Who do you think is the best combat sports fighter of all time? It’s a question that a lot of people have tried to answer, but no one has come up with a solid answer. Part of the problem is that periods have come and gone since the emergence of cage fighting and the founding of the UFC. So how do you rate fighters who dominated for a period yet faced weaker competition in other promotions? Could one of today’s emerging stars, such as Chuck Liddell, Royce Gracie, Wanderlei Silva, or Kazushi Sakuraba, beat a dominant force like Chuck Liddell, Royce Gracie, Wanderlei Silva, or Kazushi Sakuraba in their prime?
To be considered one of the greatest of all time in any sport, but especially in MMA, you must have both talent and luck on your side. My point is that the sport is too fast-paced and unexpected for anyone to be perfect at it. So, while none of the fighters on this list are flawless, they represent the best of what this new sport has to offer. Of course, some of you will disagree with this list, but that is what makes this sport so great: it gets people talking. So, let’s get cracking with the list.
Legends of MMA
1. George St-Pierre – In 2006, St-Pierre defeated Matt Hughes to win the UFC Welterweight Championship by TKO. He brushed aside his first opponent for the title, a tough Matt Serra, resulting in one of the greatest upsets in UFC history. On the other hand, St-Pierre’s next reign as champion was faultless, displaying the most well-rounded skill-set of any fighter in MMA history. Pierre barely lost a round after his second victory against Hughes and retaliation against Serra, dominating Jon Fitch, B.J. Penn, Thiago Alves, Dan Hardy, Josh Koscheck, Jake Fields, Carlos Condit, and Nick Diaz in their heyday. And the word “dominate” isn’t strong enough in all truth.
2. Jon Jones – At the age of 23, Jon “Bones” Jones holds the record for being the youngest UFC champion. Jones is a two-time UFC light heavyweight champion who holds numerous records in the category, including the most title defences, the longest winning streak, the most submission victories, and the most victories. Jones has a total of 28 fights under his belt, with 26 wins, 1 loss, and 1 no contest, with his lone defeat being a disputed disqualification against Matt Hamill in March 2021. Shogun Rua, Lyoto Machida, Vitor Belfort, and Daniel Cormier are among his notable opponents. Jones is still fighting as of March 2021, and if he wins the heavyweight title, he will undoubtedly be the greatest of all time.
3. Khabib Nurmagomedov – Khabib Nurmagomedov is the only fighter on this list who has never lost a bout. He declared his retirement at UFC 254, having won every bout he’d ever fought and faced relatively little difficulty in the process. His CV may not have as much high-end competition as some of the others on this list, but the method in which he achieved his victories was superb and overwhelming. I see no reason why Khabib couldn’t rise even higher in the “all-time” conversation if he wanted to return to the sport in the future and contribute to his legacy.
4. Anderson Silva – Anderson Silva, a taekwondo, capoeira, and muay thai expert, revolutionised the sport of mixed martial arts. The Brazilian still maintains the record for the longest title reign in UFC history, with a reign that lasted nearly seven years and spanned 2,457 days.
5. Fedor Emelianenko – Emelianenko was an unstoppable force at heavyweight during PRIDE’s prime. From 2001 until 2009, the Russian won 27 straight fights, gaining the PRIDE heavyweight title and overwhelming some of the finest fighters in the world, including an incredible battle with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and a stunning victory over Mirko Cro Cop. However, Fabricio Werdum eventually destroyed his image of invincibility in 2010. For many, Emelianenko’s legacy has been tainted by the PRIDE style of matchmaking and his failure to compete in the UFC Octagon. Still, there’s no doubting that his phenomenal run in the sport’s most dangerous division established him as one of the best to do it.
6. Wanderlei Silva – There was a period when no one was more feared than Wanderlei Silva. From 2000 through 2006, “The Axe Murderer” was invincible in Pride’s 205-pound category, losing just his final battle to Dan Henderson while winning 14 of his 15 fights in the middleweight division. However, Silva has had some success in the Octagon after the UFC acquired Pride, winning battles over Keith Jardine and Michael Bisping.
7. Amanda Nunes – Women didn’t start fighting in the UFC until 2013, 20 years after the league was founded, and even then, it was after President Dana White had sworn it would never happen. As a result, women’s MMA lags behind men’s MMA in terms of overall popularity, yet you’d never know it watching Amanda Nunes. Nunes, the current bantamweight and featherweight champion, has defeated every other bantamweight champion, every other featherweight champion, and the current flyweight champion, several of whom she has finished. Her status as the GOAT in women’s MMA is undeniable.
8. Demetrious Johnson – Johnson’s most recent setback in the One promotion could be the start of the end for his career. His run in the UFC, on the other hand, was unrivalled. Johnson’s only loss since 2013 was a close split decision to Henry Cejudo (whom he TKO’d in their first bout). During his fights, Johnson left no doubt about who was the best in the world, overpowering each opponent in every area of MMA. Johnson’s only flaw is that he never moved up a division after clearing flyweight. Could he have won two UFC championships while still in his prime? Yes, we may presume. But there’s a chance we’ll never know.
9. Conor McGregor – Conor McGregor is a trash-talking and social media celebrity. Aside from the gimmicks, there’s no doubt that McGregor is a top-tier fighter. His left hand is one of the finest in the sport, and if he can get back on track, he’ll be much higher on our list, given that he’s still active. McGregor is best recognized for knocking out Jose Aldo in the first 13 seconds of their fight, making it the fastest UFC title fight ever. Other significant victories include fights against Max Holloway, Chad Mendes, Nate Diaz, and Eddie Alvarez. Conor was also the first athlete to defend two UFC belts at the same time.
10. Stipe Miocic – Stipe Miocic may not have as many awards as some of the fighters before him, but given how fickle heavyweight MMA is, he deserves a lot of credit for his long-term success. It’s challenging to compare heavyweight wins to wins in other weight classes. Still, there’s no denying that building victory streaks against power-punching 240+ pounders is more complicated than against smaller fighters who are less reliant on knockouts and have more room for error. Stipe has defeated a who’s who of the world’s toughest men 14 times, and he’s even avenged two of his three losses.