20 Best UFC Fighters of All-Time

20 Best UFC Fighters of All-Time

If there’s one thing the best UFC fighters of all-time share in common, it’s their ability to dominate their opposition on a consistent basis. They knew how to attract a crowd and were featured in some of the most memorable, iconic, historic, and exciting fights we’ve ever seen.

The UFC, also known as the Ultimate Fighting Championship, has been around since 1993, but didn’t start to gain widespread popularity until the early 2000s when Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta (both executives of Station Casinos) purchased the UFC and named Dana White president. 

Dana White helped spur the vision that turned the UFC into a global empire. If it wasn’t for him, many of the best UFC fighters of all-time would’ve never gotten the opportunity to showcase their talent in front of millions of people. With that said, we tip our hat to Dana White for his vision.

RELATED: 10 John Cena Movies That Are Too Hysterical Not to Watch on Repeat

Who Are the Best UFC Fighters of All-Time?

20 Best UFC Fighters of All-Time
TPYXA_ILLUSTRATION / Shutterstock

Throughout the nearly 30 year history of the UFC, many fighters have tested their skill inside the octagon. While not all fighters go on to have successful careers in the UFC, the best UFC fighters of all-time did. In fact, they blew us all away with their level of skill and pure talent. 

The best UFC fighters of all-time were instrumental in the growth, development, and continued evolution of what’s considered a rather new sport. They’re the reason why fighters have the stage they have today and also the reason why fighters are seeing such high payouts today. 

From UFC 1 on November 12, 1993 with under 8,000 fans in attendance to UFC 268 on November 6, 2021 with over 20,000 fans in attendance, the UFC has hosted over 587 events over the past 28 years. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the best UFC fighters of all-time.

20. Israel Adesanya

Years Active: 2009-present

MMA Record: 21-1-0 (15 KOs)

Israel Adesanya, also known as The Last Stylebender, is one of the best strikers in the UFC today. He got his start in kickboxing and went 32-0 as an amateur before turning pro. He began training in martial arts at the age of 21 and made his professional MMA debut in 2012. 

After going 8-0 as a pro, Adesanya signed with the UFC and the rest is history. He started his career 20-0 before suffering his first loss against Jan Blachowicz for the Light Heavyweight Championship. He’s a Middleweight Champion and has a fight scheduled in February 2022.

19. Dominick Cruz

Years Active: 2003-present

MMA Record: 23-3 (7 KOs)

Dominick Cruz, also known as ‘The Dominator,’ was born in San Diego and was a wrestler in high school. After an injury resulted in him missing out on a college scholarship for wrestling, Cruz decided to study to be a firefighter before ultimately deciding to pursue a fighting career. 

Cruz turned pro in 2005 and spent time with Rage in the Cage, Total Combat, and World Extreme Cagefighting before joining the UFC in 2010. He won 22 of his first 23 fights, but lost back-to-back fights in 2016 and 2020. He returned in 2021 with a win against Casey Kenney

18. Kamaru Usman

Years Active: 2012-present

MMA Record: 20-1-0 (9 KOs)

Kamaru Usman, also known as ‘The Nigerian Nightmare,’ started wrestling in high school and continued in college where he was a National Champion, three-time D3 All-American, and NAIA National qualifier. After failing to make the Olympics in 2012, he pursued a career in fighting. 

After going 5-1 as a pro, Usman was one of the featured fighters in The Ultimate Fighter and earned a UFC contract after the finale. Since joining the UFC, he has won all 15 of his bouts and is the current welterweight champion. His most recent win came on November 6, 2021.

17. Dan Henderson

Years Active: 1997-2016

MMA Record: 32-15-0 (16 KOs)

Dan Henderson, also known as ‘Hendo,’ enjoyed an illustrious wrestling career in his high school and college days. He competed in two Summer Olympics (1992 and 1996) and two World Wrestling Championships (1994 and 1997). He made his pro MMA debut in 1997.

Throughout his nearly 20-year career, Henderson spent three stints with the UFC (also spending time with Strikeforce, PRIDE, the Brazil Open Tournament, and Rings: King of Rings. He was a champion everywhere he went and is regarded as one of the best UFC fighters of all-time.  

16. B.J. Penn

Years Active: 2001-2019

MMA Record: 16-14-2 (7 KOs)

B.J. Penn, also known as ‘The Prodigy,’ was one of the pioneers of the lighter weight divisions in the UFC. His career MMA record might not look that impressive, but it doesn’t show the fact that B.J. Penn is a former UFC Champion in both the Welterweight and Lightweight divisions. 

In fact, Penn’s legacy has been criticized after he continued to fight way past his prime. Since 2010, Penn has only won one of his 11 fights – he was 15-5-1 prior to that. In his prime, he was one of the best UFC fighters of all-time. Outside his prime, he has been terrible to say the least.

15. Max Holloway

Years Active: 2010-present

MMA Record: 23-6-0 (10 KOs)

Max Holloway, also known as ‘Blessed,’ decided to pursue an MMA career in high school and turned pro as a teenager. By the age of 19, Holloway had a 4-0 record and was the lightweight champion for Hawaii’s X-1 promotion. He joined the UFC as the youngest fighter in 2012. 

