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Best Pound-For-Pound MMA Fighters Of All Time: Top 10 List

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Best Pound-For-Pound MMA Fighters Of All Time: Top 10 List

Who are the 10 best pound-for-pound MMA fighters of all time? We aim to answer that question in this very article.

There have been many world-class Octagon warriors since UFC's genesis in 1993. Yet, only a very select few can truly consider themselves among the all-time great fighters in Mixed Martial Arts history.

When these names were fighting, the entire combat sports world stopped what they were doing and tuned in to see their greatness take place. And while all of the following 10 fighters got to the mountaintop utilizing a different style and skillset, all have claimed their spot as pound-for-pound MMA greats.

Best Pound-For-Pound MMA Fighters Of All Time

By Icon Sport

Below is the list of the best pound-for-pound MMA fighters of all time.

Yet, before we begin, you'll note that a few of them never even fought in the UFC. While this might be considered an asterisk, the fact that these fighters make such a legendary name for themselves without fighting in the top promotion proves their dominance even further. 

With that, let's get into the 10 best pound-for-pound MMA fighters of all time. 

Best Pound-For-Pound MMA Fighters Of All Time

1. Jon Jones

Jon Jones is the most skilled and most dominant fighter in MMA history. Of course, including him at the top of our list is controversial, considering that he tested positive for PEDs multiple times — not to mention all of the other out-of-ring transgressions he has been guilty of. 

Character question and steroid assistance aside, nobody can deny that Jon Jones' UFC resumé is unmatched. He became the youngest UFC champion in history when he won the UFC light heavyweight belt at age 23, defended that belt a UFC-record 13 times (and never lost it in the Octagon), and has outclassed every opponent he has ever faced.

While Jones has a 27-1 professional record, that one loss came as a result of a referee disqualifying him because he was using technically illegal elbows on a grounded opponent — which only happened because he was beating that poor guy so badly. Therefore, Jones' record should really be 28-0.

After defeating Ciryl Gane in March 2023, he became UFC heavyweight champion — a title he still holds today, despite being inactive for over a year. Anyone else would have been stripped from the belt but as the greatest fighter in history, he gets more freedom than most.

Moreover, Jones remained the PFP #1 for a long time before Islam Makhachev took over his crown after his second win over Alexander Volkanovski. Jones was the top ranked fighter despite fighting only once in five years, another testament to that unfair treatment. It took a while but Jones is finally starting to lose positions and is currently #3 on the active PFP list. He was overtaken by Alex Pereira who is now 2nd after beating Jiri Prochazka again and defending his Light Heavyweight belt in late June.

 

While he doesn't always make the smartest decision outside of the cage, he always seems to know the right move to make inside of it. His impeccably well rounded game, insane track record, and longevity in this brutal sport makes Jon Jones the pound-for-pound best MMA fighter of all time.

2. Georges St-Pierre

Georges St-Pierre is absolute legend of this sport. And considering that he never tested positive for steroids or any other sort of PED, that makes many believe “GSP” should be considered the greatest MMA fighter of all time — and they have a great argument.

The Montreal native out-wrestled the best wrestlers, out-struck the best strikers, and dragged the quickest fighters of the division to the canvas with revolutionary reactive takedowns. He had no weaknesses in the Octagon, and fighters looked dumbfounded when trying to figure out how to beat him.  

Of course one must mention that GSP was defeated twice in his career. He was submitted by Matt Hughes in 2004, and was knocked out by Matt Serra in 2007.

After that second loss, however, “GSP” won 13 fights in a row in a row, earning 170 and 185-pound belts before deciding to retire. For example, he outpaced cardio machines, Nick Diaz, and Carlos Condit, controlled grappling experts Jake Shields on the ground, and dominated kickboxing phenom Dan Hardy on the feet. 

Georges finished his career with a 26-2 record, is remembered as the master of five-round wars (since he never lost a decision), and an iconic Octagon warrior with some of the greatest fight IQs in the history of the game.

When it comes to a clean, neat, role model MMA fighter with the skills to match, “GSP” tops the list.

3. Anderson Silva

Anderson Silva is the greatest middleweight in MMA history, and a top-three pound-for-pound great. His style catered catered toward awkward yet spectacular striking to watch. The way he blended his mastery of boxing, Taekwondo kicks, elbows, and footwork, gives him the best striking skillset we've ever seen in MMA.

Among Silva's most notable wins are KO victories over Forrest Griffin, Yushin Okami, Vitor Belfort, James Irvin, and many other high-level names. 

