20 UFC Fighters Who Started Late but Also Succeed

We were taught that the early bird gets the worm in life and mixed martial arts. The sooner we commit to a goal, the sooner we should reach it, but that is not always necessary. It’s never too late to start, and the fact that there is no age limit for MMA will be shown by the great fighters on this list who, regardless of their late start, achieved enviable careers.

Alex Pereira

Alexsandro “Poatan” Pereira was born in 1987 in São Bernardo do Campo, São Paulo, Brazil. Alex had a difficult beginning in life; he dropped out of school when he was 12 to work in a tire shop, then turned to alcohol due to bad collegial influences, and all this lasted until he started kickboxing at the age of 22 to get rid of bad habits.

After conquering the kickboxing world with two Glory championships, two WGP kickboxing titles, and two WAKO PRO championships, Pereira only turned to MMA at 28. He didn’t take long to knock his way to the UFC and the middleweight title, which he won by defeating his long-time rival Israel Adesanya.

After losing in the rematch, Pereira decided to go for the championship in light heavyweight, where he will face a difficult task in the fight for the vacant title against Jiri Prochazka. 

Brock Lesnar

Brock Edward Lesnar was born in 1977 in Webster, South Dakota, USA. Like any athletic American in high school, he played football and competed in wrestling at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships. In 1999, Brock narrowly missed becoming a champion but had to settle for a silver medal, but came back to win the championship in 2000.

Although he is better known as a wrestling entertainment figure, Lesnar only started training in MMA at the age of 30, but immediately after his debut, he got a chance at the UFC. Brock competed in a prestigious world martial arts organization from 2008 to 2016, where he fought eight times with the greats of the division, such as Alistair Overeem, Cain Velasquez, Randy Couture, and Mark Hunt.

After losing to Frank Mir in his debut, he avenged the same and won, becoming the heavyweight world champion.

Nate Quarry

Nathan “Nate” Parker Quarry was born in 1972 in Arcata, California, U.S. As a young man, Nate had to overcome many problems to reach the world stage because he grew up in an abusive household and barely managed to get out of the membership of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Nate turned to martial arts only at the age of 24, and only after five years of training did he make his debut, which he celebrated with a victory by technical knockout. The middleweight competitor and member of the first Ultimate Fighter got the chance to fight under the lights of the UFC four years after his debut at the age of 33, where he recorded seven wins and three losses in five years of competition.

Regardless of his age, Nate mostly ended his fights with finishes, most often with knockouts, fully justifying his nickname “Rock.”

Brendan Schaub

Brendan Peter Schaub was born in 1983 in Aurora, Colorado, USA. In his younger days, he was devoted to American football, from which he retired in 2007. A year later, Brendan discovered MMA at the age of 25, where he began to train hard.

After four victories in different organizations, he got the opportunity to be a competitor of the Ultimate Fighter. Big Brown almost won the competition but was defeated in the final by knockout by Roy Nelson.

Regardless, Schaub remained with the organization for the next four years until his retirement, where he fought at the highest level against household names such as Gonzaga, Cro Cop, Nogueira, Rothwell, Mitrione, Arlovski, and Brown, going on a six-five streak.

After two consecutive defeats, Schaub said goodbye to violent sports and turned to podcasts and stand-up comedy, where he is now successful, devoted, and well-known.

Mark Coleman

Mark “The Hammer” Daniel Coleman was born in 1964 in Fremont, Ohio, USA. He began his fighting career with a wrestling background as a multiple-crowned wrestling competitor at the Pan American Championships three years in a row, the Pan American Games, and the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.

Mark also once won silver at the World Championships. He started and ended his MMA career in the UFC as one of the oldest competitors, and twice in a row, he won their tournaments in an era of multiple fights per night. Coleman also fought in Pride’s organization, whose tournaments Mark also won.

This old-school fierce fighter achieved seven wins and five losses in the UFC, and Coleman never picked his opponents. He crossed swords against the greatest fighters of the time, and today, his name is well deserved in the UFC Hall of Fame.

Rodolfo Viera

Rodolfo Vieira Srour, known as “The Black Belt Hunter,” was born in 1989 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he started his martial adventure at 13 when he signed up for BJJ. Before his MMA career, this grappling phenom was decorated with a golden crown several times at World and European competitions, and he was not denied first places even at the ADCC, AJP Abu Dhabi World Pro, and Pan American competitions multiple times.

Vieira only started MMA training at 27, made his MMA debut in 2017, and after five finishes in subsequent fights, he got the opportunity to fight for the UFC, where he still competes today. When Rodolfo steps into the cage, the finish is guaranteed, and of his nine wins, eight have come by submission. Viera is coming off his last win in 2023 against Cody Brundage, which he also finished by submission.

Daniel Cormier

Daniel Cormier was born in 1979 in Lafayette, Louisiana, USA. He has a successful wrestling background in many World, National, and PAN American competitions. Regardless of all his wrestling success, his career was yet to shine.

After the Olympics, DC decided to pursue his MMA career at 30, and looking at his achievements, no fighter who started late has surpassed him, not even those who started early. Daniel is a multiple world MMA champion in the Strikeforce, KOTC, and XMMA organizations and a double UFC light heavyweight and heavyweight champion with four title defenses.

