10 best UFC fighters of all time (Updated 2023)
The UFC has now been around for a long time – three decades, to be exact. Over that time, the promotion has seen some of the greatest fighters in history enter the Octagon to prove themselves, and at this stage, well over 100 athletes have been able to call themselves a UFC champion.
But the question still remains – who is the greatest or best UFC fighter of all time? Given all of the changes in the sport of MMA and in the promotion over the years, it’s a hard task to nail down who is the greatest.
However, it is clear that a handful of names stand above the rest as the top fighters in the promotion’s history. So without further ado, here are the ten best UFC fighters of all time, ranked from #10 to #1.
#10. Stipe Miocic – former UFC heavyweight champion
The UFC’s heavyweight title has been passed around like a hot potato for most of its existence, and that means that it’s hard to pin down the promotion’s greatest-ever big man.
The general consensus would probably be that Cain Velasquez belongs at the top of that list in term of his talent levels, but in terms of accomplishments, he doesn’t quite stand up to the test.
That’s because he only defended his title successfully on two occasions during his two reigns as champion.
With that considered, the most decorated heavyweight champion in octagon history has to be Stipe Miocic. In that sense, he belongs on any list of the best fighters in UFC history, too.
Considered a hot prospect since his arrival in 2011, Miocic picked up some strong early wins, but it was in 2014 that saw him really break through into the elite level.
He suffered a controversial loss to former heavyweight kingpin Junior Dos Santos at the end of the year, and that seemed to inspire him. Most observers believed Miocic deserved the nod, and he clearly believed that, too.
Miocic went on to destroy his next three foes, culminating in his heavyweight title win over then-champ Fabricio Werdum via first-round knockout.
From there, he was able to defend it successfully on three occasions, beating Alistair Overeem, Dos Santos in a rematch, and Francis Ngannou.
2018 saw him lose his crown to Daniel Cormier, but a year later, he regained it and then defended it successfully against ‘DC’ in a rematch, giving him a record four successful title defenses.
Miocic was unseated by Ngannou in a rematch in 2021, and has not fought since. Current reports have him returning to attempt another title run, though, and if he can pull that off, he’ll probably move up this list.
As it is, though, as the most accomplished heavyweight in octagon history, he deserves a spot here.
#9. Henry Cejudo – former UFC flyweight and bantamweight champion
Henry Cejudo was pegged for greatness in MMA before he’d even made his UFC debut. An Olympic gold medallist in freestyle wrestling at the 2008 games, ‘Triple C’ made his MMA debut in 2013 and was subsequently signed by the UFC one year later.
It took Cejudo just four fights to claim his first title shot, but in reality, it was probably too early for him to face flyweight champ, Demetrious Johnson. Unsurprisingly, Cejudo fell to a first-round TKO defeat.
He returned later in 2016 as a much-improved fighter, suddenly displaying an excellent striking game to go with his world-class wrestling.
After a controversial decision loss to Joseph Benavidez, he began to go on a tear, defeating Wilson Reis and Sergio Pettis to earn another shot at Johnson.
This time, ‘Triple C’ fought a much better fight, and ended up edging ‘Mighty Mouse’ by split decision, becoming the first man to defeat him since 2010 and claiming the flyweight title in the process.
It would be in the two years that followed that Cejudo really proved his greatness, though. Firstly, he was faced with reigning bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw to open 2019, as the 135lbs kingpin dropped to 125lbs to attempt to take Cejudo’s belt.
That would not happen, as ‘Triple C’ destroyed Dillashaw, TKOing him in just 32 seconds to retain his title. When Dillashaw was then stripped of his title after testing positive for EPO, Cejudo decided to move up to 135lbs in an attempt to become a double champion.
In June 2019, he did just that – coming from behind to demolish highly ranked contender Marlon Moraes to become just the fourth fighter to hold two titles simultaneously.
In 2020, Cejudo then added to his legend by becoming the first man to stop legendary former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz by TKO.
Cejudo decided to retire after that fight, leading people to argue that he perhaps didn’t stick around for long enough to be considered an all-time great. That isn’t fair, though – Cejudo crammed more accomplishments into his short UFC career than most fighters do in decades.
More to the point, if he makes a successful return this year and can regain his title from Aljamain Sterling, his credentials as an all-time legend would not be able to be questioned.
#8. Alexander Volkanovski – UFC featherweight champion
The UFC’s featherweight division has had plenty of potential all-time greats competing in it, from Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor to Max Holloway and Frankie Edgar.
At this point, though, it’s almost undeniable that current featherweight kingpin Alexander Volkanovski is the best fighter in the history of the 145lbs division. More importantly, the Australian should be considered one of the greatest fighters in UFC history, too.
