Bisping, Hardy, Till: The best British MMA fighters in history ahead of UFC London

  • Tom Ward
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Tom Aspinall can record one of the all-time great wins for a Brit on home soil should he defeat Russian veteran Alexander Volkov.

The UFC returns to London this weekend as Aspinall takes on Volkov at the O2 Arena on March 19.

A win for Aspinall – who is a training partner of Darren Till – would keep him in the running to face Francis Ngannou for the heavyweight title.

But it will also see him make a claim to being one of the best British fighters in MMA history on Saturday night.

Here, GIVEMESPORT runs down the top ten – the kind of list the likes of Arnold Allen, Molly McCann, Paddy Pimblett and Jack Shore will all hope to be on in the future.

MACAU – AUGUST 23: Michael Bisping celebrates after winning his middleweight fight against Cung Le of USA during the UFC Fight Night at The Venetian Macao Cotai Arena on August 23, 2014 in Macau, China. (Photo by Victor Fraile/Getty Images)

1. Michael Bisping

Starting with the most obvious one first, Michael Bisping is without a doubt the greatest MMA fighter ever to come from these shores.

Despite only having one eye, Bisping, 43, is the only British UFC champion in the history of MMA.

An analyst and pundit for ESPN, Bisping defeated Anderson Silva in February 2016, starched Luke Rockhold in June 2016, and avenged his defeat to Dan Henderson in October 2016.

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 12: Dan Hardy looks on during a UFC media session with the AFL Gold Coast Suns at Metricon Stadium on December 12, 2012 on the Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

2. Dan Hardy

Dan Hardy had the somewhat misfortune of being born in the same era as Georges St-Pierre.

Like Bisping, Hardy also fought a who’s-who of MMA including Carlos Condit, Anthony Johnson, Rory Markham and Mike Swick, winning far more than he lost.

Nicknamed The Outlaw, Hardy also showed a tremendous amount of courage when he twice refused to tap to St-Pierre much to the delight of the New Jersey crowd in March 2010.

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 27: Brad Pickett of England celebrates his victory over Francisco Rivera of USA during the Bantamweight Bout of the UFC Fight Night at The O2 Arena on February 27, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

3 Brad Pickett

A personal favourite of UFC president Dana White, Brad Pickett always tried to put on a show for the fans no matter the occasion.

‘One Punch’, 43, was known for his aggressive fighting style, able to finish a fight either on the feet or on the floor. Did we mention he also holds a win over Demetrious Johnson as well?

His protege Nathaniel Wood returns to action against Vince Morales on the undercard of Aspinall’s upcoming clash with Volkov later this week.

Dec 7, 2018; Toronto, ON, Canada; Jimi Manuwa poses as he weighs in during weigh-ins for UFC 231 at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

4. Jimi Manuwa

Jimi Manuwa‘s stint in the UFC was a rollercoaster of a ride for as long as it lasted.

The Londoner made his debut against Kyle Kingsbury back in September 2012 and went on to have a further eleven fights before retiring at the age of 40 in June 2019.

In that run, he beat the likes of Corey Anderson, Jan Blachowicz and Ovince Saint Preux.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 08: Ross Pearson shapes up to Al Iaquinta in their lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night 55 event at Allphones Arena on November 8, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

5. Ross Pearson

Ross Pearson – aka ‘The Real Deal’ – was never ever in a dull fight.

Fighting out of Sunderland, the 37-year-old won the ninth season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ in 2009.

Pearson, who is now retired, shared many a bloody battle with the likes of Edson Barboza, Paul Felder and Al Iaquinta before eventually leaving the UFC after nine years with the promotion.

ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS – SEPTEMBER 02: Darren Till of England celebrates victory against Bojan Velickovic of Serbia after their Welterweight bout during the UFC Fight Night at Ahoy on September 2, 2017 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

6. Darren Till

One of three other title challengers on this list, Darren Till challenged Tyron Woodley

And while he came up short, he has remained a firm fan favourite ever since.

GLENDALE, ARIZONA – JUNE 12: Leon Edwards of Jamaica prepares to fight Nate Diaz during their UFC 263 welterweight match at Gila River Arena on June 12, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona.

7. Leon Edwards

Although he’s arguably the most underrated fighter in British MMA history, Leon Edwards‘s record speaks for itself.

A battering of American icon Donald Cerrone was followed by wins over Gunnar Nelson and Rafael dos Anjos, not to mention a virtually one-sided beatdown of Nate Diaz barring the last 25 seconds or so.

Up next Edwards will face Kamaru Usman in a rematch for the welterweight title later this year, according to reports.

LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 18: Paul Daley poses for a portrait during the Bellator 158 MMA Press Conference at the Four Seasons Hotel on April 18, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)

8. Paul Daley

Paul Daley’s UFC stint didn’t exactly last very long.

But while he was there it was thoroughly entertaining by all accounts.

‘Semtex’ was known for his explosive power and ruthless nature.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – JANUARY 22: In this handout image provided by the UFC, Joanne Calderwood of Scotland poses on the scale during the UFC 257 weigh-in at Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 22, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

9. Joanne Wood

Joanne Calderwood became Scotland’s first MMA star to be signed to the UFC in December 2013.

But that’s not all. In fact, she is one of the early pioneers of women’s MMA.

Better know as JoJo, Wood – no relation to Nathaniel – started training in Muay Thai at the age of 13, and it’s fair to say she hasn’t looked back since.

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10. Ian Freeman

Finally, Ian Freeman takes up the final place on the list.

Freeman, now 55, claimed the Cage Rage heavyweight title in a highly-anticipated grudge match against Ryan Robinson but was never the same after the contest.

He did, however, become the first man to beat Frank Mir in what was arguably one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport at the time.

READ MORE: Tom Aspinall drafts in Tyson Fury’s old sparring partner to help him prepare for UFC London

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