When the Ultimate Fighting Championship held its first event in 1993, few could’ve imagined it would become one of the most popular sporting organizations in the world. The early UFC events had little resemblance to the level of production and excellence the promotion operates with today, as fighters of all sizes and disciplines faced off in a single-night tournament that was more about brutality than athletic prowess.
Since those early pay-per-views, UFC has seen many of the greatest fighters in the brief history of mixed martial arts come through its ranks. We’re ranking the best UFC competitors in history, based on their record in that promotion, style in the ring and impact on the promotion itself. We used UFC’s online record book and Sherdog for all statistical information, which was accurate as of May 2020.
How did your favorite fighter stack up?
30. Jim Miller
UFC Record: 20-13-0 (1 no contest)
Nobody has stepped into the octagon more times than Jim Miller, with his 34 career fights tied for the most in UFC history. Despite that fact, the lightweight veteran barely ranks inside the top 40 in career earnings for the promotion, showing his status as mostly an undercard fighter. His 19 wins in the lightweight division are also the most for that weight class, although he’s never held the title.
He’s posted memorable wins over Charles Oliveira and two over Joe Lauzon, with both of the bouts against Lauzon winning honors for fight of the night.
29. Lyoto Machida
UFC Record: 16-8-0
The first of many great Brazilian fighters to make our list, Lyoto Machida became a UFC legend in 2009, when he finished off Thiago Silva and Rashad Evans in back-t0-back fights with award-winning knockouts. The Evans bout won him the UFC light heavyweight title, which he would successfully defend against his fellow countryman, Maurício “Shogun” Rua. Machida would never hold another championship in the promotion but nearly became a two-division champion when he lost a decision for the UFC middleweight crown in 2014 against Chris Weidman.
Consistently fighting the best opponents in your sport makes you a great challenger, and that’s what Machida did, also taking on Jon Jones, Quinton Jackson, Dan Henderson and Randy Couture.
28. Demian Maia
UFC Record: 22-10-0
Brazilian grappler Demian Maia is a guy who gave opponents nightmares once he got them on the mat. The former middleweight and welterweight title challenger has the second-most submission wins in UFC history, making 11 fighters tap out. He had plenty of practice in the octagon, with his 22 career wins ranking second and his 32 fights ranking third in the promotion’s history.
27. Donald Cerrone
UFC Record: 23-11-0
Despite getting ever closer to 40, Donald Cerrone continues to take on some of UFC’s toughest competitors, even if the results haven’t exactly been pretty in the past few years. “The Cowboy” clearly just loves fighting, as his 34 bouts are tied for the most in UFC history. His 23 wins are the most in the history of his promotion, and his 16 finishes and 18 fight-night bonuses are also all-time records.
With all that winning under his belt, the only thing keeping him from being higher on the list of greats is the fact that he’s never won a championship, losing emphatically in his challenge for the lightweight crown in 2015 against Rafael dos Anjos.
26. Kamaru Usman
UFC Record: 11-0-0
While relatively new to UFC — he has been fighting with the promotion since 2015 — Kamaru Usman has already shown he can be one of the all-time greats. “The Nigerian Nightmare” is undefeated in 11 bouts so far, with signature wins over Demian Maia, Rafael dos Anjos and Tyron Woodley, the latter fight earning him the UFC welterweight crown in 2019. He’s a master of stamina and patience, with only three of his fights being decided by finishes thus far. Usman also won “The Ultimate Fighter” tournament in 2015, making him the first of several men on this list who can claim that title.
25. Andrei Arlovski
UFC Record: 17-13-0 (1 no contest)
“The Pit Bull” is arguably the most successful fighter to ever compete in UFC’s heavyweight division, at least based on his win total. The former champ’s 17 victories, all at the top weight class, are the most in that division’s history, while his 31 total fights rank him in the top five across all divisions. His time in UFC goes all the way to 2000 and saw his most recent bout in 2019, with nine of his 13 losses coming since 2016, showing how dominant he was for a long stretch.
Longtime UFC fans will never forget his trilogy with Tim Sylvia in 2005-2006, which saw the pair battle for the heavyweight championship three times.
24. Nate Diaz
UFC Record: 15-10-0
When Nate Diaz stepped into the octagon with Conor McGregor at UFC 202 in 2016, it was the biggest pay-per-view event in the promotion’s history. In their previous fight earlier that year, Diaz became the first fighter to beat the cocky Irishman and is still one of only two. In his 25 UFC bouts so far, the lightweight/welterweight has consistently given fans plenty of bang for their buck, earning eight bonus awards for fight of the night, which is the most in history. Since they split their first two fights, an eventual rubber match with McGregor could do even more to bolster Diaz’s legacy.