It took ‘Alexander the Great’ a long time to climb to the top of the mountain, but in hindsight, he had a pretty straightforward climb.
Volkanovski debuted in the octagon in November 2016, and reeled off six straight wins before the end of 2018, culminating in a knockout win over former title challenger Chad Mendes.
2019 was the year that he really made his mark, though. He clearly outpointed the legendary Aldo, and then claimed the featherweight crown by defeating Holloway in an epic title fight.
Since then, he’s gone onto defend that title successfully on four occasions, shutting out Holloway twice while also beating Chan Sung Jung and Brian Ortega. Despite the presence of great contenders like Yair Rodriguez waiting in the wings, at 145lbs, Volkanovski seems unbeatable.
With wins over basically every other great featherweight of his era, ‘Alexander the Great’ has cleaned out his division like few have ever done in UFC history. Even a loss in a lightweight title fight with Islam Makhachev can’t really take away from his greatness.
Put simply, Volkanovski is one of the greatest fighters of all time, and he could climb this ladder if he can continue to rule his division with an iron fist.
#7. Amanda Nunes – UFC bantamweight and featherweight champion
If this were a list purely consisting of female fighters, Amanda Nunes would comfortably sit at the top of the pile as the greatest of all time.
‘The Lioness’ is one of just four UFC fighters to hold titles in two different weight classes simultaneously, and she holds wins over a total of seven former UFC champions.
The native of Brazil debuted in the octagon back in 2013 and defeated Sheila Gaff, and from there, put together a record of 5-1 to claim a shot at reigning bantamweight champion Miesha Tate at UFC 200. And in a one-sided fight, ‘The Lioness’ destroyed Tate to claim the title.
Successful defenses against former champion Ronda Rousey, future flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko and top contender Raquel Pennington followed, before Nunes moved up to 145lbs to face off with reigning featherweight champion Cris Cyborg.
Cyborg had not lost a fight in 13 years – but Nunes simply ran over her in one-sided fashion, finishing her with a series of punches in just 51 seconds. It was a stunning victory that left no doubt as to who the greatest female fighter on the planet was.
In the years that have followed, ‘The Lioness’ has defended both of her titles on multiple occasions, taking her total number of successful defenses to seven. Even a 2021 defeat to Julianna Pena didn’t dent her legacy, as less than a year later, she thrashed ‘The Venezuelan Vixen’ to claim her crown back.
While it’s hard to rank her any higher on this list due to the fact that she competes in two relatively thin divisions in comparison to some of her counterparts – even in the lighter women’s divisions – you also cannot argue at all with Nunes’ accomplishments. Simply put, she’s an all-time UFC legend.
#6. Daniel Cormier – former UFC light-heavyweight and heavyweight champion
Another one of the four fighters to hold UFC titles in two different weight classes simultaneously, Daniel Cormier hung up his gloves in 2020 after putting together a truly phenomenal record.
‘DC’ ended his career with 22 wins and four losses, with two of those defeats being highly disputed.
Cormier’s MMA career began in 2009, and came off the back of a highly successful career as a freestyle wrestler which culminated in spots in the US national team at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.
Cormier entered the UFC in 2013 as the reigning StrikeForce Heavyweight title. An undersized Heavyweight, ‘DC’ comfortably defeated Frank Mir and Roy Nelson in the octagon before deciding to make the drop to 205lbs in order to go after Jon Jones’ light-Heavyweight title.
He came up short against Jones, only to find himself fighting for the vacant title just months later when ‘Bones’ was stripped following personal issues outside of the octagon.
Cormier claimed his first light-heavyweight title by beating Anthony Johnson at UFC 187, and then defended it against Alexander Gustafsson and Johnson in a rematch.
His old rival Jones then returned to dethrone him – but a positive test for PEDs saw the title handed back to Cormier and the result of the fight turned into a No Contest.
After a third successful defense of the light-heavyweight crown, Cormier set his sights on becoming a double champion – and moved back to heavyweight to face off with champ Stipe Miocic. And in the summer of 2018, he realised that dream, knocking out Miocic to become the UFC’s latest double champion.
‘DC’ defended that title against Derrick Lewis, only to drop it back to Miocic in a rematch. A third fight also saw him defeated, pushing him into retirement, but by that point, Cormier was already 41 years old, and his legacy had already been established.
‘DC’ may not have been able to beat Jones, but his spot as one of the true greats cannot be questioned.
#5. Demetrious Johnson – former UFC flyweight champion
The UFC’s flyweight kingpin from 2012 to 2018, Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson was recognized throughout his UFC tenure as a pound-for-pound great.
