Most Famous MMA Fighters
The sport of MMA has grown tremendously since the UFC burst on the scene in 1993. Over the next two decades, MMA has become a global attraction that has spawned numerous promotions and dozens of great fighters. Some of these athletic combatants have gone on to transcend the sport and even help MMA grow to unimaginable heights.
This list of the most famous MMA fighters is just a starting point; an entrance into a fight world with personalities and athletes that have become larger than life. By no means is this a complete or ultimate "All-Time Best" list. In fact, if you feel that a fighter is missing from below, then reach out to us.
List of the Most Famous MMA Fighters
Anderson "The Spider" Silva was at one point the best pound for pound fighter in the world. He dominated the middleweight division for nearly seven years and was the longest reigning champion in the history of the UFC. Some people believe that Silva is the greatest MMA fighter of all-time, but that's a debate for another day and another list.
Silva unified the UFC and Pride middleweight titles and, at one point, held the record for most successful title defenses with 16. He won the UFC middleweight title in his 2nd fight with the promotion and dominated for another 2,457 days. Anderson would also go on to hold multiple striking records with the promotion.
Silva will also be remembered for his gruesome broken leg suffered during a rematch fight against Chris Weidman.
If there's another fighter on this list that could rival Silva as the greatest MMA fighter of all-time, it would be Georges St-Pierre. More commonly known as GSP, the Canadian MMA superstar was a 2-division champion and widely considered as the greatest welterweight fighter of all-time.
GSP suffered two losses within the first three years of his UFC career. However, since then, St-Pierre has won every fight. He's defeated some of the sport's all-time greats like BJ Penn and Matt Hughes. He's taken out some of the top fighters of this era too, like Nick Diaz and Michael Bisping.
During the peak of his career, GSP was also the top PPV draw for the UFC. Although others have passed him in this category, GSP will always be remembered as one of the greatest ever.
You can't think of women's MMA without thinking of the name Ronda Rousey. The two will be synonymous forever. Rousey did more for women's MMA than anyone before her. In fact, it will be hard for any female MMA star to surpass Ronda's accomplishments.
Rousey was the first-ever American woman to win an Olympic medal in Judo when she won the bronze medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics. In 2010, she turned professional and had a few successful MMA fights for various promotions. She would become Strikeforce's Women's Bantamweight Champ before moving on to the UFC in 2012.
In the UFC, Rousey would become the biggest star in the company during her heyday. She became the company's first ever female champ and went undefeated for nearly three years. Rousey had six successful title defenses before finally losing. During that streak, she was the main event for PPV, patented her arm-bar submission, and revolutionized the sport for female fighters.
Rousey would become the first ever female fighter to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. She's also enjoyed a modest Hollywood career and has gone on to become a megastar in the WWE.
I don't think there's a fighter at the level of Couture who has retired more times than Randy has. With that in mind, Couture continued to come out of retirement and win championships. Randy was one of the first fighters to win titles in two divisions: the light heavyweight and the heavyweight. Nicknamed "The Natural," Couture is a former 3-time UFC heavyweight champ and a former 2-time UFC light heavyweight champ.
Randy is well known for fighting into his late 40's and doing so at a high level. In fact, there aren't many 40-year-olds who have won championships in any sport, especially MMA. But, Couture did it. His last fight came in 2011. Since then, Randy has enjoyed retirement.
Couture will go down as one of the greatest heavyweights of all-time. He will also hold UFC records that will probably never be passed, like winning a fight at the age of 46. During his retirement, Couture has become a steady actor with popular roles in The Expendables movie franchise and on the TV show Hawaii 5-0. It's clear, whatever the former U.S. Army Sargent sets his mind to, he succeeds at.
In addition to being a UFC Hall of Famer, Gracie is an MMA legend and a pioneer. He won three of the first UFC tournaments and starred in the first MMA mega-feud with Ken Shamrock. Gracie and his family went on to perfect Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. In fact, the Gracie name is synonymous with the popular martial art.