After losing his first fight, Holloway won his next three as he started to get comfortable. He suffered two more losses in 2013, but then went on a 13-fight win streak – including wins against Jose Aldo twice, Brain Ortega, and Anthony Pettis. He’s 3-3 since that win streak ended. 

14. Randy Couture

Years Active: 1997-2011

MMA Record: 19-11-0 (7 KOs)

Randy Couture, also known as ‘The Natural,’ started wrestling in high school before joining the United States Army for seven years. He didn’t stop wrestling and eventually found success as an Olympic alternate and as a member of the Oklahoma State University wrestling team. 

He burst onto the MMA scene in 1997 and competed in UFC’s four-man heavyweight tourney. That same year, Couture won his first UFC Heavyweight Championship – something he did three times in his career. He was also a two-time and interim Light Heavyweight Champion. 

13. Chuck Liddell

Years Active: 1998-2018

MMA Record: 21-8-0 (13 KOs)

Chuck Liddell, also known as ‘The Ice Man,’ played a major role in popularizing the sport in the late-1990s and early-2000s. He made his debut in 1998 at UFC 17 and beat Noe Hernandez, but lost his second fight against Jeremy Horn. He then went on an eight-fight win streak. 

That win streak came to an end in 2003 when Liddell was defeated by Randy Couture for the interim light heavyweight belt. He would get his revenge in 2005 and was named Light Heavyweight Champion – which he defended four times, including another win over Couture.

12. Henry Cejudo

Years Active: 2005-2020

MMA Record: 16-2-0 (8 KOs)

Henry Cejudo, also known as ‘The Messenger,’ had quite the wrestling career before pursuing an MMA career. He had seven gold medals, two silver, and one bronze in the Olympic Games, Wrestling World Cup, Pan American Championships, US National Championships, and more.

In 2013, he made his MMA debut and went 6-0 before signing with the UFC in 2014. He would go 6-2-0 over the next four years before being named UFC Flyweight Champion in 2018. After defending his title, he won the UFC Bantamweight Championship and defended that as well.

11. Matt Hughes

Years Active: 1998-2013

MMA Record: 45-9-0 (21 KOs)

Matt Hughes was a wrestler in high school and college before making his MMA debut in 1998. He joined the UFC in 1999 and won his first two fights before losing to Dennis Hallman. He followed that up with a win against Carlos Newton for the UFC Welterweight Championship. 

After defending his title five times, Hughes lost it to B.J. Penn in 2004. He regained the title later that year after defeating Georges St-Pierre, which Hughes would defend against B.J. Penn and Frank Trigg. He lost the title to St-Pierre in 2006 and lost the rematch just one year later. 

10. Conor McGregor

Years Active: 2008-present

MMA Record: 22-6-0 (19 KOs)

Conor McGregor, also known as ‘The Notorious,’ made a name for himself as one of the best trash talkers the UFC has ever seen. He also made a career out of backing that trash talk up with some powerful and technical punching, winning his first seven pro fights in the UFC

While he’s just 3-4 since, McGregor is still regarded as one of the best UFC fighters of all-time. He was the headliner for five of the six highest-selling fights on pay-per-view and drew in more viewers than any other fighter in their prime. Oh, he has also made more money than anyone. 

9. José Aldo

Years Active: 2004-present

MMA Record: 31-7-0 (17 KOs)

José Aldo, also known as ‘Junior,’ made his professional MMA debut in 2004 at the age of 17, despite wanting to play professional football growing up. He eventually joined World Extreme Cagefighting in 2008 and signed with the UFC when the two promotions merged in 2010. 

Once entering the UFC, Aldo won his first 15 fights and defended his UFC Featherweight title seven times in a row from 2011-2014. His first UFC loss came against Conor McGregor and he had two belt opportunities against Max Holloway, but lost both matches in the third round. 

8. Amanda Nunes

Years Active: 2008-present

MMA Record: 21-4-0 (13 KOs)

Amanda Nunes, also known as ‘Lioness,’ isn’t just one of the best UFC fighters of all-time, but she’s THE best female UFC fighter of all-time. She made her professional debut in 2008 and went 5-0 before signing with Strikeforce in 2011. She eventually made her UFC debut in 2013.

Nunes went 2-1 in her first three fights with the UFC, but that’s when she became unstoppable. She has won her past 12 fights and was the first female to win titles in two divisions. She has defended the UFC Bantamweight title five times and the UFC Featherweight title twice. 

7. Daniel Cormier

Years Active: 2009-2020

MMA Record: 22-3-1 (10 KOs)

Daniel Cormier, also known as ‘DC,’ enjoyed a successful wrestling career in high school, college, and beyond. He came in fourth place in the 2004 Olympics and was named captain of Team USA ahead of the 2008 Olympics, but was pulled from competition for medical reasons.

