30 Most Influential MMA Fighters In History – With Videos

In the MMA world, fighters can become famous for their remarkable achievements inside and outside the ring. That said, particular fighters stand out from the crowd and are remembered for their iconic performances and long-standing legacies.

Ronda Rousey

While she might not be all that was believed when she first burst onto the MMA scene, Ronda Rousey is, without a doubt, one of the most influential figures in MMA history. It’s hard to argue against that statement.

A former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion known for her aggressive style. She earned numerous victories over some of the most formidable female opponents while competing in mixed martial arts. 

In addition to being an incredible fighter, she’s also been instrumental in helping to popularize women’s mixed martial arts worldwide, with her success inspiring a whole new generation of female fighters from there. She’s been inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame due to her accomplishments, cementing her place as one of the most important figures in MMA history. 

Kazushi Sakuraba

Kazushi Sakuraba is widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in MMA history, and it’s hard to argue against that statement. A former PRIDE Fighting Championships Middleweight Champion was known for his creative style. He earned him numerous victories over some of the toughest opponents while competing in MMA. 

In addition to being an incredible fighter, he’s also been instrumental in helping to popularize mixed martial arts throughout Japan, with his success inspiring a whole new generation of fighters from there. He’s been widely known as the Gracie hunter due to his extensive success against members of the Gracie family, who were the most dominant force in MMA at the time.

Frank Shamrock

One of MMA’s earliest stars is none other than Frank Shamrock. Known to some as “The Legend,” Shamrock was a sports pioneer and a versatile fighter who competed in various weight classes. He was an early pioneer in the sport and rose to prominence in the late 1990s, becoming one of MMA’s first true superstars.

In fact, it was his dramatic win over Bas Rutten at Pancrease 29 that helped kickstart MMA’s worldwide appeal. His success inside the octagon led to him being inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2009.

Furthermore, he also had a hand in creating some of the safety regulations and rules that are still used today. He’s undoubtedly an important figure in MMA history. Without his contributions, we wouldn’t have the same level of professionalism in today’s fights. 

Dan Henderson

Another veteran Mixed Martial Artist on this list is Dan Henderson, who has been competing professionally since 1997. Throughout his career, Henderson has been a part of some of the biggest sports promotions, including PRIDE, Strikeforce, and the UFC.

He’s had multiple championship reigns throughout his career, most notably winning the PRIDE Middleweight Championship and Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Championships. In addition to his successes in the ring, he holds numerous records in MMA, including the most knockouts by a single fighter (14).

He is the only fighter to simultaneously hold two titles from different organizations. Not only that, but Dan Henderson was an Olympic wrestler who helped during plenty of his MMA fights.

Bas Rutten

Bas Rutten is one of the most recognizable names on this list, as he was an icon of MMA during its early years when it wasn’t even called MMA. A former King of Pancrase champion, Rutten was a pioneer of the sport and is widely considered one of the most influential figures in MMA history.

He’s made numerous appearances as an analyst and commentator throughout his career. He ended his “MMA” fighting career with a 21-win streak. Despite retiring from active competition in 1999, he still remains an important figure in the sport today. 

Aside from being an incredible fighter, Rutten has played a significant role in helping shape modern MMA into what it is today. After retiring from fighting, he became a color commentator and analyst for various promotions such as Strikeforce and Bellator.

His commentary style was unique. Bas often spoke directly to viewers as if they were inside the cage with him. This way, he provided insight into how certain moves could be used effectively while still entertaining enough to keep casual fans watching.

This type of commentary helped elevate MMA into mainstream consciousness by introducing new fans to the sport while providing valuable analysis for those already familiar with it. He is currently the president of the World Bare Knuckle Fighting Federation, where we are sure he will make a significant contribution to the sport.

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is a Brazilian mixed martial artist who competed for the PRIDE Fighting Championships and UFC before settling with Bellator MMA. A highly successful fighter with multiple championships wins.