Outside of the UFC, Gracie had one of the most memorable bouts in PRIDE Fighting as he fought Sakuraba for over 90 minutes. Although the latter fights of his career didn't turn out as he and his fans had hoped, the sport and the UFC would have never gotten off the ground if it weren't for pioneers like Gracie.
You can't mention the name of Gracie without his counterpart, Ken Shamrock. The two were involved in a bitter feud during the early days of the UFC, which put the company on the mat and took the MMA sport mainstream. Shamrock was the first ever Superfight Champ, which would eventually go on to become the heavyweight championship after the implementation of weight divisions.
Shamrock was also a big star outside of the UFC. He became the first "foreigner" to win a major championship in Japan when he won the King of Pancrase. During this period of time, Shamrock was considered the top MMA fighter in the world.
Shamrock also left his mark on professional wrestling as he was a multi-time champ in the WWE (WWF when he wrestled). Ken became an even bigger mainstream star after his run in the WWE. With his famous MMA center known as the Lion's Den, Shamrock became one of the most influential MMA fighters of all-time.
Although not as accomplished in MMA as other fighters on this list, Brock Lesnar turned the UFC upside down when he decided to participate in mixed martial arts. Lesnar came from the WWE world to MMA and fans refused to accept him at first. In his 3rd fight with the UFC, Lesnar defeated Couture to win the UFC heavyweight title. Lesnar would go on to have some of the highest grossing fights in UFC history. He was an instant box office attraction.
Despite having little MMA experience, and a great deal of professional wrestling experience, Lesnar was actually an accomplished amateur wrestler in college. For his career, Lesnar went 106-5 in four years at college. He was a two-time NCAA All-American, two-time Big Ten Champ, and the 2000 NCAA heavyweight champ.
Oh, and we can't forget that Lesnar had a brief stint in the NFL after leaving the WWE for other challenges. Brock continues to be one of the biggest stars in the WWE and sends shockwaves through the sport of MMA anytime he shows up in the UFC.
Conor McGregor has transcended the sport of MMA like no other. He's set new records for UFC gates and PPV buys, while becoming a massive international superstar. McGregor has become one of the best in the sport at selling a fight with his words and tends to back it up more times than not. McGregor is one of only a handful of 2-divisions champs and actually held those two divisional belts at the same time.
McGregor proved his star power in 2017 when he took on Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a boxing match. Conor went 10 rounds with one of boxing's best fighters of all-time. It's gone down as the 2nd highest grossing PPV fight of all-time.
McGregor is widely considered to still be in his prime, but only time will tell. Even if he retired tomorrow, McGregor would definitely be remembered for the way he took the sport of MMA to another level.
Regardless of his troubles outside of the sport, Jon Jones is regarded as one of the best MMA fighters of all-time. In fact, some say that if Jones wasn't his own worst enemy, he would be the greatest MMA fighter of all-time.
Following the first loss of his pro career, in 2009, Jones would go on one of the most impressive streaks the sport has ever seen. He won 14 straight fights before his last one was overturned. Along the way, he beat some of the sport's best fighters in Cormier, Sonnen, Belfort, Evans, Rua, Bader, Machida, and Jackson. His 13-fight win streak in the lightweight division is a record that will probably never be broken.
At the time of winning the light heavyweight belt in 2011, Jones became the youngest UFC champ ever. Not only does Jones have one of the most impressive fight resumes in all of MMA, but he's also going to go down as the greatest light heavyweight of all-time; a huge accomplishment in itself.
Penn doesn't have the fight record of other fighters on this list, but his name is easily recognizable in any MMA circle. Not to mention he has a cool website that provides some great insight, MMA news, and analysis. However, if it wasn't for his success in MMA, nobody would've turned to his site in the first place.
Penn was first noticed in the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship where he became the first non-Brazilian to win the black-belt division. He also finished high in other prominent Jiu-Jitsu tournaments, leading to him signing with the UFC. From there, Penn would take on some of the sport's all-time greats, like GSP and Matt Hughes.