His phenomenal career is paved with the most famous martial arts names he has defeated, such as Silva, Henderson, Derrick Lewis, Anthony Johnson twice, Roy Nelson, Frank Mir, and Volkan Oezdemir, and his three defeats are twice against Miocic and once against Jon Jones in back and forth amazing fights.

Holly Holm

Holly Rene Holm was born in 1981 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA. We need to give props to the only female fighter on our list as she comes from a boxing background, which she started training at 16. Holm is an accomplished boxer with 33 wins and two losses, and Holly won the WBA female welterweight championship belt.

She is also well seasoned in the kickboxing ring with 14 losses, one loss, and seven draws. With all her fighting experience, Holly only started MMA training at the age of 29, making her debut in 2011. She came to the UFC mainly by knocking out her opponents, and after winning the Legacy FC Women’s Bantamweight Championship, she reached the main stage.

In 8 years under the UFC lights, she achieved eight wins and seven losses and is the winner of the UFC Bantamweight championship after the well-known upset and head-kick knockout against Ronda Rousey in 2015.

Stipe Miocic

Stipe Miocic was born in 1982 in Euclid, Ohio, U.S., has Croatian roots, works as a fireman outside the ring, and is considered one of the greatest heavyweight fighters ever. Stipe comes from a solid wrestling background and only started MMA at the age of 27.

After his debut in 2010, Stipe knocked out all six opponents to the NAAFS Heavyweight Championship and thus earned his contract with the UFC, for which he still performs today. Miocic is a heavyweight menace and a former UFC champion who has 15 knockouts out of 20 wins against all the world’s best names, such as JDS, Werdum, DC, Overeem, Ngannou, Arlovski, Hunt, Gonzaga and Nelson.

After losing a fight to Ngannou in which he seemed pretty demotivated to fight, the circumstances led him to a scheduled fight against Jon Jones, the current champion, and Stipe gets the chance to make history.

Francis Ngannou

Francis Zavier Ngannou was born in 1986 in Batié, Cameroon, where he worked in a sand quarry due to lack of income. Following his martial dream, Ngannou, as an immigrant in European countries, had a tough time when he was homeless, traveled a lot, and was even imprisoned for crossing the border.

He didn’t start MMA until he was 26 years old, and when all the dice fell into place, Ngannou made his debut in 2013. After “The Predator” finished five of his opponents, he got a chance in the UFC. That’s where the bombastic power in his hands came to the fore, and he won the UFC title by a vast number of knockouts, but from the second attempt.

Some of the names that succumbed to his striking power are Blaydes twice, Arlovski, Overeem, Velasquez, JDS, Rozenstruik, and finally Miocic in the rematch for the heavyweight title.

Randy Couture

Randall Duane Couture was born in 1963 in Everett, Washington, USA, and comes from a Greco-Roman style wrestling background where he won Pan American competitions and many silver and bronze medals at the All-American and World Championships. Randy started MMA late at 31, and this old-school fighter debuted at the UFC 13 tournament in 1997.

After the first four victories, he already won the heavyweight championship, which he later won two more times. Couture is also the winner of the light heavyweight belt twice, and in 14 years of competing in the UFC, Randy crossed swords with the best world fighters of that time and collected a record of 16 wins and eight losses. He retired in 2011 after losing to Machida, but as a hero and Hall of Famer who showed that age is just a number.

Ken Shamrock

Ken Shamrock was born in 1964 in Warner Robins, Georgia, USA. His professional career developed from his work as a bouncer, then through his professional wrestling career, and the first time he put on MMA gloves was when he was 22.

Ken first performed as an MMA fighter back in 1993. He needed only three submission victories to reach the UFC scene, and Ken is one of the oldest participants who was there, even at the first UFC. Shamrock is a submission artist who has 22 submission finishes out of 28 wins.

This sports veteran has passed through many organizations, and in the UFC, he has collected a record of seven wins, six losses, and two draws. He tested his fighting skills against legends of the sport, such as Sakuraba, Ortiz, Don Frye, Fujita, Royce Gracie, Kimbo Slice, and Rich Franklin, and earned his rightful place in the UFC Hall of Fame.

Mark Hunt

Mark Richard Hunt was born in a large Samoan family in 1974 in South Auckland, New Zealand. On his second release from prison, Hunt knocked out a couple of guys in front of the club and got noticed by a bouncer who invited him to official training, thus opening his way to the MMA scene.

Before stepping into the Octagon, Mark was a seasoned kickboxer with 43 fights with 30 wins. He started MMA at the age of 36. After a few battles at Pride and a couple of other organizations, he got the opportunity to test the Samoan’s strength in the UFC Octagon, where he stayed for eight years until his retirement.

In the world’s largest organization, he recorded eight wins, eight losses, one draw, and one no-contest, and he faced great fighters such as Lewis, Miocic, JDS, Rothwell, Nelson, Werdum, and many other heavyweight giants.

