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5 best undefeated champions outside the UFC right now

C. Naik
ONE Championship's Reinier de Ridder [Image via @ONEChampionship]
ONE Championship's Reinier de Ridder [Image via @ONEChampionship]

The UFC has the largest roster in all of combat sports. The America-based promotion houses the best talent pool in the world and boasts some of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters actively competing today. However, the notion that the UFC has ALL the best fighters in the world is a bit of a stretch.

Bellator, ONE Championship and Cage Warriors have emerged as globally recognized MMA promotions in recent years. While all three organizations are significantly smaller than the UFC, they have some incredible fighters on their respective rosters. Many believe that some of the champions in these promotions can give their UFC counterparts a real run for their money.

Bellator's A.J. McKee was being touted as the best champion outside the UFC until he lost his featherweight title at the recently concluded Bellator 277. McKee was somewhat controversially handed the first loss of his career following a razor-thin bout that went the full 25-minute distance. The judges' unanimous decision in favor of his opponent, Patricio 'Pitbull', was contested by fans and fighters alike after the bout.

While he may have lost the '0' on his record, McKee remains one of the best prospects outside the UFC. Nevertheless, there are other undefeated titleholders who have a legitimate claim to being the best in the world in their weight class. On that note, here are the five best unbeaten champions outside the UFC right now.


#5. Christian Leroy Duncan – Cage Warriors middleweight champion

Christian Leroy Duncan hails from Gloucester, England, and is the reigning 185-pound champion in the UK's leading MMA promotion, Cage Warriors. His professional record stands at 6-0, but don't make the mistake of assuming that this young star is inexperienced. He fought 22 bouts at the amateur level before going pro two years ago, and has been on an incredible run ever since.

He's only 26, and is set for a bright future if he continues to improve. In his six professional fights so far, the Englishman has finished all but one of his opponents. In his most recent outing, Duncan claimed the middleweight title with a jaw-dropping flying knee KO.

Christian Leroy Duncan with the flying Knee KO! 🔥Incredible scenes at #CW136, a new middleweight champ is crowned!!#AndNew https://t.co/I0DtGxIPUl

Duncan is a fighter the UFC will likely be keeping an eye on. There has been a significant influx of talent from Cage Warriors joining the America-based promotion in recent years, with the likes of former champions Paddy Pimblett and Ian Garry making their mark on the world's biggest stage.

If he manages to uphold his impressive form and pick up a few more victories, Duncan will put himself in a promising position both professionally and financially. For now, though, he's got a belt to defend.

The NEW Cage Warriors Middleweight Champion🏆 Christian Leroy Duncan 🏆 https://t.co/1kPc1rJy3D

#4. Anatoly Malykhin – ONE interim heavyweight champion

Anatoly Malykhin may not be the most well-known fighter, but he will be in a matter of a few years. The Russian boasts a perfect professional record of 11-0 and he's the only fighter on this list with 100% finish rate. Out of his eleven career wins, eight have come via KO/TKO and three by way of submission.

While UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou is one of the most dominant heavyweights in the world right now, ONE Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong is not particularly impressed with 'The Predator'. Sityodtong argues that Ngannou is a one-dimensional fighter and isn't very well-rounded, unlike Malykhin.

"I like Francis Ngannou but I think our heavyweights would smoke him. He’s just not a complete fighter. If you ask any expert martial artist, you look at Anatoly Malykhin." - Chatri Sityodtong. 🔥The stats speak for themselves but who do you think would wins this fight? 🤔 https://t.co/LR9Xt1k54O

Earlier this year, Malykhin became the ONE interim heavyweight champion following his win over Kirill Grishenko. He is expected to fight for undisputed gold later this year when he takes on reigning ONE heavyweight titleholder Arjan Bhullar.

Watch Anatoly Malykhin's crowning moment in ONE Championship below:

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#3. Yaroslav Amosov – Bellator welterweight champion

Among the most underrated fighters in the world outside the UFC is Bellator's welterweight titleholder, Yaroslav Amosov. The Ukrainian has enjoyed a scintillating rise up the ranks to become a world champion, and looks set to reign over Bellator's 170-pound division for a long time to come.