Shogun has earned numerous awards, including being named MMA’s Fighter of the Year by Sherdog in 2005 and a Fight of the Year honor by Sherdog in 2007. He’s also been inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame for his incredible accomplishments throughout his career, firmly cementing him as one of MMA’s most influential figures. 

Randy Couture

Randy Couture is another one of those influential names that everyone knows about, regardless if they’re fans or not. A former Greco-Roman wrestler and UFC Heavyweight Champion, Couture was widely considered a sports pioneer during its early years due to its success and longevity.

Randy was soft-spoken and was held in high regard both by fans and opponents due to the values he brought to the sport. Couture had won five UFC titles without being obnoxious about it. He holds numerous records, including being the first fighter to win championships in two different divisions (light heavyweight/heavyweight).

Also, Randy is one of the oldest athletes to compete in the octagon (47) and one once the most overall wins in UFC history. His success in MMA has earned him numerous awards, including being inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame twice, cementing his status as a living legend. 

Matt Hughes

Matt Hughes is another fighter who needs no introduction, as he’s probably one of the most recognizable names on this list. A former two-time NCAA Division I wrestling champion and UFC Welterweight Champion, Hughes was considered one of the best welterweights during his time competing in MMA.

He holds numerous records within the sport, such as the most successful title defenses at welterweight with seven and the longest combined title reigns in UFC history with 1,074 days in total. He’s also been inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame, further cementing his legacy as one of the most influential figures in MMA. 

Chuck Liddell

The Iceman, Chuck Liddel, is one of the greatest MMA fighters in history. He has had a profound influence on the sport as well as its practitioners. Liddell was known for his aggressive style and willingness to take risks to win, leading to spectacular knockouts and thrilling fights.

He was also a pioneer in developing the training methods now used by many MMA fighters today, setting an example that others have followed. The right hand of the Iceman was something to behold, and it was his trademark move. In fact, Liddell’s right hand earned him the nickname “The Iceman.”

He could also take a hit like no other fighter in MMA, making him one of the most feared fighters in the sport. His beef with Tito Ortiz in the early 2000s was one of the most famous rivalries in MMA history. It has also brought much attention to the sport from people who were not already fans. 

He was a UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and Hall of Fame inductee, making him one of the most influential fighters ever. His legacy remains strong within both MMA and combat sports, more generally. 

B.J. Penn

B.J. Penn is one of the most influential MMA fighters in history. He is widely considered the best lightweight fighter ever, and his reign as UFC Lightweight Champion from 2004-2008 cemented his legacy. His fights were always thrilling, with a technical stand-up style that made him one of the most challenging opponents for any fighter to face. 

Penn also influenced training methods; he was well known for attacking every aspect of MMA training and integrating strength and conditioning into his routine much earlier than anyone else was doing then. This philosophy opened many eyes to the importance of cross-training and has since become a staple in all top-tier MMA gyms worldwide. 

His influence did not stop in the cage, though; B.J. Penn was also a cultural icon with his own magazine and clothing line and appearances in numerous movies and television shows. His influence on MMA is still felt today, and he will continue to be remembered by fans for years to come. 

Mirko Cro Cop

Mirko Cro Cop is another name that needs no introduction, as he’s widely regarded as one of the best kickboxers and mixed martial artists of all time. A former PRIDE Fighting Championships Heavyweight Champion, Cro Cop was known for his devastating kicks. They earned him numerous victories over some of the most formidable opponents while competing in MMA. 

His kickboxing-style striking was incredibly dangerous, and his left high kick earned brought fear into the mind of each of his enemies. He used this kick to devastating effect against some of the best heavyweights in the world, including Alexander Emelianenko and Igor Vovchanchy.

He was a member of the elite Croatian anti-terrorist unit and has always been a proud Croatian, displaying his nation’s flag on many occasions. His cold stare into his opponent’s eyes showed zero fear and a will to dominate.

