5 best MMA heavyweights who were never signed by the UFC

Valentin Moldavsky (left), Fedor Emelianenko (center) and Anatoliy Malykhin (right) [Image Courtesy: @valentin_moldavskii_official via Instagram, @spanish_mma via Instagram and @onechampionship via Instagram]

Heavyweight MMA was once the marquee attraction of the sport, largely due to mixed martial arts adopting a model similar to boxing, where heavyweights are often hailed as 'The Baddest Men on the Planet.' However, when it comes to MMA, that title is generally afforded to the UFC heavyweight champion.

That was part of the intrigue behind Francis Ngannou's recent boxing match with Tyson Fury, as both men represented the very best big men of their respective sports. However, not every high-level MMA 265-pounder is part of the UFC. In fact, some of them have never even set foot in the octagon.

Whether negotiations failed and were never revisited, or the UFC never expressed an interest in some of the best 265-pounders in other promotions, there are several top-level fighters who have never competed under the Zuffa banner.

#5. Cole Konrad, former Bellator heavyweight champion

Today, few besides the sport's purists remember Cole Konrad. Back, but back in 2012, he was one of the highest-potential prospects in MMA. The elite-level wrestling skills that carried him to two NCAA Division I championships also carried him to world championship gold in Bellator.

He became the inaugural Bellator heavyweight champion and boasted an undefeated record of 9 wins and no losses. He was a massive and powerful specimen, even by the standards of today's 265-pounders, even serving as a training partner for Brock Lesnar during the latter's UFC tenure.

While his success and ties to Lesnar made it seem like he was destined for his own UFC run, it never came to be. Konrad vacated his Bellator title before ever defending it and retired from the sport, as he saw no financial viability in MMA at the time.

#4. Brett Rogers, former Strikeforce and Bellator heavyweight

While Brett Rogers never won a championship in a major promotion, there was a time when he was among the most terrifying 265-pounders outside the UFC. In his prime, Rogers was a force of nature with nuclear power in every limb. This enabled him to build an initial unbeaten streak of 10 consecutive wins.


His greatest-ever win came against a former UFC champion in Andrei Arlovski, TKO'ing him within 22 seconds in the co-main event of Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields. Unfortunately, Rogers never realized the potential many saw in him, as troubles outside the cage led to an unfocused version of himself.

He was also quickly matched up against the elite 265-pounders competing outside of the UFC at the time, like Josh Barnett, Alistair Overeem, Alexander Volkov, and Fedor Emelianenko. He ended his career after a long win-loss stretch, never making it into the UFC.

#3. Valentin Moldavsky, former Bellator interim heavyweight champion

Russia is known for producing an endless stream of high-level talent in MMA. Valentin Moldavsky represents one of the country's latest attempts at 265-pound conquest. While he is not undefeated, he boasts an impressive record of 12 wins, just three losses and one no-contest.

He has spent most of his career competing under the Bellator banner, even capturing the promotion's interim 265-pound title against Timothy Johnson at Bellator 261. He also holds a signature win over former UFC knockout artist Roy Nelson. Unfortunately for Valentin Moldavsky, he failed to unify the titles.

He was defeated by Ryan Bader in the unification bout and found himself in the midst of a brief rough patch as he next took part in a no-contest before losing his subsequent bout. However, he has since bounced back with a dominant win over Steve Mowry.

#2. Anatoliy Malykhin, ONE two-division champion

ONE Championship CEO, Chatri Sityodtong, has been adamant that his promotion has a better roster compared to the UFC and has expressed an interest in cross-promotional bouts to finally put all the debates to rest. He was previously interested in signing former UFC champion Francis Ngannou.

He believed that in matching 'The Predator' up with Anatoliy Malykhin, his point would be proven. Anatoliy Malykhin is an undefeated phenom, and is one of the most undersized 265-pounders, standing at 5 feet 11 inches tall. However, he is a brutal force in the cage, with a 100% finishing rate.

Of his 13 wins, 9 are via knockout, four by submission. Furthermore, he is the reigning ONE heavyweight and light heavyweight champion. Despite his obvious talent, he has never been signed to the UFC, having only ever fought for regional promotions, AMC Fight Nights and ONE Championship.

#1. Fedor Emelianenko, former heavyweight

Despite some heralding Stipe Miocic as the greatest heavyweight of all time, many still regard Fedor Emelianenko as the 265-pound GOAT. The Russian is a legend of the sport, and his legacy was once of such strength that he was considered the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, not just in his weight class.

He reigned as the PRIDE heavyweight champion for four years, helmed a 28-fight unbeaten streak, which consisted of 27 wins and a no-contest and has defeated countless world champions, many of whom are former UFC titleholders and legends of the sport.

He has beaten former undisputed UFC heavyweight champions in Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski, and Frank Mir, as well as former UFC interim heavyweight champion, Antônio 'Minotauro' Nogueira and former UFC 205-pound champion Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson.

Unfortunately, failed negotiations with Dana White soured the legendary Russian on the idea of signing with the UFC, which the promotion sought to do to book a blockbuster bout between Fedor Emelianenko and Brock Lesnar.

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