts, which is spectacular by itself.
He was a heavyweight champ in Strikeforce and DREAM, and he won numerous Fight of the Night and Performance of the Night accolades but fell short several times when trying to get that UFC gold. That’s why many consider him the definition of a gatekeeper contender in UFC’s heavyweight division.
Amanda Nunes confirmed her status as the best female MMA fighter of all time several times already. How she accomplished that was nothing short of spectacular. After a mediocre start to her career, the Lioness started destroying everybody in her path, improving and becoming better in each of her fights.
She became one of the few fighters ever to become a UFC double champ, and she defeated every former UFC women’s bantamweight and featherweight champion on her path. Nunes holds countless UFC records, including being the only UFC double champion in history to defend both titles multiple times.
Anderson Silva is easily a top-3 MMA fighter in history. While in his prime, he ruled the UFC middleweight division like no champion ever, holding the record for the longest title reign in UFC history. Silva was a champ for 2457 days and defended his belt ten times during that span.
Spider was nearly unbeatable with his phenomenal movement and striking that simply out-skilled the opponent every time. It’s unfortunate that he hadn’t retired earlier because his last several fights were clearly not the legendary Anderson we knew, but that doesn’t take away from Silva being the most dominant fighter ever while in his prime.
Similar to Anderson Silva, I really believe that, had BJ Penn retired earlier, we’d talk about his among the best fighters ever a lot more. He had won only one of his last eleven bouts, dropping his career record to 16-14, but in his prime, he was as elite as it gets.
BJ was a champion in lightweight and welterweight divisions, a feat that only a few fighters had ever accomplished. He fought the best and usually won, losing only against other all-time greats Georges St-Pierre, Matt Hughes, and Frankie Edgar. It’s a shame he didn’t know when to hang those gloves up for good, but he was an absolute beast.
Cain Velasquez is one of my favorite fighters ever. He was a brilliant martial artist during the prime of his career, brutally dominating the heavyweight division. He and Junior dos Santos gave us one of the best trilogies in heavyweight history, where Cain got two out of three in a spectacular fashion.
It’s a shame his career had been cut short due to injuries, but Velasquez gave us some bouts we’ll never forget, especially the bloodbath against Antonio Bigfoot Silva in 2013.
When I was a kid, the rivalry between Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz was why I fell in love with the sport. It was the Iceman who came out on top, but it’s merely a dot in his legendary career. Time and time again, he finished his opponents with aggressive, head-on striking, earning him the light heavyweight crown.
He beat numerous all-time greats: Kevin Randleman, Vitor Belfort, Randy Couture, Alistair Overeem, Tito Ortiz, and Wanderlei Silva, to name a few. Unfortunately, he lost six of his last seven bouts, dropping his career record to 21-9. It’s still an impressive score, but it doesn’t reflect how great he was during his best days.
The highest-paid MMA fighter of all time and the highest-paid athlete in the world for several years – Conor McGregor is the reason why MMA got such a huge popularity surge over the last decade. In his prime, he was just unstoppable and probably the best showman in the business.
He became the first UFC double champion and got there in a spectacular fashion, being one of the best knockout forces in the history of the lightweight division. He still believes he can dominate the sport once again, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Dan Henderson never won a UFC title, but he was a spectacular fighter nevertheless. His career was full of ups and downs, but he never seemed to be phased by adversity. It only made him better, as he fought in the heavyweight, light heavyweight, middleweight, and welterweight divisions throughout his career only made him better.
Honestly, I don’t know in which division he was the best. He was a welterweight and a middleweight champion in Pride, fought for UFC middleweight and light heavyweight gold, won the Strikeforce LHW title, and defeated Fedor Emelianenko via knockout in a heavyweight fight.
He may never have been a UFC champ, but his career is legendary, ending with a 32-15 record.
DC only lost against two fighters in his career: Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic. Both those guys are arguably among the top five fighters of all-time, which only speaks to how great Daniel Cormier was. He was also one of the few UFC double champions with a spectacular skillset stemming from his dominant wrestling prowess.
He spent most of his UFC career in light heavyweight despite originally being a heavyweight fighter. He moved down because his teammate and friend Cain Velasquez were in the heavyweight division, so he didn’t want to fight him at the top of the division.
Demetrious Mighty Mouse Johnson ruled the flyweight division for so long; he broke the all-time record in consecutive title defenses. He was arguably the best MMA fighter of all time in his prime, having spectacular abilities in both grappling and striking.
He was a part of the first MMA fighter trades, where his contract’s been moved to ONE Championship, while Ben Askren came into the UFC in return. Johnson doesn’t get the respect he deserves because he fought in a smaller division, but he’s undoubtedly one of the best UFC fighters ever.