Currently fighting in Singapore’s ONE FC promotion, Johnson still holds the record for the most number of successful UFC title defenses with 11, and ended his octagon career with a record of 15-2-1.
Johnson debuted in the UFC in 2011 as a bantamweight, and defeated Japanese legend ‘Kid’ Yamamoto and former WEC champion Miguel Torres before falling short in a title challenge against the much larger Dominick Cruz.
That loss was the catalyst for ‘Mighty Mouse’ to drop to a more natural 125lbs, and after defeating Ian McCall and Joseph Benavidez, Johnson became the inaugural flyweight champion. From there, ‘Mighty Mouse’ was essentially unstoppable.
Initially criticised for being somewhat of a dull fighter despite his wins, Johnson soon quietened the critics when he began to finish the majority of his opponents, including Henry Cejudo, Ray Borg and Kyoji Horiguchi – the latter being the latest submission in octagon history.
Johnson was eventually dethroned in a rematch with Cejudo in 2018, although it was a close fight that could easily have gone either way.
Following the loss, ‘Mighty Mouse’ was surprisingly traded to ONE FC in a deal that took their welterweight champ Ben Askren to the UFC.
While Johnson never really captured the imagination of the casual fans, there’s simply no disputing his greatness overall.
In fact, the only thing keeping ‘Mighty Mouse’ from being higher on this list is the fact that the flyweight division was not quite as packed with talent as some of the UFC’s other weight classes.
#4. Anderson Silva – former UFC middleweight champion
If an article like this was put out back in 2010, there’s almost no disputing the fact that Anderson Silva would’ve been ranked as the greatest UFC fighter of all time.
When his middleweight title reign finally ended in 2013 at the hands of Chris Weidman, not only had Silva held the belt for nearly seven years, but he’d also made ten successful title defenses – and had won an incredible 16 fights in a row in the octagon.
The Brazilian debuted in the octagon in 2006 after a successful career in Japan and the UK, and immediately made waves by becoming the first man to knock out the tough Chris Leben.
That was enough to net him a shot at the middleweight title, and he destroyed champion Rich Franklin to claim the crown before his first year in the promotion was out.
From there, Silva continued to run roughshod over the entire 185lbs division. Tricky contenders like Dan Henderson, Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen were dispatched with ease – often in unique, inventive ways – and it was hard to argue against the Brazilian’s position as the best fighter on the planet.
Even temporary moves up to 205lbs couldn’t slow him down, as he easily defeated James Irvin before embarrassing former light-heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin, knocking him out in the summer of 2009.
However, he would eventually meet his downfall at the hands of Weidman – who knocked him out in July 2013 and then finished him in a rematch five months later.
That rematch saw Silva suffer a horrific broken leg, and from there, in hindsight, he should perhaps have hung his gloves up.
Instead, he returned to fight the likes of Nick Diaz, Michael Bisping and Israel Adesanya – losing five of his last six fights before his 2020 retirement.
A string of late-career losses wouldn’t normally mean a lot, but in a discussion like this about overall greatness, those losses – as well as two positive drug tests – must be taken into account.
Therefore, ‘The Spider’ remains within the top five greatest fighters in UFC history, but can no longer be considered the greatest.
#3. Khabib Nurmagomedov – former UFC lightweight champion
Very few fighters – if any – manage to negotiate the shark-filled waters of the UFC and remain unbeaten. Even fewer manage to ascend all the way to a title without suffering a loss.
Realistically, there’s only one man who’s done that, and his name is Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The former lightweight champion might’ve hung up his gloves after defeating Justin in 2020, but his shadow still looms large over the 155lbs division. Despite the division having two titleholders since his retirement, many fans still believe him to be the real kingpin at lightweight.
If anything, that’s a simple mark of Khabib’s greatness. ‘The Eagle’ debuted in the UFC in 2012, already carrying a gaudy record of 16-0, and by the end of 2013 he’d increased that to 21-0 and was beginning to look like a title contender.
Injuries restricted him through the next couple of years – he fought just four times between 2014 and 2017 – but he still continued to win, even against top-ranked foes like Rafael Dos Anjos and Michael Johnson.
By 2018, it was clear that he’d earned a title shot, and when fellow top contender Tony Ferguson picked up an injury, ‘The Eagle’ defeated Al Iaquinta to claim the lightweight crown. Later that year though came his biggest victory yet.
Conor McGregor – who’d given up the lightweight title to pursue a boxing match with Floyd Mayweather – was back in town, and his rivalry with Khabib grew to the point where the pay-per-view they headlined broke buyrate records.