23. Frankie Edgar
UFC Record: 17-8-1
While holding the UFC lightweight championship and successfully defending it three times is probably the high point of Frankie Edgar’s career, he’s got plenty more to brag about. For one, the New Jersey native defeated the legendary B.J. Penn three times, and is a seven-time recipient of the promotion’s bonus award for fight of the night. Edgar’s 17 wins rank him in the top 10 in UFC history, but no fighter has spent more time in the octagon, as his total combined fight time adds up to more than 7 hours and 15 minutes.
Fans typically get their money’s worth on one of his fights, as they nearly always go the distance.
22. José Aldo
UFC Record: 10-5-0
Yet another Brazilian master of the cage, José Aldo’s reign of 1,848 days as the UFC featherweight champion is the fourth-longest title reign ever. He’s been mostly brilliant in the biggest fights, winning eight total bouts when a title is on the line and holding the featherweight crown three different times. In 15 career UFC fights so far, only two guys have been able to knock Aldo out: Max Holloway and Conor McGregor.
21. B.J. Penn
UFC Record: 12-13-2
When B.J. Penn first fought for UFC in 2001, the promotion was mostly known for its heavyweights, but he’s credited with helping bring widespread popularity to the lower weight classes. “The Prodigy” used his pedigree in Brazilian jiujitsu to become one of only seven fighters in UFC history to win titles at two divisions. He did it in the welterweight and lightweight classes, successfully defending the latter belt on three occasions from 2008-2009. Before 2010, Penn was 11-4-1, but he would be winless in 10 of his last 11 fights, making his career record look much more pedestrian than it was.
He rightfully landed in the UFC Hall of Fame in 2015.
20. Charles Oliveira
UFC Record: 17-8-0 (1 no contest)
No fighter in UFC history has made more opponents tap out than Charles Oliveira. The Brazilian technician has won 14 bouts by submission — three more than the fighter in second place on that list — including his victory over Kevin Lee in March 2020. He’s yet to challenge for a championship, but he’s already carved a place among the legends with his knack for memorable fights and strong finishes, with only two of his 26 UFC bouts going to the cards. His 10 awards for performance of the night are also the most in UFC history.
19. Frank Mir
UFC Record: 16-11-0
The list of heavyweight icons who’ve been victims of Frank Mir in the octagon includes Brock Lesnar, Mirko Cro Cop, Tim Sylvia and Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira. The former UFC heavyweight champion has fought virtually all the great big men of the past two decades at some point and has mostly been able to dispatch them. His 13 finishes are the most in the great history of the UFC heavyweight division and Mir proved equally adept at ending fights via knockout or submission. The fact that he won 11 fights with first-round finishes further proves how great Mir was at the top level of MMA.
18. Ronda Rousey
UFC Record: 6-2-0
The end of Ronda Rousey’s UFC run was disappointing for everyone involved, but when she was focused, she was one of the most dominant fighters ever. Her background as an Olympic judoka helped greatly but her immense punching power and ruthless use of armbar submissions made her a nightmare for opponents. Her fights were notoriously short — with her average fight time of 3 minutes, 6 seconds being the third shortest in UFC history — especially her 2015 submission of Cat Zingano in just 14 seconds, which is still the fastest submission victory ever.
She won the UFC women’s bantamweight championship in 2012 and successfully defended it five times before losing her final two fights in convincing fashion before moving on to a career in entertainment and pro wrestling.
17. Michael Bisping
UFC Record: 20-9-0
British fighters don’t have a great tradition of success in UFC, but Michael Bisping did everything he could to rectify that. No one in UFC history has more middleweight victories than his 16, and his 10 victories by knockout or technical knockout are tied at second all time. After winning “The Ultimate Fighter” in 2006, Bisping would win 11 of his next 14 fights. He’d win the UFC middleweight championship in 2016, a banner year that also saw him beat Anderson Silva and Dan Henderson.
16. Chuck Liddell
UFC Record: 17-7-0
From 1998-2006, Chuck Liddell was an incredible 16-2 in UFC bouts. He ruled the promotion’s light heavyweight division for much of the 2000s and became one of the most recognizable fighters in MMA history. After winning the UFC light heavyweight championship with a first-round knockout of Randy Couture in 2005, “The Iceman” successfully defended it four times, including another win over Couture and one over Tito Ortiz. Losing five of his final six UFC fights hurt his legacy a bit, but Liddell did plenty to earn his spot in the UFC Hall of Fame.
