American Independence Day and the conclusion to International Fight Week might on be on the horizon, but today, those holidays take a back seat to Canada Day, a day for our brothers and sisters up north to recognize and celebrate their home and native land.
5 Canadian MMA Standouts and Legends
In celebration of the Canadian holiday, here are five of the top current mixed martial artists hailing from the Great White North, as well as five legends who helped pave the way.
Modern Standout: Rory MacDonald
Rory MacDonald has long been on the radar of UFC fans, predicted to be the second coming of Georges St-Pierre, one of the greatest fighters of all time at just 22-years-old. Now 32, MacDonald’s career has taken a different path than most anticipated, but is still notable for being a top-10 welterweight in the world. A former Bellator welterweight champion and UFC title challenger, MacDonald is a fighter with few weaknesses and is currently favored to take home the Professional Fighters League welterweight championship for the 2022 season.
Legend: TJ Grant
TJ Grant is a fighter oft forgotten because of how quietly he left the sport, but fans during his rise up the UFC rankings will remember the warrior he was. A grappler by trade, Grant endeared himself to the UFC base for the power in his hands, winning the last two fights of his career by knockout over Matt Wiman on former title challenger Gray Maynard. Unfortunately, concussions in training combined with looming debt brought a premature end to Grant’s career after initially being lined up with Anthony Pettis in a lightweight championship fight at UFC on Fox 9.
Modern Standout: Mike Malott
Mike Malott stands out as one of the most talented Canadian fighters in the UFC currently, coming off a knockout victory over Mickey Gall after flooring Gall with a vicious left hook. Physicality runs in Malott’s family, as his younger brother Jeff is a winger for the Winnipeg Jets of the National Hockey League. “Proper” Mike’s rise to the UFC did not happen without adversity, however, with Malott taking a hiatus from the sport in 2017 before returning as a welterweight and rattling off three straight wins.
Legend: Sarah Kaufman
Before Ronda Rousey took the UFC and MMA world by storm, Sarah Kaufman helped carry women’s MMA as one of the original forces of nature in North America. Kaufman, who retired from active competition just this past week, started her career 12-0 with wins over the likes of Alexis Davis, Roxanne Modafferi and Miesha Tate, just to name a few. A true pioneer for women’s MMA, the former Strikeforce champion eventually made it to the UFC and compiled a 1-2 record with one no contest before concluding her career with a regional victory last fall.
Modern Standout: Jeremy Kennedy
29-year-old Jeremy Kennedy will be a name to watch in the sport of MMA for years to come having trained for a career in the sport since the tender age of 13. Kennedy has fought all over the globe, making it to the UFC at just 24-years-old and starting his career in the global leader with three consecutive wins. However, following a TKO defeat to featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski, Kennedy’s contract was not renewed and he has since gone on to fight for Brave FC, PFL and Bellator, having recently had a fight booked with Aaron Pico in the latter-most promotion.
Legend: Patrick Côté
One of the most violent fighters in Canadian MMA history, one-time UFC middleweight title challenger Patrick Côté went on to have a fruitful career following his defeat at the hands of Anderson Silva at UFC 90. Upon being cut from the promotion, Côté rattled off four consecutive wins and earned his way back into the fold, closing out his career with six wins in his last 10 that included a Fight of the Night War with Josh Burkman at UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs. Oliveira. Though some might say Côté was never the same upon falling to Silva, he was able to leave the sport on his own terms, retiring in the Octagon as a fan favorite.
Modern Standout: Arjan Bhullar
The oft-forgotten heavyweight champion of ONE FC, Arjan Bhullar has become an international face of ONE’s heavyweight division. Bhullar is one of the most unique personalities in Canadian MMA as someone who is of Indian Punjabi Sikh descent and also a massive fan of professional wrestling. Bhullar’s love of wrestling extends beyond WWE and AEW, however, as he employs a wrestling-heavy style that wears on his opponents the longer the fight goes. Like Kennedy, Bhullar’s contract was not picked up by the UFC despite compiling a winning record, paving the way for the American Kickboxing Academy product to have a long career in ONE if he wants it.
Legend: Carlos Newton
One of the early stars of Canadian MMA, Carlos Newton only actually competed in Canada three times over his 30-fight career. Instead, he made a name for himself between Japan and the United States, alternating stops between the UFC and PRIDE Fighting Championships. The jiu-jitsu specialist had the greatest run of his career between 1999 and 2000, winning six of seven and taking the UFC welterweight championship from Pat Miletich at UFC 31. He would go on to drop the title to Matt Hughes in what is to this very day one of the wildest endings to a UFC title fight ever.
Modern Standout: Julia Budd
Julia Budd is arguably the top active female fighter to come out of Canada at the present moment. Budd has had extended runs in Strikeforce, Invicta FC, Bellator and most recently PFL, and has made a name for herself as a knockout artist in the women’s featherweight division. Her only stumbles have come to legends of the sport Amanda Nunes, Rousey, and Cris Cyborg, while a recent defeat to Genah Fabian in PFL was marred by a five-pound weight miss by Fabian. “The Jewel” is also notable for being the only woman to defeat Gina Carano in Muay Thai competition.
Legend: Georges St-Pierre
One of the most famous Canadian athletes of modern times and a bona fide legend of the sport, Georges St-Pierre has an argument as the greatest mixed martial artist of all time. During the span from 2002 to 2013, St-Pierre became a two-time welterweight champion in the UFC and closed the book on his career with a middleweight championship victory over Michael Bisping nearly five years ago at UFC 217, cementing his place as one of the greatest to ever do it.
GSP’s resume checks every necessary box for being the greatest fighter ever. He compiled a 21-2 record inside the UFC alone, won three championships in two different weight classes and successfully avenged losses to Matt Hughes and Matt Serra. From a skillset standpoint, like former protégé MacDonald, St-Pierre had few weaknesses and boasted elite offensive and defensive wrestling to go with a powerful jab that made opponents think twice about closing the distance on him. These days, St-Pierre seems to be enjoying retirement, though he still trains regularly with his various coaches around North America, as much of a student of the game as ever.