While Silva did suffer 11 losses in his career, most of those came at the very end, when he was well past his prime. He also lost his middleweight belt (which he defended 10 times, most in UFC middleweight history) when he got knocked out due to showboating in the Octagon against Chris Weidman at UFC 162. Silva also tested positive for PEDs at one point in his career, which can't be ignored.

Yet, when he was in his prime, “The Spider” is the most dominant southpaw fighters ever in UFC and a role model for many modern fighters. His front-kick KO against Vitor Belfort is still among the nicest knockouts ever. 

4. Demetrious Johnson

Emphasizing pound-for-pound is important when adding Demetrious Johnson to this best MMA fighters of all time list. While he only stands at 5'3″ tall, the former 11-time flyweight champion is among the most well-rounded and dominant fighters in MMA history.

Johnson's excellence saved the UFC flyweight division, which was struggling for years because there was nobody even close to being able to beat him.

For example, his victory over Ray Borg at UFC 216 perfectly combines two almost impossible moves – lifting the opponent in the air and locking the armbar before the opponent’s feet touched the canvas. 

“Mighty Mouse” dominated the division thanks to his outstanding physical preparation and superb grappling and wrestling skills. 

While Johnson's UFC career came to a bitter end after he was traded out of the promotion, Johnson continued on his success at ONE championship. While it's unclear whether Johnson will ever fight in MMA again, his 27-3-1 professional record proves that the 125-pounder needs to be considered one of the very best to ever step inside an MMA cage.

5. Fedor Emelianenko

Fedor Emelianenko has never stepped into the UFC Octagon — but his 30 wins in a row are one of the most impressive streaks in MMA history.

Fedor was Pride FC and WAMMA Heavyweight champion. The Stary Oskol-native is a Combat Sambo and Judo master with excellent boxing skills, who scored victories over many legendary names: Mirko Cro Cop, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Kevin Randleman, Mark Coleman, Gary Goodridge, to name a few. 

Boxing was the best part of what “The Last Emperor” displayed in the ring. While he might not have looked like an elite athlete, Fedor's footwork and punching ability allowed him to plow through opponents with ease — not to mention Fedor's wrestling and submission ability, as well.

All of which is proven by the 40-7 record he finished his MMA career with.

After retiring in 2023, Fedor ended his career as the best MMA heavyweight and one of the best pound-for-pound MMA fighters of all time.

6. Khabib Nurmagomedov

Khabib Nurmagomedov is an undefeated fighter and arguably the best and most dominant wrestler who has ever stepped inside the UFC Octagon. Nurmagomedov showed the power of Dagestani wrestling – controlling the opponent on the ground, landing ground and pound shots from time to time, and staying away from finishing the opponent by any means necessary. 

The only reason that Nurmagamedov — who ended his professional career with a perfect 29-0 record — isn't higher on this list is because he only amounted three title defenses, and retired when he was in the middle of his prime.

If he was still fighting, “The Eagle” would still probably be the UFC's lightweight champion. Yet, he decided to let his teammate and close friend Islam Makhachev hold the throne instead.

There's no question that Khabib more than deserves to be includes on this best pound-for-pound MMA fighters of all time list. Our only wish was that he kept fighting for longer.

7. Amanda Nunes

Amanda Nunes is the first-ever two-division female champion in UFC history. Nunes is an all-around fighter, great brawler, and superb striking machine. She destroyed Raquel Pennington, Cris Cyborg, Holly Holm, and Megan Anderson with ease. 

While Nunes did suffer some losses in her career — including a a title loss in the match against Julianna Pena (which she did come back and avenge) —  the 23-5 record she ended her career with is nothing to scoff at. 

“The Lioness” has the most UFC title defenses (10) of any woman and owns nine victories over former or current UFC champs. After retiring upon another championship victory in May 2023, there's some talk about Nunes already wanting to return to the UFC.

Therefore, perhaps we'll see this legend's return sooner rather than later.

8. Daniel Cormier

Speaking of double champions, we need to show some respect to Daniel Cormier.

Cormier might be the best wrestler in MMA history (aside from Khabib), and was both a light heavyweight and heavyweight champion in the UFC.

After an esteemed wrestling career where he was an Olympian, Cormier finished his MMA career with a 22-3 professional record; with two of those losses coming against Stipe Miocic (who we'll hear more about in a bit) and the other one was to Jon Jones.

