The UFC’s roster is very different from the point it was only a couple of decades ago. From a small roster of fighters, it has now expanded to contain over 700 in 12 different weight classes.
With fighters joining and departing the UFC regularly, it’s hard for any fighter to maintain their spot on the roster, but some have had surprisingly long tenures with the promotion.
When you consider that superstars like Conor McGregor, Kamaru Usman and Francis Ngannou have not even been with the UFC for a decade, it might come as a surprise as to who the longest tenured UFC fighters are.
So with that in mind, here are the five longest-tenured fighters currently on the UFC roster.
Note: for the purposes of this article, fighters who have left the UFC and then returned, e.g. Andrei Arlovski and Nick Diaz have not been included.
#5 Jeremy Stephens – UFC debut May 26th, 2007
Jeremy Stephens, one of the UFC’s longest-tenured fighters, is actually competing this weekend at UFC Vegas 31.
He’s moving back to the lightweight division for the first time since 2012 to face off against Mateusz Gamrot in what will mark his 34th visit to the octagon, meaning he’s averaged at least two fights per year since his UFC debut.
To say ‘Lil Heathen’ was thrown into the deep end for his UFC debut would be an understatement. Despite a solid 12-1 record, Stephens entered the octagon for the first time on his 21st birthday at UFC 71.
His opponent? Din Thomas, a high-level fighter who’d turned professional in 1998, and who had wins over fighters like Clay Guida, Jens Pulver and Matt Serra. Therefore, it came as no surprise to see Stephens submitted by the veteran in the second round, despite acquitting himself well.
Stephens has always been one of the UFC’s most reliable action fighters, and with wins over Renan Barao, Gilbert Melendez and Doo Ho Choi to his name, even a loss to Gamrot this weekend – which would leave him winless in six fights – may not be enough to end his UFC tenure.