The same question is asked on every sports show around the world, who is the GOAT of this sport and that sport? For basketball, many consider the answer to be Michael Jordan, for football, Tom Brady, for golf, Jack Nicklaus, and for baseball, Babe Ruth. The question about who is the MMA GOAT has been around since the inception of the sport, but a few tweets from Conor McGregor about the topic began an all-out brawl across social media.
MMA GOAT Conversation
On Saturday, May 23rd around 9:30 am, the Notorious Conor McGregor began what he called the GOAT Thread, it was a series of 7 tweets. In his first tweet, McGregor listed Anderson Silva as the No. 1 MMA GOAT due to his array of finishes, activity in two divisions, and status as UFC middleweight champion. However, McGregor did not stop there, in several more tweets, he made a list of the top four MMA fighters of all-time. The No. 2 MMA GOAT was McGregor himself; he noted his array of finishes across three divisions, the double-champ status, and the fact that unlike Anderson, he is still active, so there will be opportunities to secure the No. 1 spot. The No. 3 MMA GOAT on the list was George St-Pierre due to his championship status at 170 and 185, but McGregor criticized GSP for ducking Silva, winning via questionable decisions, leaving 170 after taking too much damage, taking an easy fight against Michael Bisping, and never re-engaging the 170lb successors. The No. 4 and final fighter listed on the list of MMA GOATs was Jon Jones, who McGregor noted could be tied with GSP at No. 3, due to his higher array of finishes, but Jones was criticized for only being the light heavyweight champion, lackluster decision victories, fighting mostly former 185 pound opponents, and avoiding the move to heavyweight.
The next tweet in the GOAT Thread discussed the rumored PED usage of GSP and the failed drug tests of Anderson Silva and Jon Jones. According to McGregor, this usage of performance-enhancing drugs puts all wins, runs, finishes, and accomplishments in doubt, and thus, makes him the clear-cut No. 1 GOAT. Also, McGregor replied to comments from fans, the first was related to where Khabib Nurmagomedov ranked on the list. McGregor replied that Khabib had a fancy record, but a way to go before any GOAT entry, since he had missed several fights and only had one highlight win which was over “me with hangover and broken foot”. Finally, a Twitter user objected to the list by noting that in his opinion without Demetrious “Mighty Mouse “ Johnson, the list was complete nonsense. The Notorious replied by saying he loved the skill of Mighty Mouse but noted that he faced limited competition, left the UFC after losing to Henry Cejudo, and lost a 135lb title attempt against Dominick Cruz. This series of tweets went nuclear across social media as fighters such as Khabib Nurmagomedov, Jon Jones, Michael Bisping, Ben Askren, Daniel Cormier, Nate Diaz, and Jorge Masvidal, all bashed the list and career of McGregor.
Now, I follow several MMA-related accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, my feed from Saturday until today was post after post focused on the GOAT debate. Therefore, I decided to sit down, crunch the numbers, and figure out who is the real GOAT of MMA based on numbers. Thus, I created a Microsoft Excel document with the names of 11 fighters who are generally mentioned in the GOAT conversation. These fighters are Conor McGregor, Jon Jones, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Demetrious Johnson, Amanda Nunes, Fedor Emelianenko, Anderson Silva, George St-Pierre, Daniel Cormier, Jose Aldo, and Henry Cejudo. Then, I needed to create a way to judge the accomplishments of each fighter in a fair/even way. Thus, for each overall win in their career, the fighter was awarded two points, for each loss, the fighter lost four points. The longevity of the fighter’s career was also taken into consideration for the GOAT conversation, for each fighting year, a fighter gained one point. Now, obviously, to be a GOAT in any sport, an athlete must win the ultimate prize, a championship, thus for each title won, a fighter earned three points, and for each successful title defense, an additional two points were credited. Now, if a fighter had failed a drug test at any time, and regardless of any excuses or reasoning, they were docked six points. The final category was related to the dominance of each fighter, thus I looked at the longest win streaks during their careers, and for each win during that streak, the fighter earned half a point.
Scoring System for MMA GOAT List:
Each Overall Win = 2 pts
Each Overall Loss = -4 pts
Each Fighting Year = 1 pt.
Titles Won = 3 pts
Successful Title Defenses = 2 pts
Failed Drug Test = – 6 pts
Longest Win Streak in Career = 1 pt. per each win
Rank # 11: Henry Cejudo (46 Overall Points)
The recently retired, former bantamweight and featherweight champion was awarded a total of 46 points by the grading scale. The issue for Cejudo was that he simply did not have enough fights and years to build up the number of wins and title defenses that the other fighters have. For instance, fighters such as Anderson Silva fought for 20 years, Fedor fought for 17, even Jose Aldo fought for 15, while Cejudo only fought for 7 years. Therefore, if Cejudo decides to unretire and fight once again, he could easily work his way up the list by racking up wins and regaining his throne as champion. Now, I would also like to add that this list reflects the GOAT of MMA and not the GOAT of combat sports, so the Olympic Gold medal win by Cejudo was not taken into consideration.
