Creating a list with the best American MMA fighter can be a challenging task, and we will provide more information on how we picked the names for this top. You can also find out more here about MMA fighters who made a career in the sport, along with interesting details.
Based on their achievements, career highlights, personal characteristics, and many other things that make an MMA fighter great, we settled for the following names.
#1 Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva
We can’t overlook Anderson Silva for the first spot for one simple reason. He is the only one who made UFC president Dana White say that he is the ‘greatest mixed martial artist ever’. From this exact quote, someone who never saw Silva fighting might not gather much, except for the obvious, which is that he impressed the UFC president to such degrees.
Silva started his career in 1997, and his prime was between 2006 and 2012. Even before reaching his prime, he made a name for himself, going for 16 to 4. One other thing that makes him such an excellent name for MMA as a sport is his ability to introduce non-traditional moves to the ring, such as the side kick to the knees.
#2 Fedor Emelianenko
In his prime, which was between 2001 and 2009, Emelianenko was never defeated, which says plenty about his greatness. As a heavyweight, he was unmatched during his prime, and he is clearly legend material.
His stoic demeanor, as well as his success rate of 35 to 4, recommend this name as the second right after Silva, and many experts agree that he deserves this place.
#3 George St. Pierre
For many aspiring athletes, George St. Pierre is a household name. Besides a glorious career as an MMA fighter, he is also known for the training and educational materials he has created over the years to help others attain perfect form for the ring.
His overall record is 26-2, but there are many other things about his career that are worth noting down. With only two losses, one by stoppage, and one by TKO, his name is a synonym to mainstream success. As far as his longevity is concerned, his prime pretty much stretched across his entire career.
#4 Matt Hughes
During his prime, which went from 2001 to 2009, Hughes had a success rate of 19 to 1. His revenge for his only loss against B.J. Penn is still considered one of the best MMA fights ever to take place. One of his most outstanding wins is, of course, the one against George St. Pierre is often mentioned.
Experts consider Hughes the MMA fighter who opened the door to the modern era of the sport. In top form, he was also acclaimed as the fighter with the best defense in the ring.
#5 Royce Gracie
Going back in time, we cannot fail to mention Royce Gracie. Although his loss against Matt Hughes mentioned earlier meant the end for his career, but also a new dawn for the sport, he is one of the biggest names that deserve a place on this list.
With three UFC tournaments won, Gracie made a name for a sport that was in the making. His superior style made him win against all the 11 opponents during these tournaments via submission. The ability to incorporate elements of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in his technique, as well as the capacity to resist and beat opponents much heavier than he makes this place in the top well deserved for Gracie.
#6 Wanderlei Silva
One of the fighters with the most extended longevity in this top, Silva proved that an athlete’s career in this sport could span almost two decades. His prime happened from 2000 to 2006, and one interesting aspect is that, during this time, he fought outside UFC, which is rarely the case for most fighters.
The trait that made Silva such a redoubtable adversary was his reputation of a stand-up fighter. Willing to take a punch to deliver a blow, he won against many high-level opponents. Also, he never stepped down from a challenge, fighting heavyweights as much as he fought other fighters in his category.
#7 Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Nogueira’s prime happened between 2000 and 2008, a time during which many high-level fighters had their primes, as well. Nonetheless, Nogueira stood his ground, and while he only briefly held the heavyweight title, he still managed to make a long-lasting impression on the enthusiasts following the sport.
With belts won in Pride and UFC, to this day, Nogueira has the reputation of one of the best submission fighters ever to have entered the ring.
#8 Randy Couture
Couture’s career spans from 1997 to 2011, so, in itself, his longevity speaks of his ability as a fighter. The reason why he is not ranked higher on this top is that his prime, according to experts, practically happened between 2000 and 2001 when he won six fights out of seven.
Nonetheless, Couture managed to win the heavyweight belt, and he also defended it on two occasions. What must also be mentioned is that he began fighting professionally at 33, an age at which many fighters consider retiring.
#9 Bas Rutten
With a record of 20-0-1 between 1995 and 1997, Rutten made his indelible mark on MMA, during a time when the sport was far from the glamorous thing it is today. His short career is what makes him score under other fighters on this list, but it must be mentioned that injuries were what took him out of the ring.
#10 Kazushi Sakuraba
The one who was named ‘The Gracie Hunter’ due to his victories against all the prominent fighters with this name – Royler, Royce, Renzo, and Ryan – Sakuraba entered MMA Hall of Fame in 2017, due to his outstanding career. His impressive number of intangibles put him in this position, as his capacity to prove that Gracie Jiu-Jitsu could be beaten.