The 28-year-old boasts a perfect professional record of 26-0, comprising nine knockouts and ten submissions. He is still a few years away from reaching his prime and it's scary to think how much further he can push his unblemished pro record. With his wrestling prowess and incredible durability, he remains a tough stylistic matchup for most fighters.

Watch a compilation of Yaroslav Amosov's highlights below:

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Amasov's UFC counterpart, Kamaru Usman, is hailed by the majority of the MMA community as the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet actively competing. The two fighters are very similar, and there's an argument to be made that the older, injury-riddled fighter in Usman would struggle against Amosov if they locked horns today.

A potential bout between the welterweight duo would determine the best 170-pound fighter in the world right now, as both champions are seemingly unbeatable in their respective promotions.

🐺 @kchimaev getting to grips with Bellator welterweight champ, Yaroslov Amosov 🤼‍♂️📽 Khamzat Chimaev https://t.co/s8T231XeaN

#2. Reinier de Ridder – ONE middleweight and light heavyweight champion

Reinier de Ridder is among the most dominant champions in all of combat sports today and currently reigns over two divisions in Asia's premier martial arts promotion.

De Ridder has world-class Brazilian jiu-jitsu, with 10 of his career wins coming via submission. Additionally, with every passing fight, his striking has continued to improve.

His professional record stands at 15-0. Every opponent he's faced has struggled against his well-rounded skill set. Strikers are seemingly scared to engage him out of fear of a takedown, while wrestlers are petrified of his impeccable grappling skills.

De Ridder has reiterated his claim to being the best middleweight in the world on numerous occasions, publicly stating that he would easily beat his UFC counterpart, Israel Adesanya.

ONE Championship's Reiner de Ridder is fairly confident about his chances of beating Israel Adesanya... and that too inside two rounds.#ufc #ufc271 #ufcmiddleweight #israeladesanya #onechampionship #reinierderidder #mma #sportskeedamma https://t.co/U833J0OQLX

While Reinier de Ridder is an excellent fighter, there are question marks as to the quality of the opposition he's faced so far in his career. ONE Championship doesn't have the deepest roster and the Dutchman's most notable wins have come against former champion Aung La N Sang.

Meanwhile, Israel Adesanya has beaten world-class fighters like Yoel Romero, Paulo Costa, Marvin Vettori and Robert Whittaker in his career. However, there is a major point of difference between Adesanya and de Ridder.

The ONE titleholder is arguably the better pound-for-pound fighter, considering his success in higher weight classes. Still just 31, de Ridder has a long way to go in his career.

Watch the highlights of Reinier de Ridder's rise below:

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#1. Kayla Harrison – Two-time PFL women's lightweight champion

Kayla Harrison is inarguably the best female MMA fighter outside the UFC. While Harrison primarily competes at 155 pounds, she has fought at 145 pounds in the past. With the UFC's featherweight division currently in an abysmal state, she could singlehandedly rejuvenate a whole weight class if she joins the UFC.

For now, though, Harrison is set to resume her dominant run in the PFL, where she has emerged as one of the highest-paid MMA athletes on the planet, irrespective of gender.

There were rumblings in the MMA community that Harrison would join either the UFC or Bellator after her previous contract with the PFL expired. She ultimately re-signed with the promotion and looks set to further extend her perfect professional record of 12-0.

While her skills are unilaterally respected by her peers, she'll likely never be acknowledged as the best female fighter in the world until she joins one of the premier MMA organizations.

Kayla Harrison says it’s her job to prove to Dana White ‘that I’m worth the investment’ if she wants to fight in UFC mmafighting.com/2021/11/21/227… https://t.co/E6kgCTl7R6

The former two-time Olympic gold medallist is still just 31-years-old. If she sees out her current deal with the PFL and remains undefeated, the opportunities are endless.

Her legacy is in her hands – does she want to continue making significantly more money than her peers, or does she want to go down as one of the greatest female fighters to ever grace the cage? Time will tell.

Watch a compilation of Kayla Harrison's finishes in the PFL below:

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Edited by David Andrew
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