Rank # 10: Conor McGregor (51 Points)
The most famous and renowned athlete in the history of MMA, the Notorious Conor McGregor will likely not be happy with his ranking of #10 on this list. However, the issue for the Irishman is that he has zero successful title defenses, has only been competing for 9 years, and has already lost four bouts during his career. Now, some people may state that the marketability of McGregor and his ability to sell massive amounts of PPVs must be taken into account. However, while making this list for the MMA GOAT, only in ring accomplishments were considered.
Rank # 9: Amanda Nunes (55 Points)
The best female fighter in the history of MMA, Amanda “Lioness” Nunes should continue to rise up the list of MMA GOATs, as she defends both the women’s bantamweight and featherweight titles. Nunes who is only beginning to enter her physical prime at the age of 31 has already notched massive wins over Ronda Rousey, Cris Cyborg, and Valentina Shevchenko (2X), and will look to add Felicia Spencer’s name to that list at UFC 250 on June 6th. If Nunes can pick up the win against the extremely durable Spencer, she will have added another 5 points to her name, which would raise her total up to 60 total points. Further, if over the coming years, Nunes can stay healthy, defend both belts, and grow her overall wins/winning streak, then there is no reason, she cannot move into the Top-Five of MMA GOATs by the end of her career.
Rank # 8: Daniel Cormier (67 Points)
One of the best wrestlers of all time, the former light heavyweight and heavyweight champion, Daniel “DC” Cormier is not often mentioned in casual conversations regarding MMA GOAT status. However, the hardcore fans of the UFC and Strikeforce know that Cormier is one of the best to ever compete inside the octagon. He has compiled an impressive record of 22 wins and 2 losses, with his defeats coming to Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic, the current LHW and HW champions respectfully. The main reason why Cormier is not higher on this list is that he only has three successful title defenses in his career, which is quite low, when compared to Aldo (9), Silva (10), and Johnson (11). Now, if you removed Jones (who is the best light heavyweight of all-time and Miocic who is arguably the best heavyweight of all-time) then Cormier would have reigned supreme over both divisions for years, and his number of successful title defenses would undoubtedly be much higher. Thus, as Cormier prepares for his final fight inside the octagon, which will likely occur in August with a trilogy fight against Miocic, he has already cemented himself as an all-time great in the sport of MMA.
Rank # 7: Jose Aldo (77 Points)
Many readers will laugh or even mock the fact that Jose Aldo is ranked higher than Conor McGregor who knocked out Aldo in 13 seconds to win the 145lb belt in 2015. However, Aldo has one of the most respectable resumes in the history of MMA. The Brazilian won 18 consecutive fights from May 20, 2006, to October 25, 2014. Also, Aldo gained a significant number of points by successfully defending his title nine times during his career. However, Aldo is starting to fall down the list; his performance in recent bouts has been poor, and the losses have increased significantly. For instance, Aldo after losing to McGregor held a professional record of 25-2, but in the seven fights since, he has gone 3-4. Now, Aldo does have the ability to reverse the trend, as he is rumored to be in talks with the UFC to fight Petr Yan for the UFC bantamweight title. If Aldo is able to emerge victorious from that bout, he would earn another five points and would have the opportunity to significantly improve his ranking via successful title defenses.
Rank # 6: Anderson Silva (82 Points)
The Spider is one of those fighters who should have retired a long time ago but kept going due to his love of the sport. However, father time has never lost, and Silva’s ranking on the list of MMA GOATs is the latest victim. In the opinion of some, Silva should have walked away after losing consecutively to Chris Weidman in middleweight title bouts in 2013, at that time his record was 33-6. If Silva had simply retired at that point, he would have a score of 97 points, which would give him the No. 1 ranking by a healthy margin. However, Silva continued to fight, and in the six fights since Weidman, holds a record of 1-4-1. This stretch of bad results severely diminished Silva’s overall number of points, but the fact that he is still ranked ahead of McGregor, Cejudo, Cormier, and Aldo says a lot about what he did before father time. For example, Silva made ten successful title defenses in his career and won 17 fights in a row before the losses to Weidman. Finally, six points for the 2018 failed drug test of Anderson Silva because it was not his fault; USADA found that the Brazilian pharmacy which produced the tainted supplements did not list the banned substances on the label, lied to Silva by ensuring him that no cross-contamination with banned substances was possible due to their manufacturing processes, and was ultimately responsible for Silva’s failed test.
