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The Best MMA Fighters of All Time

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is now a household name, thanks in part to some of the fighters on this list. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a brutal discipline of professional fighting in which sportsmen and women from different fighting backgrounds such as boxing, wrestling, muay thai and jiu-jitsu compete against one another.

The global audience for UFC bouts has grown exponentially, and the sports betting market with it. When Conor McGregor fought Nate Diaz, the global online bets were tens of millions, rivalling that of historical sporting events.

Georges St-Pierre

Canadian UFC veteran Georges St-Pierre is a two-time Welterweight Champion, considered by many to be the best MMA fighter of all time. The Quebecois had the second-longest title streak in the history of the sport when he gave up the title and left the sport in 2013.

St-Pierre began learning karate at the age of just seven before developing an interest in jiu-jitsu, wrestling and boxing. His UFC debut came in 2004, when he defeated Karo Parisyan by unanimous decision. Two years later, he became the number one contender for the welterweight title.

He would not get to fight for the title until 2007, owing to a groin injury. However, he defeated Matt Hughes to win the welterweight belt for the first time in January. However, he lost to another Matt in the shape of Matt Serra, who defeated him at UFC 69.

St-Pierre blamed a lack of pre-match focus before returning for UFC 74 and defeating All-American wrestling champion Josh Koscheck. He then fought Hughes again, and again defeated him to claim the welterweight title, which he would go on to hold for over 2,200 days.

Conor McGregor

Still a relative newcomer on this list, the current UFC Featherweight Champion is arguably the most popular and public fighter in the short history of the sport.

The first Irish-born champion after the fastest title fight in UFC history, McGregor’s outspoken and quick-witted persona is almost as entertaining as his fighting style. The Dublin fighter has cited the late Muhammed Ali as an inspiration in his trash talk and psychological warfare.

McGregor made his professional debut in early 2008, defeating Gary Morris by TKO. After losing his third professional fight, he went on an eight-fight winning streak in 2011/12, after which he was offered a UFC contract.

After winning the featherweight title, McGregor made his welterweight debut against Nate Diaz, being defeated in a bloody match. He is due to have a rematch with Diaz in August, 2016.

 

Randy Couture

Randy Couture has competed in a record 15 MMA title fights and in doing so became a three-time Heavyweight Champion and a two-time Light Heavyweight Champion. He is one of only two fighters to have held titles in different divisions.

Couture served in the US Army for six years, becoming a Sergeant in the 101st Airborne. He competed in Greco-Roman wrestling and was a three-time Olympic alternate. He decided to compete in MMA while coaching wrestling at Oregon State University.

Couture’s MMA debut came at UFC 13 back in 1997. He won by submission against an opponent who outweighed him by over 100lbs, defeating Tony Halme in under a minute. Later that year, he defeated clear favourite Vitor Belfort to become the number one contender for the heavyweight title.

His first title would come just two months later when he defeated Maurice Smith by majority decision after a 21-minute slog. He was stripped of the title after a contractual dispute but returned to MMA and regained his title in November, 2000.

After consecutive losses to larger opponents in the early 2000s, Couture moved to the Light Heavyweight division where his trio of matches with Chuck Lidell would make UFC history. It was after this that Couture would be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.

Chuck Lidell

Chuck Lidell, another UFC Hall of Fame inductee, is widely credited with bringing UFC and MMA into the sporting mainstream alongside Randy Couture. His 23 UFC fights included a spell as the Light Heavyweight champion.

Californian Lidell was taught boxing by his grandfather from a young age and developed a keen interest in fighting, studying karate and kickboxing while playing line-backer and wrestling in school. Holding an amateur kickboxing record of 20-2, he began training MMA in Nevada.

Debuting at UFC 17 and following up with a bare-knuckle victory against Jose Landi-Jons in 1998, Lidell became the number one contender for the Light Heavyweight title in 2002. So began his trilogy of battles against Randy Couture that so captivated audiences.

His first bout with Couture for the interim championship resulted in his defeat before returning the favour three years later, giving “The Natural” his first knockout defeat to claim the title belt. Their third match came in 2006, during which Lidell again defeated Couture to retain the title. Couture retired from UFC after the match.

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