Cro Cop’s influence was not only seen in the cage. He was also an ambassador of sorts for MMA throughout Eastern Europe as it began to pick up steam in those countries. His success gave hope to aspiring fighters who saw him as a role model, and he inspired generations of fighters worldwide. His legacy still lives on today, and Mirko Cro Cop is widely considered one of the most influential MMA fighters ever. 

Mark Coleman

Mark Coleman is one of the most important figures in MMA history, and it’s hard to argue against that statement. A former PRIDE Fighting Championships Heavyweight Champion, Coleman was widely considered to be the first fighter to successfully utilize ground-and-pound. And it has since become a staple for many fighters today. 

He also holds numerous records, including being the first-ever UFC heavyweight champion and the longest combined time spent inside the octagon (1,164 days). His success in MMA has earned him numerous accolades. And it includes becoming the first inductee into the UFC Hall of Fame, cementing his legacy as one of the most influential figures in MMA history. 

Georges St. Pierre

There’s no denying that Georges St. Pierre is one of the most influential figures in MMA history, and it’s hard to argue against that statement. A former two-time UFC welterweight champion, GSP was widely considered one of the greatest mixed martial artists of all time.

His combination of striking, wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills earned him numerous wins over some of the best fighters in the world while competing in MMA. His complete devotion to training made him insanely athletic and a fighter with an incredibly high fight IQ.

He also held numerous records, including the longest combined title reign (1,541 days) and the most successful title defenses at welterweight, with nine defenses total. In addition to being an incredible fighter, he’s also had a significant role as an ambassador for the sport throughout its rise to becoming one of today’s most prominent sports worldwide.

Appearances in movies and TV shows have cemented his influence on the combat sports world even more. He’s been inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame due to his accomplishments, cementing his legacy as one of the most influential fighters in MMA history. 

Connor McGregor

Love him or hate him, the Irishman is one of MMA’s most popular stars and arguably its biggest draw. “The Notorious” joined the UFC in 2013 and quickly rose to prominence with impressive wins over various opponents. He’s held two titles simultaneously — becoming the first fighter to do so in UFC history. Also, Connor has faced some of the biggest names in the sport, including Nate Diaz and Khabib Nurmagomedov. 

McGregor is also one of the highest-paid fighters in MMA history, earning millions for each fight. His brashness outside of the cage may not have earned him friends among his peers, but it’s certainly attracted attention from fans worldwide.

Aside from being incredibly entertaining inside (and outside) of the octagon, McGregor’s success has helped raise awareness of the sport, making him one of its most influential figures. He’s also used his star power to champion causes, including the redevelopment of an Irish waterpark and efforts to increase support for mental health issues in his native country.

No matter what you think of him or his actions outside the cage, there’s no denying that Connor McGregor is one of the most influential fighters in MMA today. His impact on the sport will be felt for years to come.

Wanderlei Silva

Many fans consider Wanderley Silva to be one of the most influential fighters in MMA history. “The Axe Murderer” was a pioneer for Brazilian MMA, having made his UFC debut in 1998 — long before its current mainstream popularity. He’s fought some of the biggest names in the sport and faced off against legends like Chuck Liddell and Dan Henderson.

Silva’s contribution to the sport goes beyond his wins and losses. In addition to being an incredible fighter, he was also a great ambassador for MMA, helping bring attention to the sport during its early days. His charisma helped attract more viewers and sponsors, which allowed it to grow into the phenomenon it is today. 

Aside from his professional accomplishments and contribution to the sport, Silva is also a great human being. He has used his fame and resources to help support various charities, including helping provide medical assistance to impoverished children in Brazil. What makes him even more remarkable is that he continues to inspire new generations of fighters with his values and humble attitude toward life. 

Khabib Nurmagomedov

“The Eagle” is one of the most successful and influential MMA fighters in history. The Russian fighter is best known for his unrivaled grappling skills, powerful takedowns, and relentless pressure. He has an impressive 29-0 record in professional MMA fights, plenty of them by either submission or knockout. 