Cormier made his MMA debut in 2009, signed with Strikeforce later that year, and won his first eight fights before debuting with the UFC in 2013. He has gone 11-3-1 since and won both the Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight Championships simultaneously. He’s currently an analyst.

6. Stipe Miocic

Years Active: 2010-present 

MMA Record: 20-4-0 (15 KOs)

Stipe Miocic was a wrestler in high school, but also played football and baseball. In college, he started receiving interest from MLB teams, but ultimately decided to pursue a fighting career after graduating. He made his debut in 2006 and won his first six fights by way of knockout.

He made his UFC debut in 2011 and won his first three fights and went 8-2 before receiving his first title opportunity. He won the Heavyweight title and defended it three times before losing it to Daniel Cormier. He then beat Cormier to reclaim it and defeated him again to defend it. 

5. Khabib Nurmagomedov

Years Active: 2008-2020

MMA Record: 29-0-0 (8 KOs)

Khabib Nurmagomedov, also known as ‘The Eagle,’ started wrestling and training in judo at a young age before shifting his focus to mixed martial arts. He made his professional MMA debut in 2008 and would go 16-0 before drawing interest from the Ultimate Fighting Championship. 

His debut with the UFC came in 2012 and he won his first nine fights before receiving a title opportunity. After defeating Al Iaquinta to win the UFC Lightweight Championship, he defended the title three times before retiring. As a professional, he ended his career a perfect 29-0. 

4. Demetrious Johnson

Years Active: 2007-present

MMA Record: 30-4-1 (5 KOs)

Demetrious Johnson, also known as ‘Mighty Mouse,’ was a three-sport athlete growing up and excelled in track, wrestling, and cross country. After attending Pierce College for two years, Johnson decided to pursue a career in fighting and made his professional MMA debut in 2007.

He went 9-0 before striking a deal with World Extreme Cagefighting. He joined the UFC when the two merged in 2011 and he won his first two fights. After suffering a loss and a draw to bring his record to 2-2, he won his next 13 fights before suffering his first loss in seven years in 2018. 

3. Jon Jones

Years Active: 2008-present

MMA Record: 26-1-0 [1 NC] (10 KOs)

Jon Jones, also known as ‘Bones,’ was a standout wrestler and football player in high school. He later dropped out of college to pursue an MMA career and made his professional debut in 2008. He went 6-0 and won the USKBA Light Heavyweight Championship in just six months.

He made his UFC debut in April 2008 and won his first three fights. A loss towards the end of 2009 would spur a 13-fight win streak for Jones. He currently has the most title defenses, wins, and submission victories all-time in the light heavyweight division, cementing his legacy. 

2. Anderson Silva

Years Active: 1997-2020

MMA Record: 34-11-0 [1 NC] (23 KOs)

Anderson Silva, also known as ‘The Spider,’ started training jiu-jitsu as a child and capoeira, taekwondo, and muay thai as a teen. He made his professional MMA debut in 1997 and eventually fought in the Pride Fighting Championships and Cage Rage from 2002-2006. 

In 2006, he made his UFC debut and won his next 16 fights. In that time, he won the UFC Middleweight Championship and defended the title a record-setting 10 times in his division. He’s just 1-7-0 (1 NC) since his last title defense, but he’s still one of the best UFC fighters of all-time.

1. Georges St-Pierre

Years Active: 2002-2017

MMA Record: 26-2-0 (8 KOs)

Georges St-Pierre, also known as ‘GSP’ or ‘Rush,’ is widely regarded as one of the best UFC fighters of all-time – if not THE best. He made his UFC debut in 2004 and even won his first two fights before losing to fellow all-time great Matt Hughes in the UFC Welterweight Championship. 

St-Pierre followed that up with six straight wins, including revenge against Hughes for the title. After losing the title in 2007, he eventually regained it 2008 and defended it nine consecutive times. He returned in 2017 and won the UFC Middleweight Championship before retiring.

Who Are the Best UFC Fighters Right Now?

The best UFC fighters of all-time were exciting to watch and knew how to put on a show for the fans. They got so used to wrapping that belt around their waste that they started to get tan lines. They’re some of the most feared fighters the sport has ever seen and that may never change.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there’s any shortage of talent in the UFC today. In fact, many of the best UFC fighters of all-time that we listed above are still fighting to this day. Since the sport is still relatively new, a lot of the greats are either still in shape or just recently decided to retire. 

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: 20 Undefeated Boxers That Shocked the World

With that said, some of the best UFC fighters in 2022 that weren’t named above include Francis Ngannou, Alexander Volkanovski, Dustin Poirier, Charles Oliviera, Brandon Moreno, Petr Yan, Valentina Shevchenko, Rose Namajunas, Zhang Weili, and Jessica Andrade.

About At The Buzzer

At The Buzzer, or ATB is the place for those who love sports, life, family, community, and so much more. We are far from the run-of-the-mill 24/7 sports news websites. We not only bring you what’s happening in the world of sports in terms of trades and breaking news, but we also bring you the news that goes on behind the scenes, like big life moments, and so much more. So take a minute and read one of our articles, we promise you won't regret it.