10 UFC fighters with the most Instagram followers
The social media machine that is Instagram has been growing steadily in popularity ever since it arrived on the scene in 2010, and as of September 2017, it was boasting over 800 million users. It’s no surprise then that celebrities and famous sportspeople use Instagram almost relentlessly, both to keep their fans in the loop and to push their own brands.
The UFC is no different, and some of its fighters are massively popular on Instagram, drawing in millions of followers. For fighters desperately trying to push themselves into the public eye and become bigger stars, Instagram is arguably the perfect platform – and these 10 UFC fighters have taken advantage of it more than most.
#10 Cody Garbrandt – 1.6m followers
Initially, I was surprised to find out that former UFC Bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt had so many Instagram followers – he’s almost a million ahead of title rival and current champion TJ Dillashaw, for instance, and even has more than ultra-popular female fighters Cris Cyborg and Rose Namajunas.
But in hindsight, it’s not really a shock that ‘Cody No Love’ would be popular on Instagram. Not only is he one of the most instantly recognisable UFC fighters thanks to his wild tattoos, but the image he portrays in his fighting life – one part thuggish, one part humble and loveable – comes across incredibly well in his photos; his shots range from pictures of his young child to photos of him posing like a gangster.
And of course, before he became a UFC champ he was involved in a relationship with fellow UFC – and Instagram – star Paige VanZant, which probably helped up his number of followers.
#9 Holly Holm – 1.7m followers
While she doesn’t have nearly as many followers as the woman she dethroned for the UFC Women’s Bantamweight title back in 2015 – current WWE superstar Ronda Rousey has a monstrous 10.9m followers – Holly Holm is definitely popular in her own right on Instagram. It’s not surprising as since her rise to fame following the Rousey fight, she’s been one of the UFC’s more reliable drawing cards on TV and PPV.
‘The Preacher’s Daughter’ is pretty active on Instagram, too, usually posting multiple photos and videos each week. Largely they tend to consist of extremely impressive training shots from the Jackson/Wink academy, but judging by her permanent smile and snaps of her having fun with her family, friends and a cute cat too, she’s clearly a cool person to be around – and to follow on Instagram as well.
#8 Paige VanZant – 1.8m followers
The UFC has often been accused of over-pushing Paige VanZant based on her good looks rather than her fighting skills, and whether that’s true or not, one thing that is indisputably true is that it’s probably PVZ’s attractiveness that’s gained her so many Instagram followers. In fact, with Ronda Rousey now gone to WWE, ’12 Gauge’ is officially the most popular female UFC fighter on Instagram.
For an example of her extreme popularity, a recent photo she posted of her fiancée Austin Vanderford in fighting action garnered 40.6k Instagram likes; Vanderford’s own Instagram account only has a thousand more followers than that! While she hasn’t fought since January, it’s pretty clear that inactivity hasn’t impacted on PVZ’s extreme popularity on social media.
#7 Jose Aldo – 1.8m followers
Given he was never a huge draw in terms of pay-per-view buy rates, it’s somewhat surprising that former UFC Featherweight champion Jose Aldo ranks so highly on this list. Sure, he’s one of the most accomplished MMA fighters of all time, but given his rather stoic personality – the majority of his Instagram posts are simple training photos or product endorsements – it’s interesting to see him with more followers than some more colourful fighters.
Of course, most of those more colourful fighters don’t have an entire country behind them like Aldo does. There are few fighters more popular than ‘Scarface’ with the Brazilian fanbase, and judging by the number of comments in Portuguese on his Instagram posts, the majority of his followers are probably his countrymen. If he can get back on the winning track against Jeremy Stephens later this month, his popularity might rise even further.
#6 Georges St-Pierre – 1.9m followers
Arguably the greatest UFC champion of all time, former Welterweight and Middleweight kingpin Georges St-Pierre might be in semi-retirement at the time of writing, but he’s still one of the most popular fighters on the UFC’s roster. GSP’s easy-going personality has always connected well with the fans and it shines through on his Instagram, making it easy to understand why he’d have almost two million followers.
His posts are pretty interesting, too – sure, there’s plenty of standard training photos and videos, but his status as a legend in the sport means you can find Instagram shots of GSP posing with the likes of Chuck Norris, Sugar Ray Leonard, Arnold Schwarzenegger and even a gigantic tyrannosaurus rex skull – fitting, considering St-Pierre once claimed the things that excited him were “women, dinosaurs and the violence of the Octagon”!