15. Randy Couture
UFC Record: 16-8-0
Professional fighting is a young man’s game, but Randy Couture proved to be an exception to that maxim in 2008, when he last held the UFC heavyweight championship — at 45 years old. He lost it to Brock Lesnar, a guy 14 years his junior, but “The Natural” would still get three more wins before his UFC career was over. Couture was the first fighter to hold titles in multiple UFC divisions, also earning the light heavyweight crown, and his six total championships are the most in history.
With all that hardware came a status in the sport that few have enjoyed, with Couture appearing in the main event of a record 18 UFC pay-per-views.
14. Conor McGregor
UFC Record: 10-2-0
Randy Couture may have headlined the most UFC pay-per-views, but Conor McGregor is the king of drawing eyeballs. The Irishman has headlined five of the six top-selling events in UFC history and has earned by far the most purse money of any fighter ever in the promotion. All that success is as much due to his notorious personality as it is to his abilities inside the octagon. After destroying José Aldo in 13 seconds to win the UFC featherweight title in 2015, he knocked out Eddie Alvarez to win the lightweight title, becoming the first fighter to ever hold two division belts at the same time.
So far, only two men have been able to stop him and they’re both on this list.
13. Cain Velasquez
UFC Record: 12-3-0
Heavyweight fighters should be absolutely frightening, and Cain Velasquez fit that bill. Of his 12 UFC victories, seven were decided by first-round knockouts and only two came via decision. That type of dominance made him a two-time UFC heavyweight champion and gave him a reign of 896 days, which is the longest in that division’s history. Among his list of victims are Brock Lesnar, Antônio Silva and Junior dos Santos, whom he had some bloody wars with in the octagon.
A look at the advanced statistics reveals even more about Velasquez’s greatness, as his striking differential of 4.08 is the best of any man in UFC history and his career control time percentage of 71.1% is fourth best.
12. Stipe Miocic
UFC Record: 13-3-0
Before making his UFC debut in 2011, Stipe Miocic had a rich background in boxing and collegiate wrestling, both of which would help him become one of the best heavyweights in MMA history. He’s lost only three fights so far and his list of competitors is full of brilliant fighters, with him holding knockout wins over Daniel Cormier, Alistair Overeem and Junior Dos Santos. The two-time and, as of this writing, current UFC heavyweight champion also has also earned a division-record nine post-fight bonus awards.
11. Khabib Nurmagomedov
UFC Record: 12-0-0
No fighter has ever defeated Khabib Nurmagomedov in a professional bout, giving him a career record of 28-0-0 since debuting in 2008. Since joining UFC in 2012, he’s been dominating the competition, quickly making his name as one of the best in the promotion’s history. As of this writing, he’s the reigning UFC lightweight champion and his impressive defense of that belt against Conor McGregor in 2018 became the most lucrative pay-per-view in UFC history.
A bout between Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson has been scheduled and called off several times over the years for various reasons, including a highly anticipated but canceled March 2020 fight. If he’s able to win that one, whenever it happens, it’s unclear who could stop his run.
10. Tony Ferguson
UFC Record: 15-1-0
Likely the best challenger to Khabib’s lightweight dominance, Tony Ferguson has been thrilling UFC fans since he won “The Ultimate Fighter” in 2011. It’s been more than eight years since his only UFC loss — a decision against Michael Johnson — and the only reason he lost the lightweight title in 2018 was because he was stripped of it following a devastating knee injury. Fans love Ferguson because he’s never had a boring fight and an eventual fight with Khabib could be one of the best matches in UFC history.
9. Daniel Cormier
UFC Record: 11-2-0 (1 no contest)
Arguably the best heavyweight in UFC today, the list of people Daniel Cormier has beaten inside the octagon is full of MMA greats. Frank Mir, Dan Henderson, Anthony Johnson and Anderson Silva are just a few who’ve fallen victim to him since 2013. His recent rivalry with Stipe Miocic has been fantastic, with both men knocking out the other once. He’s held both the UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight championships and was the first fighter in history to successfully defend titles in two divisions.
8. Max Holloway
UFC Record: 17-5-0
Since losing his 2012 UFC debut in a first-round submission, Max Holloway has proven himself to be one of the promotion’s most precise fighters. His bouts are nearly always exciting and typically end with someone lying on the mat, as Holloway’s nine career victories by knockout or technical knockout rank him in the top 10 in UFC history. From 2014-2019, he went on a 13-fight win streak, which included decisive wins over Cub Swanson, Charles Oliveira and José Aldo (twice).
The former featherweight division champ is also the only fighter in UFC history to land more than 2,000 significant strikes in his career.