Nurmagomedov’s dominance inside the cage has earned him widespread respect from fans and fellow fighters alike. He was recently inducted into the UFC Hall Of Fame as a member of their 2020 class. His high-tempo fighting style didn’t give opponents time to breathe, and he earned a reputation as one of the best fighters ever. 

His accomplishments have inspired numerous younger fighters, especially from his home country Dagestan, to take up MMA and hone their skills in the sport. Outside the octagon, Khabib is humble and devotes much of his time to charitable causes and helping those in need. He has become an icon in Russia, where his fights are followed with immense passion. 

His humble and respectful attitude towards his opponents and how he carries himself both in and out of the octagon have earned him a place as one of the most influential MMA fighters ever. Nurmagomedov is truly an example to aspiring young fighters worldwide, and now with the position of a coach, he will continue to shape and influence MMA for years to come. 

Royce Gracie

Another one of the most influential MMA fighters of all time is Royce Gracie. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner was the face of mixed martial arts during its early years in the UFC. He won three out of four Ultimate Fighting Championship tournaments, beating several much larger opponents along the way with his effective use of grappling and submission holds.

Gracie’s success rose him to international stardom. It proved that smaller fighters could be just as successful as their bigger counterparts if they had an effective strategy and game plan. His impressive wins inspired many other fighters across all weight divisions. Also, it motivated people to learn martial arts such as BJJ, Judo, and Wrestling to help them overcome size disadvantages. 

His accomplishments also helped popularize Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which is now one of the most popular martial arts in the world. Gracie was inducted into the UFC Hall Of Fame in 2003, and his legacy continues. He inspires all MMA fighters who want to prove that size doesn’t matter if you have the right skills and strategy. 

Anderson Silva

Brazilian fighter Anderson “The Spider” Silva is another highly influential MMA fighter. He has held the longest title reign in UFC history, having successfully defended his middleweight championship for seven years before finally losing it to Chris Weidman. 

Throughout his career, he was known for his exceptional striking skills, often using a Muay Thai style of attacking with punches, kicks, and elbows. This versatility enabled him to take on fighters from all disciplines and gave him an aura of invincibility, which helped elevate MMA’s popularity worldwide. 

Outside the cage, Silva remains one of the most beloved athletes in Brazil. His influence is felt far beyond the octagon, as many fighters look up to him as a role model. Silva was the role model for the former Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. He is currently coaching his two sons in MMA, and his guidance and teachings will continue to impact the sport for years to come.

Anderson Silva has cemented himself as one of the most successful and influential fighters ever, not just for his dominance inside the cage but for how he carries himself outside it. His performance in UFC events will remain legendary for years to come. We can only hope that other fighters continue to follow suit by taking inspiration from Anderson’s exemplary behavior inside and outside MMA. 

Rickson Gracie

His family and direct lineage are famous for their Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which has shaped the way MMA is practiced today. Rickson was a part of the early days of cage fighting and competed in several famous fights during that time.

Gracie had an impressive career as a fighter and a coach. He won several tournaments, including four Pan-American championships, two World Championships, and three Copa Atlantico tournament titles. He also trained high-profile fighters such as Royce Gracie, who had much success inside the octagon with UFC. 

Throughout his career, Gracie emphasized the importance of technique over strength and conditioning, which he believed was vital to success in MMA. His techniques have shaped the way grappling is taught and practiced today, making him one of the most influential figures in the sport.

Gracie’s influence extends beyond fighting and into the communities he actively supports. He has an academy that teaches kids martial arts to keep them off the streets and out of trouble. Also, he has a charity called the Rickson Gracie Foundation, which provides money and support for needy people. 

Rickson Gracie’s contribution to MMA makes him one of the most influential fighters of all time, not only for his skill inside the cage but also because of his passion for helping those around him.

Fedor Emelianenko

The Last Emperor, Fedor Emelianenko, is widely regarded as the greatest Mixed Martial Artist of all time. A former PRIDE and Strikeforce Heavyweight champion, Emelianenko had an incredible resume that included notable wins over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mirko Cro Cop, Mark Hunt, and Fabricio Werdum. 

