Since the inception of UFC in 1993, the Octagon has seen more than its fair share of incredible MMA fighters, many of whom are still fighting today, tallying up the prestige. Consequently, picking the greatest of all time can be a wholly subjective pursuit.
Former lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov‘s recent retirement from the sport has got people talking about the GOAT again, though. The unbeaten Dagestani hung up his gloves with a 29-0 record and there are many an analyst and fan who claim him as the best competitor in the history of MMA.
I don’t personally want to argue with Khabib because of my dodgy knee, but legendary American light heavyweight Jon ‘Bones’ Jones – who surrendered his belt so as ‘not to hold up the division’ last year – certainly took exception to Khabib being the consensus agreed best of all time, mocking The Eagle’s record and opponents in a recent Twitter post that was later deleted.
Bones, as they call him, has every right to stake his claim for being the best of all time; the 33-year-old has never been beaten in the Octagon; the solitary loss on his record came due to a fight-stopping illegal elbow vs Matt Hamill more than a decade ago.
Besides which, Jon Jones isn’t the only other fighter who can stake a claim to being the UFC’s GOAT; there are others who have held multiple belts at different weight classes; featured in legendary fights, and raised the bar for the sport as a whole.
Fortunately for us all, Ollie Lewis of Sportsmail has cast his eye over the top contenders for the UFC’s greatest of all time crown.
Take a look at his picks and his ratings out of 10 below.
As mentioned, Jon ‘Bones’ Jones has dominated the light heavyweight division for over a decade, seeing off a murderer’s row of supreme championship challengers (and in their prime, too). The likes of Rashad Evans, Shogan Rua, Rampage Jackson and Daniel Cormier have all come out second-best against Jones’ long limbs and accurate strikes.
Jones can claim the most title wins in UFC history (14) and the most title defences (11).
In truth, the only thing marring Jones’ record is his own battles with PEDs and a series of indiscretions with the law, most notably a hit-and-run incident that occurred in 2015 — take this last paragraph away and I honestly don’t think there would even be a market for this article; the only man ever to truly beat Jon Jones is Jon Jones.
Sportsmail’s UFC GOAT rating: 8/10
Having never lost a fight in his career (29-0) and retiring as the UFC lightweight champion of the world, Dagestani wrestling practitioner Khabib Nurmgomdeov has every right to consider himself the best to ever do it inside the Octagon.
In his final three fights before riding off into the sunset, The Eagle dismantled plucky opponents Justin Gaethje, Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor, making each victory look far too easy. Khabib was unchallenged and an early ‘walk-off’ retirement was the right option, in my opinion.
Welterweight kickboxer Stephen Thompson chipped into the debate recently, stating: “I don’t think having more title defences puts you as the Greatest of All Time. For a man like Khabib, who has kept his word, follows the rules, he is an honourable man. Do I think he deserves the pound-for-pound over Jon Jones? Yes, I do. But then you have GSP…”
Nurmagomedov’s Sportsmail UFC GOAT rating: 9/10
GSP is probably the most technically proficient MMA fighter ever to step foot inside the Octagon and can claim victories over the likes of Nick Diaz, Carlos Condit and Matt Hughes among others in his storied career.
Unlike Jones and Nurmagomedov, and perhaps giving GSP an edge in the debate, the three-time welterweight champion won titles in two separate weight divisions, most recently defeating the UK’s own Michael Bisping in 2017 to take home the middleweight belt which he would later vacate.
GSP may have a couple of Ls on his record to Matt Serra and Matt Hughes, but the Canadian always rebounded strongly and absolutely deserves to be in the GOAT discussion.
Sportsmail’s UFC GOAT rating: 9/10
One of the most creative strikers ever seen in MMA, Anderson Silva spent the greater part of a decade (2006-2014) being heralded as the greatest to ever lace up the gloves inside the Octagon.
It was during this period that Silva went on a 16-fight winning run, capped off by an array of spectacular knockouts of his opponents that thrilled and captivated MMA fight fans the world over — in many ways, Silva is the UFC’s first global superstar.
Who can forget that incredible front-kick that switched off Vitor Belfort? Without a doubt, one of the most spectacular highlights in UFC history.
Unfortunately, Silva was probably guilty of hanging around in the sport for a few too many years. Crushing losses to forgotten man Chris Weidman and a controversial defeat on British soil to home favourite Michael Bisping (among others) has seen Silva’s record slip to 34-11.
On top of that, in his later years, Silva was caught using PEDs on multiple occasions…
The most entertaining fighter of all time, certainly; the fighter in possession of the greatest highlight reel of strikes and KOs, definitely. But is Silva the GOAT?
Sportsmail’s UFC GOAT rating: 7/10
Demetrious Johnson was the flyweight champion in the UFC for six years, defending the belt on no fewer than 11 occasions (a record).
Losing the title to Henry Cejudo before switching promotions to Bellator has probably damaged Mighty Mouse’s stock in this debate a touch, but make no mistake, he is one of the greatest champions in the history of any sport — a six-year title reign is no mean feat!
Sportsmail’s UFC GOAT rating: 7/10
Amanda Nunes is the unchallenged greatest female fighter in the history of MMA – that goes without saying.
The Brazilian currently holds two belts (bantamweight and featherweight) and is in the midst of an 11-fight winning streak.
She’s beaten every big name in the business: Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, Cris Cyborg, Holly Holm — literally the best of all-time in women’s MMA — and she blasted each of them out in the very first round of the bout.
Undoubtedly the greatest female competitor to ever step foot inside the Octagon, all that remains now is to see if Amanda Nunes is one day considered the GOAT of both sexes — in my book, she already is.
Sportsmail’s UFC GOAT rating 8/10
Though recent form (three defeats in his last five bouts) has all-but put an end to McGregor‘s claim that he is the GOAT, it’s worth remembering that, at his peak, the cocksure Irishman was a two-division world champion (featherweight and lightweight), and that he did KO an elite catalogue of fighters en route to becoming the self-anointed ‘Champ-Champ.’
Dustin Poirier, Max Holloway (judges’ decision), Chad Mendes, Jose Aldo and Eddie Alvarez can all lay claim to being put to sleep by the Notorious one.
On top of that, though, McGregor might not be the best MMA fighter to ever grace the UFC, but no other fighter can touch the brash Irishman on the microphone — his hilarious antics at pre-fight press conferences are one of the big reasons for the continued growth of MMA around the world, and McGregor can be credited with bringing an entirely new audience to the sport, so he’s worthy of consideration in that sense at least; McGregor is almost certainly Dana White’s GOAT ($$$).
Sportsmail’s GOAT rating: 5/10