Like all sports, MMA also has its share of friendships and rivalries. The most exciting fights in the UFC have been the ones that feature some of the most-heated rivalries. However, while full of fighters wishing to hurt each other, the MMA promotion has also been a witness to some of the most heart-warming friendships.
In some cases, UFC athletes have also refused fight offers to avoid facing their buddies inside the octagon. The best friendships in the UFC are seen when the athletes belong to different weight divisions, as it ensures that they don't hurt each other, even for business's sake.
In this article, we look at three pairs of active UFC fighters who are best friends.
#3. Holly Holm and Michelle Waterson
Former UFC women's bantamweight champion Holly Holm and No.9-ranked UFC women's strawweight Michelle Waterson have been best friends for years now. From training together, consoling each other after tough losses, celebrating career achievements, to making TikTok videos - the two define a healthy and hearty relationship.
After Michelle Waterson's loss against Joanna Jedrzejczyk in October 2019, Holly Holm was seen comforting 'Karate Hottie.' When Waterson was at her lowest, Holm consoled her in a way only a best friend could. Michelle Waterson later revealed what the former UFC champion told her after her loss at UFC Fight Night 161. She said:
"She (Holly Holm) just said she knew it wasn’t the outcome I wanted but it was – she just said it was a lot closer than what I probably feel like it is in my heart and that I’m still improving and that it’s still another step forward."
Holly Holm and Michelle Waterson have also spent a fair amount of time celebrating. After Holm defeated Irene Aldana at UFC Fight Island 4, she was joined by Waterson for the post-fight celebrations. In a video posted by Holly Holm, it became clear that she and Michelle Waterson were best friends. Holm wrote in her Instagram post:
"Haha!! Ready to get back and celebrate and dance with you! Thank you for the love!!!"
#2. Dustin Poirier and Jorge Masvidal
Apart from being two of the most skilled UFC fighters and training partners at American Top Team, Dustin Poirier and Jorge Masvidal are also best friends. The two have had countless sparring sessions, which have eventually led to them creating a close friendly bond.
Dustin Poirier and Jorge Masvidal have acted as each other's support systems over the years. In fact, when 'Diamond' was presented with an opportunity to fight Masvidal for the BMF belt, he humbly declined, saying:
"Jorge is a buddy of mine. I don’t sell out like f**king Colby Covington. I don’t talk bad about people who I roll with. No, Jorge is a buddy of mine, I won’t fight him. He’s a training partner. He’s a good guy. If anything, I’ll go out to Florida and help him with that fight [against Nate Diaz]."
Jorge Masvidal has done his bit in their friendship too, propping up Dustin Poirier on several occasions. According to the Louisiana native, it was 'Street Jesus' who had convinced Poirier to move to the lightweight division in the UFC, where he eventually became the No.1 contender. Poirier said in an interview:
"Masvidal’s a guy who I’ve been working with for probably around eight years. As a pioneer, he’s been around for a long time. Way before mixed martial arts was cool, Masvidal was doing it. And he’s one of the first guys to tell me to move up in weight when I was still at 145 pounds. Since then, I’ve been a top-five fighter. I had so much success moving to lightweight because I’m enjoying it."
After Dustin Poirier TKO'd Conor McGregor at UFC 257, Jorge Masvidal was one of the first UFC athletes to come out and congratulate him. 'Gamebred' wrote on his Twitter:
"I’ve known @DustinPoirier since his first or second fight in the ufc and so happy for him to be now one of the best fighters in the world."
#1. Francis Ngannou and Kamaru Usman
UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou and welterweight champion Kamaru Usman have been close friends since they came to the UFC. Both fighters appeared in the UFC prelims in December 2015 in Orlando, with Ngannou launching the event against Luis Henrique and Usman ending it against Leon Edwards.
Francis Ngannou spoke of how the two became friends immediately after. In an interview, 'The Predator' said:
"Since then, we just became friends. The next year I came back down to Florida just to train with him. We got really close and really support each other each way in life. We are very close. Like truly like a brother."
Kamaru Usman, speaking of the bond he shares with Francis Ngannou, said:
"My brotherhood with him (Ngannou) is just one of those things.. we understand each other because we come from similar backgrounds. It's one of those things where you share that camaraderie when you come from similar backgrounds. We understand the grind and the hard work that each one of us had to endure to get to this point."
Kamaru Usman also cornered Francis Ngannou for his championship bout against Stipe Miocic at UFC 260. At UFC 261 weigh-ins, Ngannou returned the favor, cornering 'The Nigerian Nightmare' ahead of his bout against Jorge Masvidal. In the Embedded Vlog Series for UFC 261, Francis Ngannou is seen explaining the healthy relationship he shares with Kamaru Usman.
“I call him my brother from another mother, because even thought he’s not my brother, we still like brothers, you know? So that’s something very unique, something that doesn’t happen many times, basically in this sport.”