In the end, though, it was Khabib who came out on top, submitting the Irishman with a fourth-round neck crank.
Even at that point, the legend of ‘The Eagle’ was written in stone, but since then he’s added his accomplishments with major wins over Dustin Poirier and most recently, Gaethje.
At this stage, there’s simply no question that he’s the greatest lightweight ever, and the fact that he retired at 29-0 without losing his title makes him the promotion's third-greatest fighter, too.
#2. Jon Jones – former UFC light-heavyweight and current heavyweight champion
In a world without USADA and drug testing, there’d definitely be a fair claim for Jon Jones to be at the top of this list.
After all, he’s been with the UFC for well over a decade, has only ever lost a fight via disqualification, and has beaten a laundry list of legends in devastating fashion throughout his time with the promotion.
However, it’s safe to say that his positive drug tests – three if you count his 2015 positive for cocaine, four if you count the weird ‘pulsing’ incident prior in 2018 – put a dampener on his entire run. He’s still a great, but it’s hard to rank him higher than this.
Still though, ‘Bones’ has had a truly incredible career. He debuted in the promotion as a hot prospect in 2008 and quickly blew through all of his early opponents to be recognised as a title contender in the latter part of 2010.
When he picked up his sixth octagon win over Ryan Bader in February 2011, it was clear that he was ready for a run at the top.
Jones’ next fight saw him dismantle light-heavyweight champion ‘Shogun’ Rua to claim the gold, and from there, he continued to dismantle practically every other top 205lber on the planet.
The likes of ‘Rampage’ Jackson, Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida all fell to ‘Bones’, and he even passed trickier tests like Alexander Gustafsson and Daniel Cormier largely unscathed.
However, after 2015, Jones’ career took somewhat of a strange turn. The first five years of his tenure with the promotion saw him win 12 fights, but the first five years that followed 2015 saw him fight on just six occasions.
Jones won all of those fights handily, but it was fair to say that his victories over the likes of Dominick Reyes and Thiago Santos weren’t vintage performances. And of course, spending the best part of 2017 and 2018 suspended for his positive drug tests didn’t help matters.
However, this year has seen him return from three years on the shelf to defeat Ciryl Gane for the vacant heavyweight title, making him one of the few fighters to hold two titles in different weight classes.
Could a dominant reign at heavyweight elevate ‘Bones’ to the top of this list? It’s debatable, as his chequered past with PEDs is very hard to overlook. In terms of sheer talent and dominance, though, it’s very hard to overlook him.
#1. Georges St. Pierre – former UFC welterweight and middleweight champion
Khabib Nurmagomedov has a better record, Jon Jones and Anderson Silva both finished some of their opponents in more entertaining fashion, and Daniel Cormier, Amanda Nunes and Henry Cejudo held two titles simultaneously.
Despite this, none of these greats can stand up to the legendary Georges St. Pierre as the greatest UFC fighter of all time.
St. Pierre was simply the most dominant athlete in not just UFC history, but MMA history, period. Over his initial decade-long career with the promotion, ‘Rush’ picked up a total of 20 victories, all over the very best that the welterweight division had to offer.
Sure, he also suffered two bitter defeats, one to Matt Hughes and one to Matt Serra – but both times, he bounced back from his losses as a better fighter and avenged the defeats in rematches.
St. Pierre’s first title shot came in 2004, when the Canadian was only 2-0 in the octagon and just 23 years old. He was clearly overawed by Hughes – already a legend in his own right – and lost by first round armbar. But that only set off the first dominant run for ‘GSP’.
Jason ‘Mayhem’ Miller, Frank Trigg, Sean Sherk and BJ Penn – all great fighters – fell to the Canadian, who followed that up by knocking out Hughes to win his first welterweight title. The upset loss to Serra followed, but again, St. Pierre bounced back.
He reclaimed his title from Serra in early 2008, and then went on one of the most dominant runs in octagon history, defending his title nine times, each defense coming against a genuinely world-class foe. Most impressively, St. Pierre whitewashed them all, barely looking threatened before a close fight with Johny Hendricks in 2013.
That would be the last time we’d see ‘GSP’ in the octagon for four years – and to tell the truth, had he never come back, he’d probably still be top of this list.
But he did return, moving up to middleweight to dethrone champion Michael Bisping, becoming a rare two-division champion in the process.
St. Pierre dominated fighters that for the most part, nobody else was able to dominate in the same way. From 2004 through to 2013, he defeated every top welterweight there was to beat, and he did it all with class and style.
The competition for the spot as the UFC’s greatest-ever fighter is tight, but nobody beats St. Pierre.