7. Royce Gracie
UFC Record: 11-1-1
Royce Gracie is so legendary in the annals of UFC that it’s honestly difficult to even judge him against other fighters. The Brazilian icon pioneered the style of precision fighting that many greats have used inside the octagon over the past few decades. He won three of the first four UFC tournaments and proved sophistication could beat power in the days where there were no weight class distinctions. In the span of just two years, Gracie earned 10 submission victories, which is a total it would take 20 years for another fighter to match.
Of course, Gracie’s competition was much less fierce than today’s UFC fighters have, but his early domination of and influence on the promotion gives him arguably the best legacy in the sport, according to USA Today.
6. Amanda Nunes
UFC Record: 12-1-0
When Amanda Nunes effectively ended Ronda Rousey’s MMA career in 2016, it made her an instant legend in the sport. She’s only added to that legacy in the years since, having not lost a fight in nearly six years and soundly beating top challengers like Cris Cyborg, Valentina Shevchenko and Holly Holm. A current champ in two divisions, “The Lioness” has held the UFC women’s bantamweight title since 2016 and the women’s featherweight title since 2018. The Brazilian holds nearly all the major records for excellence among women fighters in UFC and she honestly seems unbeatable at this point.
5. Jon Jones
UFC Record: 20-1-0 (1 no contest)
If it wasn’t for positive performance-enhancing drug tests during his prime, Jon Jones could potentially be called the best fighter in UFC history. His record certainly sparkles the most, with his win percentage of 95.24% being the best of any fighter with at least 20 fights on his resume in UFC history. Wins over Lyoto Machida, Quinton Jackson, Vitor Belfort and Daniel Cormier make his first run as UFC light heavyweight champion the stuff of legend but the failed drug test that ended it in 2017 cause a shadow that’s tough for many fans to overlook.
4. Matt Hughes
UFC Record: 18-7-0
In the history of UFC, only two men ever beat Georges St. Pierre and only one ever beat Royce Gracie — Matt Hughes can claim both. The Hall of Famer was simply brilliant in the 2000s, going 14-2 in UFC bouts from 1999-2006. That run included him winning the UFC middleweight championship twice and successfully defending the title a total of seven times. Throw in wins against Matt Serra and B.J. Penn and you’ve got a guy who consistently challenged — and took down — the icons of his weight classes during a great era for MMA.
3. Demetrious Johnson
UFC Record: 15-2-1
Nobody in MMA has done more with a small stature than Demetrious Johnson. At just 5 feet, 3 inches tall, “Mighty Mouse” has made many tough guys wish they’d never stepped into the octagon with him. His 13-fight win streak from 2012-2018 is tied as the second-longest in UFC history and his 11 successful defenses of the UFC flyweight championship are the most in a single reign of any championship in history. Longtime UFC commentator Joe Rogan has even gone as far as calling Johnson the best fighter in MMA history. His split-decision title loss to Henry Cejudo in 2018 is still considered one of the most questionable in history and brought a sad ending to Johnson’s nearly flawless UFC career.
2. Anderson Silva
UFC Record: 17-6-0 (1 no contest)
If Anderson Silva hadn’t broken his leg during his second UFC middleweight championship fight with Chris Weidman in 2013, he’d probably be the best fighter in MMA history. Even with that horrific injury, which essentially wrecked his career, “The Spider” still makes a great case. His 16-fight win streak from 2006-2013 is the best in UFC history and may never be equaled, and his middleweight title reign of 2,457 days is the longest ever. That streak included wins over legends like Rich Franklin, Dan Henderson, Forrest Griffin and Vitor Belfort, all of whom were knocked out or submitted.
Silva was featured in the main event in 17 UFC pay-per-views and ESPN once named him the best fighter in the promotion’s history. All that equals a legacy that’s nearly unbeatable.
1. Georges St. Pierre
UFC Record: 20-2-0
In the fight game, it’s nearly impossible to go out on top, but Georges St. Pierre managed to pull it off. His final fight saw him win the UFC middleweight championship over Michael Bisping, capping a 13-bout winning streak to end his career in the octagon. “GSP” also held the UFC welterweight crown twice and handled guys like Matt Hughes, B.J. Penn and Matt Serra, giving him a career winning percentage of 90.91. He was no knockout artist, but no fighter in UFC history has landed more strikes than his 2,591 and more takedowns than his 90 or won more decisions than his 12.
Thousands of MMA fans at Ranker voted the Canadian the best fighter in the history of the sport, and we’re inclined to agree, at least in terms of performance in UFC.