If you want skill over force and power, there’s nobody better than Dominick Cruz. The former bantamweight champion outclassed every opponent he faced before his reign ended against Cody Garbrandt.
Cruz knows the game deeply and thoroughly, which is why he is so successful and methodical inside the octagon. He had to vacate his title due to injury once, but he immediately regained it upon returning to action. He has a 23-3 career record and works as an MMA analyst for the promotion.
Frankie Edgar has got to be one of the best lightweight MMA fighters of all time, albeit he competed and fought for the featherweight championship three times, too, and he moved to bantamweight just recently.
The guy has 8 Fight of the Night awards in his career, always putting it all out on the line with his top-notch boxing and a motor only a few fighters in history had. Frankie was the lightweight champion with three successful title defenses.
He slowed down over the last few years, but when Frankie was in his prime, you always knew you’re getting a show when he steps inside that cage.
Nearly half of MMA fans in the world will tell you they believe that Georges St-Pierre is the best UFC fighter of all time. When looking at his resume, they aren’t wrong. The guy lost his first UFC title fight against Matt Hughes, then won the title by knocking Hughes out.
He then lost it again against Matt Serra, only to avenge that loss too, knocking Serra out. Those were his only two career losses, as GSP had nine consecutive title defenses afterward, dominating the division like nobody ever before him.
He finished his career with a win over Michael Bisping to become the UFC middleweight champion, too, before vacating the title and retiring.
It seems that Henry Cejudo has as many haters as he has fans, but that doesn’t play any role in his status as one of the best MMA and UFC fighters in history. Cejudo is one of the few UFC double champions, as well as an Olympic wrestling gold medalist.
He got his two UFC titles in a spectacular fashion. First, he dethroned the unbeatable Demetrious Johnson after DJ defended his flyweight belt eleven times.
Then he defended the belt against the bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw, only to move to bantamweight himself and becoming the champ, defeating Marlon Moraes for the vacated title and then defending it against Dominick Cruz. He retired from MMA with a 16-2 record and a fantastic resume.
It’s still very early in his career, but Israel Adesanya is already one of the best UFC fighters of all time. The way he destroys his opponents with his perfect striking is something I could watch every single Saturday night.
He burst into stardom quickly, won the UFC middleweight title even quicker, and defended it against all the top contenders at an incredibly frequent pace. His only career loss came against Jan Blachowicz when Adesanya tried to attack the UFC light heavyweight belt, but he’s still only 31, which means he probably hasn’t even reached his prime yet -, and that’s the scary part.
If Jon Jones didn’t have all the controversy surrounding his private life, such as hit&run incidents, doing cocaine, and dealing with doping violations, there wouldn’t be any doubt in anybody’s mind who the best MMA fighter of all time is.
Bones has only one loss in his career, and it came via disqualification, not actually losing a fight. He dominated the light heavyweight division for years, went MIA, then returned to action only to dominate yet again. Jones isn’t done yet and plans to conquer the heavyweight division as his next big career challenge.
Widely regarded as the best UFC featherweight fighter of all time, Jose Aldo had one of the most dominant primes in MMA history. He had eight consecutive title defenses (nine, if you count the one before the WEC and UFC merge).
He regularly dominated his opponents with unsees speed and strength, earning Fight of the Night honors for his title defenses time and time again. He slowed down after losing his belt but won the interim belt once more and fought for the vacant bantamweight title as well.
Junior dos Santos
Junior dos Santos is one of those legendary fighters that should’ve retired sooner, but his undying love and passion for the game kept him inside the cage way past his prime. During his prime, however, Cigano gave us some of the best UFC heavyweight performances ever.
He became a champion after knocking out Cain Velasquez in their first fight, only to lose it to the same guy after. However, he stayed near the top of the division for over a decade, attacking the title once again four years after his second defeat against Velasquez, only to get stopped by Stipe Miocic at the last step.
The only fighter that ever came close to dominating the welterweight division how Georges St-Pierre dominated it is the current champion, Kamaru Usman. The guy never lost a UFC fight, won, and defended his belt four times in merely two years.
He is active, brutal, and dominant, and even if he retired today, he’d already go down as one of the greatest UFC champions of all time. But, being 19-1 in his prime at 34 years old, it’s hard to see Usman give up his belt for years to come.
Arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in history, Khabib Nurmagomedov officially retired with a perfect 29-0 record. I’m only sad he didn’t go for 30-0, but after his father died unexpectedly, he promised his mother not to fight anymore. He kept that promise instead of chasing win 30, and I respect him for that.
