MMA is widely regarded as the most complex combat sport and UFC fighters as the finest athletes. But is this true? Are UFC fighters the best and most capable fighters out of all?
When it comes to the sport of MMA, people unanimously agree that the UFC has the most talented and successful fighters in the world. Since the UFC is the best MMA organization in the world, they attract the best MMA fighters who seek to prove they are the best in the world.
As such the majority of the best and most talented fighters are a big part of the UFC roster. Other promotions like Bellator or ONE FC also have top-level fighters, but the strength of the roster in these promotions and level of competition is nowhere near the UFC.
Does UFC Have The Best Fighters In All Of The MMA?
UFC is the leader in the MMA industry and home to the best fighters and largest events. In a nutshell, you can look at the UFC as an NBA league where only the finest players are gathered while other promotions are an NCAA or European league. This doesn’t mean that every single top-level fighter is a part of the UFC roster. No, there are talented fighters who compete in other promotions as well.
Though it may sound odd, not all MMA fighters are interested to fight for the UFC. Some of them are content with their status in other promotions, are paid well there, and do not seek to sign with the UFC where they would have to fight to work their way up again. One such fighter is the former PRIDE FC champ, Fedor Emelianenko who is considered the greatest heavyweight of all time.
But in modern times, the majority of talented fighters end up in the UFC at some point in their career. Each MMA fighter who wants to become the best in the world has to join the UFC to achieve that. They can win belts in Bellator or PFL, and this would bring them money and fame. But winning the UFC belt matters the most and means that you are the best in the world and that you did it against the best opponents.
Simply put, a champion in Bellator is not viewed as equal to a UFC champion simply because the quality of the opponents is not the same.
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Are There Better MMA Fighters Than UFC Fighters?
When it comes to the sport of MMA, UFC fighters are widely regarded as the best. But at the same time, there have been a number of top fighters from other promotions who have made a transition to the UFC and managed to do well against top-level fighters in their debut. The best examples are Michael Chandler and Jiri Prozhazka, and how quickly they shot to fame upon joining the UFC with their fighting performance.
Chandler joined the UFC as a former Bellator champ, and in his debut, he knocked out Dan Hooker who was a top 5 lightweight at the time. In his next fight, Chandler got the chance to fight for the title and he nearly finished Charles Oliveira in the first round before Oliveira knocked him out in the second.
Prochazka signed with the UFC as a RIZIN FF champion and he went on to demolish Volkan Oezdemir, who was considered a top 5 fighter at the time, in his debut. He then knocked out the #2 ranked Dominick Reyes in his next fight. This is a great example and a reminder that there are fighters in other promotions who can come in and beat the top UFC fighters.
Are UFC Fighters The Best Hand-to-Hand Fighters In The World?
MMA is the most complex combat sport and its fighters are often seen as the “Ultimate Fighters”. On paper, they have all the skills and weapons to beat fighters from any other combat sport in a street fight. But again, this really depends on which factors you take into consideration.
UFC fighters are among the finest athletes out of all sports. In an ideal street fighting scenario with two fighters similar in size and skill, UFC fighters would win against boxers, kickboxers, or wrestlers most of the time. They simply have more weapons at their disposal and have an all-around set of skills.
However, they can’t switch over to other combat sports and dominate. No, it has been proven many times that boxing is for boxers and wrestling is for wrestlers. Most UFC fighters would get demolished inside the ring against a skilled boxer, or on the mats against skilled wrestlers. Boxing adventures of top UFC stars Tyron Woodley, Ben Askren, and Conor McGregor and their losses inside the ring are great examples.
In terms of martial arts and self-defense, MMA covers most aspects and trains you how to fight on the feet, inside the clinch, and on the ground. But on the flip side, it is not as versatile as other self-defense combat systems like Krav Maga or Combat Sambo. These systems include weapon-based training, dirty tactics, and many other elements that you won’t find in MMA but are very effective on the streets.
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Who Is The Best Fighter Not In The UFC?
Throughout MMA history, there have been a number of great fighters who, despite never fighting for the UFC, were considered the greatest of all time. One of the best examples is the great Fedor Emelianenko who is widely regarded as the best heavyweight fighter in history. When it comes to present days, you can find skillful fighters in just about every promotion, and here are some of the names:
- Robert Soldic — is a champion in KSW which is a leading promotion in the European market. Soldic is so dominant that he is a champion in two separate weight classes and is widely regarded as the best 170-pound fighter outside the UFC.
- Patricio Freire — is the most dominant Bellator fighter of all times, and one of the most violent 145 pound fighters on the planet. Despite winning titles in two separate weight classes and beating all the top opponents from his era, Freire never considered fighting for the UFC, and he probably never will.
- Adriano Moraes — is a ONE FC flyweight champion who became a global star after he finished the great Demetrious Johnson in 2021. He is also the former Shooto Brazil flyweight champ.
Which Country Produces The Best UFC Fighters?
