The UFC has always been the home of elite mixed martial arts athletes. Fighters from all across the globe compete under its banner, and the results are unpredictable, explosive and riveting. Hundreds of fans pay every year to see which fighter rises to the top of the pack.
However, with the UFC talent pool being so deep, high-level athletes do occasionally get lost within the extensive rosters. There are many fighters who, though considered amongst the world's best, never got the chance to fight for a prestigious UFC title.
Five best UFC fighters who never fought for the title
#5 Mirko 'Cro Cop' Filipovic
In his prime, Mirko Cro Cop was one of the greatest fighters on the planet. During his time fighting for Pride, Cro Cop's elite striking saw him comfortably dispatch the likes of Wanderlei Silva, Mark Coleman and Kevin Randelman.
Cro Cop became known for his signature left high roundhouse kick, with the notorious saying describing him as "right leg, hospital; left leg, cemetery." When Cro Cop finally announced he had signed for the UFC and would make his debut at the promtions 67th event, fans had huge expectations.
Cro Cop won his first fight in the UFC, which set him up for a title eliminator bout against Gabriel Gonzaga. To the shock of many, Cro Cop was knocked out by his own trademark technique, the left high kick. To make matters worse, Cro Cop landed on his leg in an awful manner, causing severe ligament damage.
This was the beginning of the end for Cro Cop, who faced issues with the damaged knee for the rest of hs career. Numerous surgeries were performed but he would never again reach the heights of UFC title contention.
#4 Raphael Assuncao
Some might be puzzled at the concept of putting Raphael Assuncao ahead of Cro Cop. But Cro Cop had already done his best work outside of the UFC. Assuncao has been in the UFC since 2011 and remains ranked in the top 15 to this day.
Between 2011 and 2014, Assuncao went on an impressive seven-fight win streak, tearing through much of the bantamweight division's elite. TJ Dillashaw, Pedro Munhoz and Bryan Carraway were all defeated by the Brazilian, who looked to be well on the road to a title shot.
However, injuries have plagued Assuncao's career. He was even offered a shot at the title in 2014 against Renan Barao, but was forced to decline due to a rib injury. Following a loss to Dillashaw, Assuncao put together another winning streak that included a victory over now champion Aljamain Sterling. However, Assuncao now appears to be past his prime and has been defeated in his last three outings.
It seems unlikely that he will be able to fight his way up a division stacked with some of the UFC's brightest growing talent.
#3 Zabit Magomedsharipov
Magomedsharipov was once one of the most exciting up-coming prospects in any division. The Dagestani featherweight had it all: acrobatic kicks, a high-level wrestling game and some extremely unique submissions.
However, Magomedsharipov has not fought since 2019, and was recently removed from the UFC rankings due to inactivity. Following this news, reports have started to circulate that Magomedsharipov is seriously considering retiring, citing a love for the sport but not of the violence. He may yet return, although it does not look likely.
#2 Gegard Mousasi
Gegard Mousasi was a consistently high caliber middleweight in the UFC, and also competed in both Dream and Strikefore. He racked up wins against UFC middleweight staples such as Dan Henderson, Uriah Hall and Chris Weidman.
Despite riding a five-fight win streak at the time, Mousasi made the decision to switch to Bellator in 2017. He is now the middleweight champion of the UFC's main North American rival, and has won five out of his six fights for them. Mousasi has shown his high-level skillset time and time again. Had he remained in the UFC, who knows what he might have achieved.
#1 Ronaldo 'Jacare' Souza
Jacare Souza is one of the greatest BJJ practitioners to have ever crossed over to MMA. He had a hugely successful career, once riding an eight-fight win streak that saw him defeat the likes of Derek Brunson, Gegard Mousasi and Yushin Okami.
However, a title shot has never materialized for the elite fighter. Following that winning streak, Jacare's age began to catch up with him and his record reflected that. He was unable to amass more than two consecutive wins again, and has lost his last four fights in the UFC.
His contract has now run out, and he has been released by the organization, aged 41 with a record of 26-10-1.