The 5 best UFC fighters from Brazil
Although the UFC began in Colorado, USA, it wouldn’t be unfair to call Brazil the true birthplace of MMA. After all, it was in the heart of Brazil where the earliest mixed martial arts fights – in the form of no-holds-barred Vale Tudo – took place, and of course, it was the country that brought Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to the world and enabled the style to rule over the earliest UFC events.
It’s no surprise that over the near-25 year history of the UFC, some of the promotion’s greatest champions and fighters have hailed from Brazil. The list is only growing, too, partly helped by the foothold that the UFC now has in the country, as they put on numerous events there each year.
It’ll take a lot from any young Brazilian fighter to gain a slot on the pantheon of legends, though – here are the top five Brazilian fighters in UFC history, along with a handful of honourable mentions.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira – In the pantheon of Brazilian MMA legends, ‘Minotauro’ would almost certainly sit somewhere right near the top. In his prime, he was the greatest Heavyweight in the sport and an argument could still be made for him belonging in a top five of all time in his division.
But despite winning the Interim Heavyweight title in the UFC, his greatest successes – wins over Mark Coleman, Heath Herring, Mirko Cro Cop et al – came in PRIDE, as did his greatest championship run. He did well in the UFC, but he’d probably admit himself that he was past his best when he arrived there.
Murilo Bustamante – One of the founding members of the legendary Brazilian Top Team, Bustamante was a fighter somewhat before his time in that he blended excellent boxing and wrestling in with his world-class jiu-jitsu.
He parlayed those skills into a run as UFC Middleweight champion in the early Zuffa-run days but left the company after just one title defence following a contract dispute. If he’d stuck around then who knows, he could well have made the top five – he certainly had the skills.
Junior Dos Santos – One of the Nogueira brothers’ many protégés, Dos Santos came into the UFC looking unstoppable – he took out his first eight opponents to win the UFC Heavyweight title from Cain Velasquez – a man considered unbeatable at the time.
A successful defence followed, but then Velasquez regained his title in a rematch and then defeated JDS in a rubber match to cement his status as the top dog. Dos Santos was never the same after the Velasquez fights, but the blistering beginning to his UFC career gives him a spot here.
Lyoto Machida – Machida brought a completely unique game into the UFC with his karate-based style, and for a while it was perfect for him – he defeated six opponents and then dethroned Rashad Evans to win the UFC Light-Heavyweight title, and carrying an unbeaten record, it looked like he’d be a tricky man to topple.
Less than a year after his reign began, though, he was beaten by ‘Shogun’ Rua and then never really got back to the top. Still, his incredible list of victims – Tito Ortiz, Evans, Randy Couture, Ryan Bader and Dan Henderson amongst them – as well as his unique style means he goes down as a true Brazilian legend.