#5 Nate Diaz – 2.1m followers
He might not have actually stepped into the Octagon since his August 2016 loss to Conor McGregor, but the shadow of Nate Diaz always seems to loom large over the UFC – and his large following on Instagram seems to prove that. After seeing his popularity soar thanks to his fights with McGregor, Diaz can now boast even more Instagram followers than his older brother Nick – who has 1.1m and narrowly missed out on this list.
Often a figure of controversy, it’s hardly a shock that the majority of Diaz’s snaps involve him posing and throwing up gangster hand signs, training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or posing with his brother or teammates like Gilbert Melendez and Jake Shields. And it’s equally unsurprising that a post from November 2016 sees him openly smoking a joint – something that’s landed him in hot water on numerous occasions.
#4 Jon Jones – 2.6m followers
Don’t tell current UFC Heavyweight and Light-Heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier, but his hated rival Jon Jones – the only man to ever defeat DC in professional MMA – also has him beaten in terms of Instagram followers too. Cormier’s account currently boasts 1.3m followers – essentially half of the total who follow Jones’ account. But as a polarising and controversial figure, ‘Jonny Bones’ is practically guaranteed to garner attention.
And Jones’s Instagram is equally polarising. It’s full of cool training clips and shots, as well as some great motivational quotes – ranging from Gandhi to the Bible. But Jones’ Instagram also shows exactly what he thinks of his “haters” – a controversial February post stated “No, I am not on steroids – you’re just a pussy”. A swipe at Cormier, perhaps?
#3 Anderson Silva – 2.7m followers
Legendary former Middleweight champion Anderson Silva’s prospects of making a return to the Octagon have started to look up this week – after failing a drug test in October 2017, USADA has now exonerated him – blaming a contaminated supplement – and so he’s free to fight after October 2018. Evidently, the controversy didn’t ever affect his popularity with the fans, either – he’s one of the most popular UFC fighters on Instagram with 2.7m followers.
Probably the most popular Brazilian fighter in UFC history, Silva’s Instagram is as eclectic as his own personality. Not just restricted to training photos and publicity shots, ‘The Spider’s account contains posts ranging from a clip of him wearing a permed wig, tributes to Brazil’s World Cup soccer team, and a seriously random one celebrating the 75th birthday of the cartoon Tom and Jerry. It’s an effortlessly cool account for an effortlessly cool fighter.
#2 Khabib Nurmagomedov – 4.7m followers
Khabib Nurmagomedov bridges gaps – he’s equally as popular in the USA as he is in his native Russia, and that popularity is clearly visible on his Instagram, as with 4.7m followers, he’s the most popular of any fighter who’s recently been active inside the Octagon. And while that popularity hasn’t quite turned into PPV buys just yet, the likelihood is that it will sooner rather than later. Simply put, ‘The Eagle’ oozes fan appeal.
Most of Khabib’s Instagram posts see him posing with his equally badass-looking training partners, but don’t think the Russian doesn’t have a wicked sense of humour, too – one shot sees him facing off with a bear – a throwback to the famous childhood wrestling clip that went viral a few years back. The sheer amount of activity he displays on Instagram might also help his popularity – at 2954 posts, he’s posted more Instagram shots than any other fighter on this list.
#1 Conor McGregor – 24.4m followers
Given he’s essentially transcended the sport of MMA, it’s hardly a surprise that it’s Conor McGregor who tops this list – by almost 20 million followers, too. When McGregor claims that he’s the most popular combat sports athlete in the world today if we go by Instagram popularity he might be telling the truth. He’s got even more followers than his recent opponent Floyd Mayweather, who lags behind the Irishman with 20.6m followers.
McGregor’s Instagram is a pretty simple place, too – almost all of his photos are accompanied by a simple quip or one-word caption, usually witty and quite often with a hidden message – a post from May with the caption “Keep your dukes up when you see me...see you soon” could’ve been aimed at anyone from Tony Ferguson to Khabib Nurmagomedov – but it was clearly aimed at someone.
Despite the controversy that constantly surrounds ‘The Notorious One’, he clearly remains the hottest property on the UFC roster – which is why Dana White and the crew will be desperate for him to fight again in 2018.
Which of these UFC stars do you follow on Instagram? Tell us in the comments below!