Over his entire career, he only lost one round (against Conor McGregor and easily won the fight after) and completely dominated every fight and every opponent he ever faced. His grappling is unseen in MMA, allowing him to become the greatest fighter in history.
I feel like Matt Hughes doesn’t get enough respect among the all-time greats, but he is one of the best UFC fighters in history. He was the UFC welterweight champ with five consecutive title defenses before losing the title to BJ Penn.
Later, he won the title yet again by beating the legendary Georges St-Pierre and defended it two times again (would be four had his opponents made weight). He beat the best of the best in GSP, Penn, Riggs, Gracie, and Trigg and deserves more credit as one of the best fighters in history with an impressive 45-9 record.
Max Holloway was the guy that ended the dominant featherweight reign of Jose Aldo. He outclassed one of the best UFC fighters of all-time – two times in a row. As the featherweight champion, he defended his title three times before attempting to win the UFC interim lightweight belt.
He is best known for his relentless tempo, and several UFC records, including most wins and stoppages in UFC featherweight history, most significant strikes landed in a single fight (447!), etc.
The grind that Michael Bisping went through to finally become the UFC middleweight champion long after his prime fighting years is something you could only read in books or watch in movies.
The Count won the title in his 24th UFC fight, which is by far the most fights before winning a title in UFC history. He fought countless spectacular battles in his career. Seeing him get crowned a champion put a stamp on his status as one of the best to ever step inside the cage.
Randy Couture is one of the MMA and UFC pioneers, having his first UFC action taking place in 1997. He had trouble stringing wins, but what made him so special is the heart and passion he always showed inside the cage.
Couture won and lost the heavyweight title three times in his career, and the light heavyweight championship two times, making him a five-time champion (not counting several heavyweight title defenses).
Like many other big UFC stars, had he retired earlier, Rashad Evans would enjoy a much higher status among the best fighters in history. However, that doesn’t change the fact that he was just spectacular during his prime.
He was the UFC light heavyweight champion until losing the belt to Lyoto Machida. Still, he had beat some of the best fighters in the world during his career, including Chuck Liddell, Michael Bisping, Tito Ortiz, Rampage Jackson, Dan Henderson, and others.
For a long time, Ronda Rousey was the face of the UFC. She was a spectacular champion, destroying everyone in her path with her spectacular grappling. In her 14 professional MMA fights (12-2), Rousey never came to a judges’ decision.
She finished her 12 victories (9 of them via armbar, which is the all-time record) and defended her bantamweight title six times. Ronda was a huge PPV draw and saved the promotion when it needed a star the most. It’s a shame that most people remember only her last two bouts where she got mauled, but she was as dominant as they get in her prime.
Royce Gracie was one of the pioneers of the UFC, winning the first-ever UFC tournament (and three of the first four), while MMA and weight classes weren’t even a thing. He holds the record for most wins in one night in UFC history (4) and the record for the longest fight in UFC history (36 minutes against Ken Shamrock).
If it weren’t for Royce and his family, we probably wouldn’t ever have MMA. He was a prolific BBJ artist and a great presence that made MMA as we know it possible.
Stipe Miocic is arguably the best UFC heavyweight fighter of all time, making him one of the best pound-for-pound fighters as well. He holds the record for most consecutive heavyweight title defenses with three. Also, he’s one of the few champs that managed to regain his title after losing it, defeating Daniel Cormier two times after losing their first matchup.
He holds countless UFC records, including the most strikes landed in a heavyweight fight (361), most heavyweight title defenses (4), most heavyweight post-fight bonuses in history (9), etc.
Although his career tumbled after losing his title, nobody can deny just how spectacular Tyron Woodley was in his best fighting years. He won the UFC welterweight title after knocking out Robbie Lawler, a guy that seemed invincible before that fight.
Woodley defended his belt four times after that, giving us two historic fights against Stephen Thompson we’ll never forget. The guy that took the title away from him was Kamaru Usman, which isn’t a shame to say, as Kamaru proved to be one of the best fighters in history, just like Woodley.
Valentina Shevchenko deserves all the praise she is getting over the last few years. She defended her UFC women’s flyweight championship five times after winning it, defeating three former champions on her way in Jessica Andrade, Holly Holm, and Joanna Jedrzejczyk – her biggest rival stemming from their Muay Thai days.
She’s been as prolific in Muay Thai and kickboxing as she is in MMA. The only opponent able to beat her in the UFC is Amanda Nunes, the best female MMA fighter of all time – and both those fights were incredibly close.