Aside from those two losses, “DC” was as dominant as it gets. He is already a UFC Hall of Fame inductee, and he deserves to be deemed one of the best MMA fighters of all time, without question.

9. Henry Cejudo

Speaking of Olympic wrestlers and UFC double-champions, let's talk a bit about Henry Cejudo.

Although “CCC” just recently lost to Merab Dvalishvili and might never fight MMA again, his five championship victories cements him as an all time great. He might not be the most liked fighter in UFC history — by both fans and the promotion — but we've got to respect his MMA skillset.

Cejudo was able to fuse his Taekwondo skills and wrestling acumen seamlessly, and outclassed most opponents that he faced, leading to a 16-4 professional record. We've got to put some respect on Cejudo's name.

10. Conor McGregor

If this list was about the most iconic — or, dare we say, “notorious” — fighters in UFC Conor McGregor would be number one. McGregor stormed the 145-pound weight class after a knockout win over Marcus Brimage, and is known for being one of the best left hands in the history of this sport.

The Irishman has knocked out Chad Mendes, Eddie Alvarez, Dustin Poirier, and many other high-level names. Yet, Conor is a PPV selling specialist thanks to his big mouth and outstanding trash-talking skills.

Charisma and trash talk aside, McGregor is a double-champion and undoubtedly one of the 10 best pound-for-pound MMA fighters of all time. We just that the rumors are true, and that we see “Notorious” return to the Octagon later this summer.

Fighter Name Nationality Record Next Fight

Jon Jones

American

27-1-0 (1 NC)

Stipe Miocic (Unconfirmed Date)

Georges St-Pierre

Canadian

26-2-0

Retired

Anderson Silva

Brazilian

34-11-0 (1 NC)

Retired

Demetrious Johnson

American

25-4-1

Unconfirmed

Fedor Emelianenko 

Russian

40-7-0 (1 NC)

Retired

Khabib Nurmagomedov

Russian

29-0-0

Retired

Amanda Nunes

Brazilian

23-5-0

Retired

Daniel Cormier

American

22-3-0 (1 NC)

Retired

Henry Cejudo

American

16-4-0

Unconfirmed

Conor McGregor

Irish

22-6-0

Michael Chandler (Unconfirmed Date)

Honorable Mentions

While that does it for our 10 best pound-for-pound MMA fighters of all time, there are any other high-level UFC names which didn't make the list but still deserve a mention — so it’s time for honorable mentions on our list of the best pound-for-pound MMA fighters of all time.

  • Jose Aldo is the most dominant fighter in the history of UFC featherweight rankings. He was the UFC Bantamweight Champion for 1,848 Days, held the title for five years, and successfully defended his title seven consecutive times. It was tough to leave him off the top 10 best pound-for-pound MMA fighters of all time list.
  • Valentina Shevchenko is the most dangerous striker on UFC’s female roster. Her left high kick, spinning techniques, counters, elbows, and leg strikes are a legitimate threat — and perhaps she'll reclaim her belt in 2024. 
  • BJ Penn is another fighter who didn't end his career on a great foot. Yet, he was also the second man to win UFC titles in two different weight categories (lightweight & welterweight), and was known to fight anyone, anytime, at any weight class. 
  • Stipe Miocic is considered the best UFC heavyweight in history — largely because he’s the only man to defend the 265-pound strap three times in a row. The belt was wrapped around his belt five times in the past; and considering he hasn't retired quite yet, perhaps we'll see him win some more before it's all said and done.
  • Cris Cyborg is the only woman to win Invicta FC, Strikeforce, Bellator, and UFC titles. The legendary Brazilian is a toe-to-toe Muay Thai striker who attacks her opponent with barrages of hooks and ground-and-pound shots until the ref stops the fight. She’s the Bellator champ at the moment. 
  • Israel Adesanya is the former two-time 185-pound UFC champion thanks to his absolutely world class striking. The Nigerian-born New Zealander has a 24-3 record, and has the second most middleweight defenses in UFC history (five), and, despite having years left in his career, is already considered the second-best middleweight in UFC history (after Anderson Silva, who he beat).
  • Alexander Volkanovski recently suffered a devastating KO loss to Ilia Topuria to lose his featherweight belt. Yet, when it's all said and done, “Volk” might go down as the best featherweight in UFC history. We hope to see more world-class fighting from him once his head heals properly. 

Grant Young is a sports writer from San Francisco. He has had two professional Muay Thai fights: he got knocked out in one, and got a knockout in the other. When it comes to his favorite fighters, it's Israel Adesanya, and then it's everyone else.