His reign in the world of MMA was one of pure domination, winning 28 consecutive fights and finishing 25 of them. His defensive prowess and offensive power made him a favorite amongst fans, who watched as Emelianenko defeated some of the greatest fighters in MMA history.

Fedor also had a chin to match his incredible offensive output. His never-say-die attitude and refusal to give up during fights had people in awe, as he could come back from any situation, no matter how dire it seemed.

Emelianenko is also the polar opposite of his brother Alexander who also had a successful MMA career and a less successful private life. 

Fedor Emelianenko is one of the most influential fighters in Mixed Martial Arts history. His current MMA record stands at 40 – 6, and his legacy will live on forever in the hearts and minds of MMA fans worldwide. As long as there are fight fans, he will always be remembered and revered for his accomplishments. 

Jon Jones

Jon Jones is an American mixed martial arts fighter who competes in the UFC Light Heavyweight division. He is a former UFC light heavyweight champion and the youngest champion in the history of UFC. He won the championship on March 19, 2011.

In four years, Jones had eight successful title defenses. Still, in April 2015, he was arrested by police as the perpetrator of a hit-and-run car accident. After this, UFC owners stripped him of his championship title and indefinitely suspended him from the organization.

Throughout his professional career, Jones has suffered only one defeat, which was awarded due to his suspension. Before his suspension, he was rated by various sports news outlets and websites as the best fighter in the world in the bantamweight division. 

Jose Aldo

Jose Aldo was born. September 9, 1986, is a Brazilian mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter who competeв in the UFC featherweight division. Aldo was the fourth and last WEC featherweight champion. It thus became the first UFC featherweight champion since the merger of the UFC and WEC.

Until December 12, 2015, Aldo was the No. 1 ranked fighter regardless of weight class (pound-for-pound) in the official UFC rankings. He was also recognized as the No. 1 welterweight by Sherdog. Aldo was undefeated for eight years with an 18-fight winning streak. He finished his career on August 20, 2022.

Nate Diaz

Winner of The Ultimate Fighter 5. Nate Diaz, born April 16, 1985, is an American mixed martial arts fighter who competes in the UFC lightweight division. Since September 28, 2014, he has been ranked #7 on Sherdog’s list. In 2016, Diaz was ranked #4 on the official UFC lightweight rankings.

The younger brother of another famous fighter, Nick Diaz. These two brothers are two of the UFC’s most famous bullfighters, who have always put on some spectacular fights.

Tito Ortiz

Tito Ortiz is an American Mexican-born mixed martial artist. From 2000 to 2003, Ortiz held the UFC light heavyweight title and had five successful defenses of the belt, a record for a long time. Ortiz also held the records for the most fights (27) and the most time spent inside the octagon in a career (5 hours and 33 seconds) when he finished his UFC career. Ortiz was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2012.

Ortiz has a reputation in the MMA world as a “bad boy” due to repeatedly insulting opponents. Still, despite that, he is one of the most popular fighters: the Ortiz vs. Liddell 2 fight sold over a million pay-per-views for the first time in UFC history.

In addition, Ortiz has repeatedly appeared on the covers of various magazines, such as Black Belt, and is the prototype of video game characters and collectible UFC-branded action figures.

Daniel Cormier

Daniel Cormier was born March 20, 1979, in Lafayette, Louisiana, USA is an American mixed martial artist and former UFC light heavyweight champion (2015). He is a former member of the U.S. freestyle wrestling team. Participated in the Olympic Games in 2004 and 2008.

As of September 2016, he ranked third in the official UFC rankings among the best fighters regardless of weight class. Sherdog’s ranking puts Cormier in second place in the bantamweight division.

He has a significant number of wins over such notable fighters as Antonio Silva, Josh Barnett, Frank Mir, Dan Henderson, Anthony Johnson, Alexander Gustafsson, and Anderson Silva to his credit.

