Over the years, M-1 Global has sent a number of excellent champions to the UFC, and we’ve seen a number of them make a strong impact inside the octagon too.
Granted, not all of the former M-1 Global champions to make the jump have been able to succeed in the big show. However, it’s probably fair to suggest that more will make the crossover in the future.
With that in mind, here are five former M-1 Global champions currently competing in the UFC.
#5. Alexander Volkov – UFC heavyweight contender
One of the most notable former M-1 Global champions to be currently competing in the UFC is heavyweight contender Alexander Volkov. ‘Drago’ has definitely made an impact in the octagon since his 2016 arrival and is set to headline this weekend’s Fight Night show alongside Jairzinho Rozenstruik.
Unlike many of the fighters on this list, Volkov was a widely-known entity before his heavyweight title victory in M-1 Global, as he’d fought for Bellator MMA from 2012 to 2015, defeating notable opponents such as Blagoy Ivanov and Brett Rodgers in his time there.
However, ‘Drago’ always had strong links with the Russian promotion, as he made his MMA debut there back in 2009. So it was no surprise to see him return to M-1 Global in 2016, where he swiftly claimed the gold vacated by future octagon contender Marcin Tybura by beating Denis Smoldarev.
Volkov defended his title once before vacating it ahead of a move to the world’s premier MMA promotion. Since then, he’s put together an impressive 8-4 octagon record, picking up wins over Fabricio Werdum and Alistair Overeem along the way.
It’s safe to say he’s definitely been one of the better imports from M-1 Global.
#4. Bruno Silva – UFC middleweight contender
One of the most recent former M-1 Global titleholders to arrive on MMA's biggest stagew is current middleweight contender Bruno Silva. ‘Blindado’ made his octagon debut in 2021 and immediately made a huge impact by picking up three TKO victories in a row.
Prior to that, Silva had held the middleweight title in M-1 Global, defeating Artem Frolov in November 2018 for the then-vacant belt after making a successful debut in the promotion earlier that year by beating Bellator MMA veteran Alexander Shlemenko.
Fascinatingly, Silva didn’t make a single defense of his gold in the Russian promotion, instead signing with the UFC just six months after his title victory. The reason for his delayed octagon debut? 2019 saw him test positive for the banned substance boldenone, resulting in a two-year suspension.
Since then, though, ‘Blindado’ has made up for lost time by making a major impact in the octagon. While he was defeated by kickboxer extraordinaire Alex Pereira earlier this year, he seems likely to bounce back in style in his next bout.
#3. Marcin Tybura – UFC heavyweight contender
While he’s never quite reached heavyweight title contention in the UFC, Poland’s Marcin Tybura has definitely been one of the more consistent fighters in the division over the past decade. Right now, he’s ranked in the top 10.
Interestingly, prior to his arrival in the world’s biggest promotion, ‘Tybur’ not only claimed gold in M-1 Global’s heavyweight division, but he also won the 2013 heavyweight Grand Prix in the Russian promotion, too.
Overall, Tybura stands as one of the more accomplished M-1 Global fighters to arrive in the UFC, as he picked up a total of seven wins in the promotion, ending in his heavyweight title win over Damian Grabowski in 2014.
The Polish fighter moved to the big show in 2016. While he lost to Timothy Johnson in his octagon debut, he’s since picked up a total of nine wins in the promotion, including victories over Greg Hardy, Andrei Arlovski and Stefan Struve.
#2. Movsar Evloev – UFC bantamweight contender
Right now, there are few hotter fighters in the UFC’s featherweight division than Movsar Evloev. The powerful wrestler has picked up a total of five wins in the octagon since his arrival in 2019 and could well break into the elite level when he faces Dan Ige this weekend.
Like many other Russian fighters to make their way into the world’s biggest MMA promotion, Evloev saw success in M-1 global prior to moving stateside – but fascinatingly, he didn’t actually claim gold there in the featherweight division.
In fact, Evloev was able to capture the M-1 Global title at bantamweight, first winning the interim title in the weight class before claiming the undisputed crown by beating Pavel Vitruk in 2017. He then took out future UFC fighter Sergey Morozov in his first defense before moving to the octagon following one more win in 2018.
Evloev’s first fight in the octagon, his win over Seung Woo Choi, was actually his first fight at 145 pounds, making him one of the few fighters to enter the UFC from the regional scene and move up in weight, rather than down, to hunt for success.
Given his current trajectory, there’s every chance that he could become the most accomplished M-1 Global fighter to hit the octagon yet.
#1. Shavkat Rakhmonov – UFC welterweight contender
Back in 2016, Alexey Kunchenko claimed the M-1 Global welterweight title and went onto defend it four times before moving to the UFC, complete with a gaudy 18-0 record. However, once he arrived in the big leagues, he struggled, losing two fights in a row before being released in 2020.
To say that the man who claimed the M-1 Global title that Kunchenko vacated has had a more successful time inside the octagon, though, would be an understatement. That fighter is Shavkat Rakhmonov, who is currently one of the most highly-rated prospects in the entire UFC.
‘Nomad’ claimed M-1 gold by defeating Daniil Prikaza in his native Kazakhstan in 2019 and then defended it once before vacating to move stateside in late 2020.
Rakhmonov made an immediate impact in the octagon by winning his first two bouts by submission, tapping out a pair of highly-touted Brazilian jiu-jitsu artists in the form of Alex Oliveira and Michel Prazeres. But it was earlier this year that he really shot to fame.
Back in February, ‘Nomad’ used a spinning hook kick to take out Carlston Harris and found himself moving into the top 15 in the welterweight division in the process. Right now it seems like the sky is the limit for this former M-1 Global champ. If he can get past Neil Magny later this month, he’ll almost certainly move into title contention.