Rank # 5: Fedor Emelianenko (86 Points)
The next fighter on the list is a heavyweight legend who never fought in the UFC but is still renowned around the world for his fierce knockout power. Fedor is one of the most recognizable names in all of MMA, and for good reason, the Russian has won 39 fights, began his career back in 2000, won the Pride heavyweight title, and did not lose from April 2001 to November 2009. Now, Fedor fell outside the top-four of this list because he has lost six fights in his career, three of which came in consecutive order when Fedor was 33/34 years old, he only successfully defended his title twice, and he did retire for three years which took away from his number of fighting years.
Rank # 4: Jon Jones (88 Points)
As previously mentioned in the Daniel Cormier ranking, most followers of MMA consider Jon “Bones” Jones to be the GOAT of the light heavyweight division. Now, there are multiple reasons why Jones is ranked inside the top-four including twelve successful title defenses, 26 wins, only 1 loss which was a DQ for an illegal 12-6 elbow, and notable wins over Cormier, Chael Sonnen, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida, and Alexander Gustafsson. Now, Jon Jones would currently be the No. 1 ranked fighter on this list if he had not failed drug tests. He is extremely lucky the -6 pts was not per failed drug test, because Jones has failed numerous times. In defense of Jon Jones, the recent drug test fails may have more to do with the remains of the old drugs, than the ingestion of new ones, but either way, Jones took banned substances and there is nobody to blame but himself. However, Jon Jones could work his way into the top-three; he could go up to heavyweight and dethrone the current champion, Stipe Miocic, or he can continue to reign supreme in the light heavyweight division and increase the number of successful title defenses. Jon Jones has all the talent and ability to be the GOAT of MMA, but he needs to stay clean, keep being active, stop getting in legal trouble, and keep winning fights.
Rank # 3: Khabib Nurmagomedov (89 Points)
The current lightweight UFC champion, “The Eagle” is the No. 3 ranked fighter on the list of MMA GOATs. There are several reasons for his high ranking. Khabib holds an undefeated record of 28 wins and zero defeats, is champion of one of the most talented UFC weight classes, has lost only one round in his career, and carries high-profile wins over Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, and Edson Barboza. The only reason that Khabib is not higher on this list is the lack of successful title defenses. Khabib has only defended his belt twice in his two years as champion. Now, the lack of action is not entirely on Khabib, as he was set to face Tony Ferguson on April 18th in a highly anticipated bout, but the cursed fight was canceled due to Covid-19. However, there is new hope that Khabib will fight in 2020, as Dana White stated the plan is for Khabib to fight interim lightweight champion Justin Gaethje in September. Therefore, if Khabib avoids retiring in the near future, which he has mentioned in some interviews, a few more title defenses could see The Eagle could potentially go down as the No. 1 MMA GOAT.
Rank # 1B: Demetrious Johnson (92 Points)
Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson is the clear GOAT of the flyweight division. The American holds an impressive record of 30-3. He was victorious in 11 straight title defenses of the 125 pound belt which remains the record for the UFC. Now, Johnson was hurt by the fact that he lost to Dominick Cruz in his quest to become the champion at 135 lbs, and the longest win-streak of his career was 13 which was fairly average compared to the other fighters on the list. However, Johnson is still an active fighter, as he is currently competing for ONE Championship, he has already won his first three fights for the organization and is not slowing down. Therefore, unless the fighter listed as 1A surprises the world of combat sports, and returns to fighting, Johnson simply needs to win his upcoming bout against the current ONE Flyweight Champion Adriano Moraes to take sole control of the top spot on the list of MMA GOATs.
Rank # 1A: George St-Pierre (92 Points)
Most professional athletes such as Anderson Silva remain in the game way past their expiration date, but GSP was unique in that he decided to retire in the middle of his prime athletic years. The reasoning was commendable, GSP was simply burned out, he lacked the passion to fight, and wished to enjoy life outside of fighting. However, after retiring at UFC 167 following his victory over Johnny Hendricks, St-Pierre would return nearly four years later to fight the 185 pound champion Michael Bisping at UFC 217 in MSG. The talented St-Pierre was able to secure a choke submission against Bisping in the 3rd Round to win the fight and his second UFC belt. The second belt, plus his amazing record of 26 wins and just two losses, plus ten successful title defenses, plus wins over prime B.J. Penn, Nick Diaz, Matt Hughes, and Josh Koscheck make GSP the No. 1 ranked MMA GOAT on the list. Now, I would also like to explain why I put GSP as 1A and Might Mouse as 1B, it is for one simple reason, GSP in my opinion competed against more skilled competitors. As I mentioned, GSP beat Hendricks, Diaz, Bisping, Hughes, and Koscheck, while the best wins for Mighty Mouse are against Cejudo, Benavidez (2X), John Dodson, and Ray Borg. Therefore, GSP and Mighty Mouse are equally terrific fighters who were each dominant in their respected divisions, but GSP at 170 faced more skillful opponents than Johnson ever did at 125.
*** All Stats and Records from espn.com ***
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