America is the pound-for-pound king when it comes to countries that have the best UFC fighters. This is not a big surprise considering that modern MMA emerged in the US and that the biggest promotion, the UFC, is located and holds most of its events in the US. Here are some interesting numbers that show how dominant America is in MMA.
Out of around 600 UFC athletes on the UFC roster, more than 300 come from the US, around 100 from Brazil, and less than 50 from Russia or former Soviet Republics.
That being said, it’s not a surprise that most UFC champions come from the US. According to a study done by “Cageside Press” in 2019, 63 Americans have won the UFC title in total while the second country is Brazil with 15 champions.
Even if you look at which country produces most UFC champions in comparison to population, the US is still first with 63 champions on 327 million people, Canada is second with 3 champions on 37 million people, and Brazil third with 15 champions on 210 million people.
Next, out of 50 states in the US, 24 have produced UFC champions with California being first with 15 champions, Ohio second with 8, and Washington and New York with 5 champions each.
How Tough Are UFC Fighters?
There is no precise formula how to measure toughness. But when it comes to MMA, every single fighter who has reached the UFC level is tough both mentally and physically. MMA is so physically and mentally demanding that you can’t succeed without being tough.
First, fighters go through brutal training sessions multiple times a day. Pro fighters need to train up to three times a day and be experts in multiple martial arts to cover all the aspects of the sport. In a single week, they spend hours wrestling, rolling in BJJ sessions, doing boxing and Muay Thai sessions, and sparring. Like that is not enough work, they need to work on their strength, follow a strict diet, find time to rest, fight through bad days, injuries, tiredness, losses, pain, and tears just to elevate their game and succeed.
They might look happy in front of the camera wearing expensive suits and enjoying their celebrity status wherever they go. But in reality, their everyday life is so busy and intense that most average people would give up that lifestyle after 2 days.
Things go to another level when they have to step inside the cage to fight against the opponent who is trying to hurt them. You need mental toughness to deal with the pressure, put emotions aside, and stay focused. UFC fighters are so mentally tough that they have to overcome the fear of getting hurt, being knocked out, or being embarrassed on the biggest MMA stage in the world. In other words, fighters must manage their fight anxiety in order to fight in the cage and this is never an easy feat.
When I walk to the Octagon, I look like I’m, it’s impossible for me to fail and I look very confident, like I’m going to kick ass for sure. But the truth is, deep down inside, I’m scared as hell…Former UFC Fighter Georges St-Pierre
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Can a Normal Person Beat a UFC Fighter?
Unless they land a lucky punch or cheap shot from behind, it’s highly unlikely that an average person with an average set of fighting skills would beat a trained UFC Fighter. This is the same as thinking that an average person can beat an NBA player in a 1 on 1 match on the court. Statistically, it is possible. But is it realistic, no. Here is the main reason why.
First, trained fighters are conditioned to stay calm in a stressful situation and fighting is in their second nature. You won’t intimidate them with mean words, or scare them by being the first to throw a strike. Even if you are lucky enough to land a clean shot, that doesn’t mean anything because they are trained to absorb clean shots and know how to deal with them. They won’t panic if you break their nose, teeth or if the blood starts pouring out. UFC fighters have dealt with physical injuries a countless number of times in the gym and there is nothing that an average person can do to surprise them even if you inflict injury first.
Next, pro fighters have trained automatic reactions, are very fast, technical, and powerful. Once the fight breaks out, they would be at least a few steps strategically ahead of the average people and see it all coming in advance. The difference in skill, speed, power, and fight IQ is so big that it would be foolish to even think that an average person could beat a trained UFC athlete.
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Can UFC Fighters Compete Outside Of The Organization?
No, as long as their contract with the UFC is active, fighters are not allowed to compete in other MMA promotions. They can do this only if the UFC organizes a cross-promotional bout where their top fighter would face a top fighter from the other promotion. This happened a couple of times in the past. But in modern days, it’s highly unlikely that any promotion would do that again.
Once their contract ends, athletes can choose whether they want to continue their career with the UFC by signing another contract or go test the market and sign with the other promotion like Bellator or PFL. There is also a scenario where the UFC releases the fighter despite a couple of fights left in the contract. In that case, a fighter becomes a free agent and is allowed to sign a contract and fight wherever they want to.
What Are The Other Big MMA Promotions Outside The UFC?
Although the UFC is the absolute leader in the industry, there are many other promotions that put on high-quality events and fights. Here are top three:
- Bellator — is widely regarded as the second best MMA promotion. It was founded in 2008 by Bjorn Rebney and is owned by “ViacomCBS”.
- KSW – is one of the leading European promotions. It was founded in 2004 by Martin Lewandowski and Maciej Kawulski and is located in Poland. KSW events include top production, visually look spectacular and the strength of their roster is solid.
- Professional Fighters League (PFL) – is an MMA league founded in 2018 by Donn Davis. The format is built in such a way that fighters compete in a regular season where they win points, post-season (elimination) and championship.
- ONE FC – is an MMA promotion founded in 2011 in Singapore. Apart from MMA matches, ONE FC also includes Muay Thai, Kickboxing and submission grappling matches.