Demetrious Johnson

Demetrious Johnson is the 1st UFC bantamweight champion. At one time, this fighter broke Anderson Silva’s own record for the number of title defenses (11 times). In the early stages of his career, Demetrious challenged Dominick Cruz for the UFC bantamweight title.

He lost that fight, but Demetrious’ talent was evident. When the UFC created the flyweight division, that’s when “Mighty Mouse” showed all he could do. Throughout his career, Demetrious has gradually progressed from a monotonous athlete who beat solely with decisions to a fast-paced fighter who finished his opponents through punches or submissions.

In addition, Johnson can quickly figure out his opponent’s game and adapt to any fighting scenario. To date, few can compete with Demetrious’ high fighting IQ, elusive speed, and excellent mixed style of striking and grappling technique. Now “Mousey” is successfully competing in the One FC fight promotion, where he has already won three victories.

Forrest Griffin

Forrest Griffin was born on July 1, 1979. He is a former American professional mixed martial artist, former UFC light heavyweight champion, and a UFC Hall of Fame member.

Forrest first became famous when he appeared on Spike TV’s reality show TUF. In the rematch with Stephan Bonnar in all three rounds, the advantage was on Forrest, who won this exciting but not as exciting as the previous fight.

The new guy made it to the finals, where he defeated Stephan Bonnar by unanimous decisions of the judges. White called it the most important fight in UFC history and signed a six-figure contract with the new smasher.

On June 16, 2007, Forrest defeated Hector Ramirez in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by unanimous decision of all three judges. The fight was notable because the winner set the UFC record with 38 kicks. Throughout his career, Griffin has won five “fight of the night” statuses with fighters like Anderson Silva and Tito Ortiz.

Kevin Randleman

Rendelman began his journey in the sport with wrestling appearances for Ohio University. After winning several titles in that field, the genetically gifted fighter entered mixed martial arts in 1996. He quickly achieved success and gained fan love.

The high point of Kevin’s career came with wins over Pete Williams (1999) and Pedro Rizzo (2000), which he won, and then successfully defended the UFC heavyweight title once.

Fans, however, will remember Rendelman more for his fights in PRIDE. There he spectacularly defeated Murilo “Shogun” Rua, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, and several other fighters. During his career, he met the strongest and most famous fighters of the time, fighting Chuck Liddell, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Bas Rutten, Randy Couture, and of course, Fedor Emelianenko.

The moment when Kevin, with an incredible suplex, stuck “The Last Emperor” head-on into the canvass has gone forever into the golden library of MMA.

Rampage Jackson

Quinton Jackson better known as Rampage Jackson is an American professional mixed martial artist. Jackson rose to fame by fighting in Pride FC and winning the UFC light heavyweight title. Jackson was born June 20, 1978, in Memphis, Tennessee, USA. 

Bellator Season 10 Light Heavyweight Tournament Champion. In his first title defense against Dan Henderson, he combined the UFC and Pride FC titles. So he became one of only two fighters to unify the UFC and Pride FC titles. Also, Jackson played in a couple of big movies like “A-team”.

Don “The Predator” Frye

Donald Frye, born November 23, 1965, is an American mixed martial arts fighter, professional wrestler, and actor. He is one of the early representatives of MMA, winning such tournaments as UFC 8 and c. Despite his accomplishments, he left MMA in 1997 to pursue a career in professional wrestling.

In 2001, he returned to mixed martial arts and competed until 2009. His last fight was in December 2011, when he lost by knockout to Ruben Villareal at the Gladiator Challenge: Mega Stars tournament.


So there were the Top Most Influential MMA Fighters Of All Time! Whether they were pioneers helping to popularize the sport or simply incredible fighters themselves. All these fighters are some of the most influential figures in MMA history and deserve to be remembered for their accomplishments. Who do you think should have made this list? Let us know in the comments below! Thank you for reading.

Gregori Povolotski

I have been practicing martial arts since 2007. For as long as I can remember, I have always had a huge passion for combat sports, especially Muay Thai and boxing. Helping people on their martial arts journey is what drives me to keep training and learn new things. Read More About Me

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