B.J. Penn wasn't afraid to take on other fighters in different weight classes. He also didn't have a problem fighting in other promotions. No MMA list is complete without Penn.
Known as "The Iceman," Chuck Liddell was the most feared striker on the planet during his peak. From early 1999 to late 2006, Liddell went 18-2, won the UFC light heavyweight belt, and defeated fighters like Ortiz, Belfort, Overeem, and Couture. His feuds with Ortiz and Couture took the UFC to new heights.
Liddell's personality and look helped him to stand apart from other fighters. He's considered one of the promotion's first true superstars and easily earned UFC Hall of Fame honors. It's hard to imagine where the company or the sport would be without Chuck Liddell. The Iceman certainly did things his way, which includes going down swinging on his way to retirement.
"Rampage," became a fan favorite due to his exciting fight style and his colorful personality. He was a star in Pride Fighting, winning the middleweight title. Jackson had a highly memorable feud with Wanderlei Silva in the Pride promotion before eventually heading to the UFC in 2006. Within his first few fights, Jackson KO'd Liddell to win the UFC light heavyweight title. From there, Jackson became one of the most dynamic fighters in the UFC.
Quinton's final years with the UFC were up and down due to controversy, losses, and a few title wins. In 2013, Jackson left for Bellator and helped establish that promotion as a reputable brand. Additionally, Rampage decided to try his luck at pro wrestling when he joined TNA in 2013.
Outside of the octagon, Jackson is best known for his role as B.A. Baracus in the hit movies The A-Team.
Unlike the majority of fighters on this list, Fedor had most of his success prior to entering the UFC. Emelianenko dominated Pride Fighting and also saw success in M-1 Global and Affliction. For over eight years (2001 through 2009), Emelianenko went undefeated as he won 28 straight fights. During that span, he defeated Nogueira, Mirko Filipovic, and Alrovski to name a few. He didn't need the UFC to become a superstar. The UFC chased after Fedor because he was already an international star.
Once he signed with Strikeforce, Fedor lost a few fights, and the mystique wore off. Eventually, he retired as a legend of the sport. However, like other MMA legends, Fedor came out of retirement for a few fights in various promotions before ending up in Bellator. Regardless of his record and latter fights, "The Last Emperor" was truly one of the last legit international MMA stars outside of the UFC.
"The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" was a force to be reckoned with during his peak run from 2000 to 2006. Over that period of time, Ortiz wen 11-2 and won the UFC light heavyweight title and defended it five times. His feud with Liddell is considered one of the greatest MMA feuds of all-time, right up there with Gracie vs. Shamrock.
Tito fought during an era where the sport was still growing. Ortiz definitely helped to bring more fans to the sport and became a star. Tito also had a few retirements along the way but came back to the sport he loved and was very successful at.
Ortiz tried his hand at acting and pro wrestling, but nothing really took off for him in either industry. Outside of his legendary fight career, Tito is also famous for his relationship with the super popular adult film star Jenna Jameson.
Sonnen has certainly tasted defeat in his career, but it's his showmanship that helped Chael stand apart. Furthermore, it's his trash talking that has become an art form where other fighters have tried to emulate him. In fact, Sonnen might be the only MMA star that can out-trash talk Conor McGregor.
Chael might also be the only fighter on this list that's more famous for his talking and entertaining than his actual fighting. Chael doesn't really have any major titles on his resume, but he always seems to land big fights in every promotion that he's a part of.
Sonnen has worked with ESPN for several years as an MMA analyst. He's never short on words or insults. If you are questioning why he's on this list of famous MMA fighters, go check out some video clips of his greatest promos.
There are certainly dozens of fighters we could add to the famous MMA fighters list above, but then we might as well just write a book on this topic. Other fighters that could be included on this list and any other legit MMA list are Jose Aldo, Takanori Gomi, Rich Franklin, Matt Hughes, Wanderlei Silva, Mauricio Rua, Demetrious Johnson, The Diaz brothers, Daniel Cormier, Urijah Faber, Bas Rutten and many more.