Over the last few decades, the sport of mixed martial arts has become one of the most beloved sports in the world. From its origins as being a seldom-covered niche sport, to its current status as one of the premier combat sports in the world, MMA is showing no signs of slowing down.
The sport has been fueled not only by the artistic and technical brutality of it, but also by its tremendous champions. These stars have become household names, both because of their superiority in the Octagon and their larger-than-life personalities. Here are some of the most decorated MMA fighters.
Already decorated in the world of judo (she won the bronze at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing), Ronda Rousey made her mixed martial arts debut in 2010. She turned pro in 2011 and proceeded to run roughshod through the sport in a way no other female fighter has done before or since.
Rousey would earn the distinction of being the first female fighter to join the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). She would defend her bantamweight belt six times in the UFC from 2013 to 2015, only once going past the first round. A master in the area of striking, grappling and submission, nine of her 12 professional victories were accomplished in under a minute.
Rousey did much more for the sport of MMA than simply dominate in the cage. Her star power grew beyond the Octagon, as she appeared in several blockbuster films and is currently in the WWE. She is a huge reason the women’s division of the UFC has grown to what it is today.
Georges St-Pierre is a French-Canadian mixed martial artist who has dominated the welterweight division for over a decade. A black belt in several different forms of martial arts, St-Pierre is a master tactician able to adapt to any style and wear an opponent down with his enormous array of moves. Many of his fights have been won as a result of a unanimous decision by the judges, proving that he is playing chess while his opponents are playing checkers.
The UFC record books are filled with Georges St-Pierre’s name. He is currently tied with Michael Bisping for the most victories in UFC history. He is also the all-time leader in takedowns, wins by decision, bantamweight title defenses and consecutive bantamweight title defenses. Due to the technical nature of his fighting style, he has aged gracefully in the Octagon, seemingly never losing a step. The 36-year-old is open to fighting again if the right opportunity presents itself. Hopefully, we will get the opportunity to see this all-time great in action again.
This Brazilian mixed martial artist, nicknamed “The Spider,” is one of the greatest ever both for his dominance and his longevity. He currently holds the UFC records for most knockdowns, most title victories and longest winnings streak. He has been a mainstay in the middleweight and light heavyweight division for over a decade.
Silva is one of the most versatile fighters MMA has ever seen. Unlike some champions, whose victories usually occur in a specific fashion, Silva has won fights in a variety of ways throughout his career. He is an elite striker and counter-striker and has a developed ground game. He also has the ability to switch from fighting orthodox to southpaw, without it compromising his performance. Simply put, “The Spider” can beat you in many different ways and continues to hold his own in the Octagon at the age of 42.
It is because of iconic fighters like these that the sport of mixed martial arts continues to grow in popularity. Today, boys and girls everywhere can look up to the likes of Ronda Rousey, Georges St-Pierre or Anderson Silva for inspiration to become a combat athlete themselves (hopefully they have mouthguards and athletic cups to protect themselves in the ring). These champions transcended the confines of their sport, becoming heroes in their countries for their tremendous accomplishments.
Somewhere out there, the next Ronda Rousey is watching YouTube clips of her dominating an opponent in under a minute. At the same time, a young boy is studying the flawless techniques of Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva, trying to understand what made them so great. MMA has been fortunate enough to feature these tremendous athletes. Who knows what the next generation of stars will accomplish in this incredible sport?