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10 Most Influential MMA Fighters

Updated on April 30, 2015

The Biggest Names in the Fastest Growing Sport in the World

When it comes to the history of hand-to-hand combat, it could be said that Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is relatively new phenomenon, but that is precisely the word to describe it, given its impact on the world of combat sports. The Gracie family is accredited with popularizing MMA and since the formation of the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 1993; MMA has gone from strength to strength. Below, we feature the 10 most influential fighters in MMA history.

#10 Wanderlei Silva


Wanderlei Silva Career:

Known as the ‘Axe Murderer’, Wanderlei Silva features in the top 10 lists of most fans when it comes to discussing the best ever fighter. From 2000-2004, he won 18 consecutive fights, 14 by KO and became the biggest star in the sport and one of the most influential. At his peak, Silva was almost bigger than the Pride Fighting Championships promotion itself and whenever news emerged of his next bout, tickets sold out lightning fast and PPV numbers were off the charts. Silva is the head instructor at Wand Fight Team in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Wanderlei Silva Highlight Reel:

#9 Frank Shamrock


Frank Shamrock Career:

He became known as Shamrock even though his real name is Frank Alisio Juarez III and is one of the most experienced veterans in the history of MMA and at his peak, one of the most dangerous. Shamrock became the UFC Light-Heavyweight champion and in his prime was believed to be the #1 pound-for-pound best brawler in MMA. Outside of the Octagon, Shamrock set up Alliance Training Center with Maurice Smith and helped educate others on the importance of cardiovascular health and training exercises. This had a significant impact on future MMA fighters.

Frank Shamrock Highlight Reel:

#8 Pat Miletich


Pat Miletich Career:

Although he became the first ever UFC Welterweight champion and also won the UFC Welterweight 16 Tournament, Pat Miletich is not regarded as one of the all-time great fighters. However, his influence on the sport is vast as he is known as one of the first MMA fighters to blend different fighting styles. His biggest contribution to the sport is undoubtedly the creation of the Miletich Fighting System Camp, which gave trainees a location and opportunity to sharpen their skills with elite fighters.

Pat Miletich Highlight Reel:

#7 Kazushi Sakuraba


Kazushi Sakuraba Career:

Kazushi Sakuraba is renowned as being among the all-time elite in the Pride Fighting Championships and was deemed to be one of the globe’s best fighters at his peak in 2000. As well as being a great champion, Kazushi is remembered for many of his performances in defeat, where he lost like a warrior. He remains as one of the sport’s great ambassadors and is loved and respected worldwide. Arguably his biggest achievement was a succession of victories of members of the Gracie family and he became known as ‘The Gracie Hunter’ because of it! He proved that Gracie fighters were not invincible and paved the way for future stars.

Kazushi Sakuraba Highlight Reel:

#6 Mark Coleman


Mark Coleman Career:

Although the end of his career was marked with a number of defeats, Mark Coleman was the first UFC Heavyweight champion and also won the Pride Grand Prix championship in 2000. He has also been inducted in the UFC Hall of Fame and his biggest achievement might well be establishing wrestling as an important component of MMA. Coleman became known as the ‘Godfather of Ground and Pound’ a technique used by many of the world’s best MMA fighters today.

Mark Coleman Highlight Reel:

#5 Randy Couture


Randy Couture Career:

Almost every MMA fan in the world knows who Randy ‘The Natural’ Couture is due to his charisma and fan-friendly fighting style. One of the most amazing things about Couture is the fact that he only began competitive MMA in his mid-thirties and then became one of the sport’s biggest stars worldwide. As well as winning titles, Couture is known for appearances in Hollywood movies such as The Expendables and has helped popularize the sport.

Randy Couture Highlight Reel:

#4 Anderson Silva


Anderson Silva Career:

Anderson 'The Spider’ Silva is often regarded as the single greatest fighter to ever set foot in the Octagon, though his recent shock defeat to Chris Weidman has slightly dented his reputation. Silva has extraordinary all-round ability and has shown MMA fighters that it is possible to master all aspects of combat. He is a Muay Thai expert that fights brilliantly while standing up, but can also end bouts in seconds with a sudden submission move.

Anderson Silva Highlight Reel:

#3 Georges St-Pierre


Georges St-Pierre Career:

His most loyal fans could make a case for Georges St-Pierre being the best MMA fighter ever and many experts deem him to be the ‘complete’ package. He is deemed to be the model all young MMA fighters should look at when it comes to training methods and is the face of the sport in the modern era. He is professional and charismatic outside the Octagon and explosive inside of it. St-Pierre has avenged his only two losses in fine style and is so famous that he is simply known as GSP.

Georges St-Pierre Highlight Reel:

#2 Chuck Liddell


Chuck Liddell Career:

Chuck ‘The Iceman’ Liddell is often regarded as the first true megastar of UFC and has garnered incredible fame worldwide. From 2005-2007, Liddell went on an incredible run by first winning the UFC Light Heavyweight title from Randy Couture and then defeating a string of legendary opponents in thrilling bouts. A combination of his ferocity and intensity in the Octagon and his down-to-earth attitude outside of the ring ensured crossover appeal and a huge fan base. Liddell is also famous for his ‘sprawl and brawl’ technique which involved knocking out opponents while on his back foot.

Chuck Liddell Highlight Reel:

#1 Royce Gracie


Royce Gracie Career:

Royce Gracie earned the title ‘World’s Most Dangerous Man’ recognition and enjoyed a Hall of Fame career. He became the first ever UFC champion and is accredited with transforming combat sports forever. Gracie looked rather unassuming but his opponents soon discovered his considerable skill to their cost. He introduced Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and techniques that confused and astonished opponents and viewers alike. Gracie’s incredible 90-minute fight against Kazushi Sakuraba is believed by many to be the greatest MMA fight ever and proved the inspiration for many fighters to pursue a career in Mixed Martial Arts. The Gracie family is deemed to be the founder of submission fighting techniques in MMA.

Royce Gracie Highlight Reel:


The information provided in this Hub is gathered by Sandoval Freestyle Karate - a Gilbert and Chandler, Arizona martial arts academy. While not all of the names on this list are in the top 10 or even top 20 best MMA fighters of all time, they all deserve a place on any list relating to influence on the sport.

This list of the ten most influential mixed-martial artists of all time is intended to bring light to some of the biggest names in the sport. The opinions are of the author and may not be the opinions of each reader. We thank you for taking the time to stop by and to read our Hub and ask that if you don't agree with the choices we've made to either: (i) vote for the individual you believe to be the best MMA fighter of all-time below, or (ii) use the comment form to tell us what you disagree with.

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    • PoeticPhilosophy profile image

      PoeticPhilosophy 4 years ago from Canada

      In my opinion I don't agree with the order but I like the list, all of them made a big impact on MMA and are influential. Thanks :)