Jimmy Manuwa

Babajimi Abiola “Jimi” Manuwa was born in 1980 in Sacramento, California, United States, and has Nigerian roots. He started practicing MMA at 27, and a year later, he had his first match. Already in his fourth pro match, he won the UCMMA Light Heavyweight Championship and paved his way to the UFC with 14 finishes in the first 14 matches, but he was stopped for the first time by Gustafsson in his debut.

Jimmy’s luck did not help him on the world’s biggest stage, where he fought bravely against the light heavyweight elite and brought his UFC record to eight wins and eight losses.

He retired in 2019 after a brutal knockout to Aleksandar Rakić and four consecutive defeats. In his defense, it is important to emphasize his opponents in recent years, who were Anthony Smith, Volkan Oezdemir, Thiago Santos, and other top names of the organization.

Travis Browne

Travis Kuualialoha Browne was born in 1982 in Honolulu, Hawaii, US. Before his MMA career, he was a passionate basketball player who did not try martial arts until he came to BJJ at the age of 26. Travis got to the UFC through submissions and knockouts, winning the Gladiator Challenge and the VFC Heavyweight Championship.

In Dana White’s organization, he performed for the first time in 2010, where he celebrated with a knockout victory, and stayed there for the next seven years until he said goodbye to the sport.

He strung his UFC record to nine wins, seven losses, and one draw while fighting at the very top of the MMA heavyweight scene against dangerous men like Velasquez, Werdum, Arlovski, Lewis, Overeem, Gonzaga, and many others. I should note that out of 18 victories, Browne has as many as 14 knockouts.

Yoel Romero

Yoel Romero Palacio was born in 1977 in Pinar del Río, Cuba. He comes from a wrestling background as a multiple World Champion who owns many gold, silver, and bronze medals from the Olympics, Pan American Competitions, World Cups, and Championships.

Yoel is seen by many as someone who came out of the Cuban laboratory and someone who never ages, and he only started training MMA at the age of 31. After his victorious debut in 2009, it didn’t take long for him to enter the most famous octagon in the world, where he stayed for seven years until his transfer to Bellator.

Romero has nine wins and four losses in the UFC and is a multiple-title challenger in the UFC and Bellator. He achieved important victories against many young and great fighters, and what is most interesting is that he is still active.

Matt Mitrione

Matthew Steven Mitrione was born in 1978 in Springfield, Illinois. Before trying out in the world of mixed martial arts, Mitrione was an American Football player, and he entered the MMA gym for the first time at 29. He immediately debuted at the UFC in 2009 and stayed there until mid-2016 before signing a contract with Bellator, where he performed until his retirement.

He has a record of nine wins and five losses in the UFC. He has impressive knockout victories against heavyweight elite such as Fedor Emelianenko, Gabriel Gonzaga, Derrick Lewis, and Kimbo Slice. Also known by the nickname Meathead, Matt had dynamites in his hands, and out of a total of 13 wins, he perfectly put 11 opponents to sleep.

Stubborn as he is, he needed six defeats in a row in Bellator to convince himself that he had done his job and should say goodbye to the sport.

Chuck Liddell

Charles David Liddell, known to everyone as “The Ice Man,” was born in 1969 in Santa Barbara, California, U.S. He started practicing individual martial arts as a child, practicing boxing, karate, and wrestling, where he excelled in high school.

Before his MMA career, Chuck had an incredible kickboxing record of 20 wins with 16 knockouts and only two losses. He started MMA training at the age of 29 and made his debut for the UFC at their 17th event and stayed until the very end of his career in 2010.

For the world’s largest martial arts organization, he achieved 16 wins and seven losses. Also, he became the light heavyweight champion with four defense titles by knocking out anyone who stood in his way in his prime during an era when the division was filled with killers with Chuck on top of it.

Shane Carwin

Shane Bannister Carwin was born in 1975 in Greeley, Colorado, United States. He comes from a wrestling background, which he started at the age of six, participating in college tournaments and winning one gold at the NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships and two silvers.

Only after finishing college and receiving a degree in Engineering did Shane pursue his MMA career at 30. That didn’t stop him from finishing the first eight matches by stoppage, winning the ROF Heavyweight Championship.

Carwom made his UFC debut in 2008 and continued his previous success, knocking out four fighters, including Frank Mir, for the interim heavyweight title. Although he recorded his last two and only losses against Lesnar and Junior Dos Santos, it is safe to say that Shane had one of the better MMA careers, looking at his record.

Kevin Ferguson

The last name is Backyard King Kevin Ferguson, known as Kimbo Slice, born in 1974 in Nassau, Bahamas. We all know how Kimbo started with unsanctioned backyard fights that became an internet sensation and brought him closer to the MMA scene, for which he only started training at 31.

He opened his career in 2007 with the first three knockouts for the EliteXC organization and thus received an unexpected invitation to the UFC, for which he appeared only twice with one win and one loss, but showed that he is a heart fighter regardless of his age.

Kimbo’s cinematic life story can inspire all those who doubt themselves because of their age, making him the living proof of our sentence from the opening paragraph that there is no age limit for MMA.

If this article was helpful to you, don’t forget to add it to your Pinterest board.

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts