Conor McGregor, pre his third retirement in four years, started up a very interesting debate recently.
The Notorious one headed to Twitter to vocalise his thoughts on the ‘GOAT’ arguments that have been taking over social media recently. Conor, the first ever simultaneous two-weight World Champion in UFC history, ranked himself as “2nd if not joint first” behind the legendary Anderson Silva and ahead of the likes of Jon Jones and Georges St-Pierre.
Many laughed at the notion of McGregor being so high up on his own list, myself included. So I, inspired by the tweets and my friends at 8 Sides Podcast decided to do a Top 10 and see where I actually ranked him.
#10 Jose Aldo (28-6*)
Jose Aldo until recently was regarded as the greatest Featherweight that ever lived. The Brazilian native was handed the inaugural belt in the UFC after the organisation’s purchase of WEC and defended it an unprecedented 7 times in 4 years before his devastating KO loss to Conor McGregor.
Wins against guys like Chad Mendes (twice), Frankie Edgar (twice), Kenny Florian, Urijah Faber, Ricardo Lamas, Korean Zombie and Jeremy Stephens mean his CV holds up against anyone else on this list. That said, the loss to Conor came as he entered his prime years in the game and have seen him go on somewhat of a downward spiral since. Defeats to Max Holloway (twice), Alex Volkanovski and Marlon Moraes (135lbs) have seen him go 3-5 in his last 8.
Despite this, Dana White has said recently that the UFC is looking to have Aldo compete for the newly-vacant 135lbs belt soon so a win in that fight could see him stake a claim for a higher place on this list.
#9 Conor McGregor (22-4)
Well, that was quick. The former Featherweight and Lightweight World champion, as well as two victories at 170lbs, McGregor is most definitely worthy of being on this list. A phenomenal record that includes wins over fighter like Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes, Dustin Poirier, Max Holloway, Nate Diaz, Eddie Alvarez and Cowboy Cerrone, McGregor constantly backs up his trash talk with big performances inside the Octagon.
The reason he’s so low down is that despite both of those title wins coming in emphatic fashion, he never actually defended those belts. After KO’ing Jose Aldo in 13 seconds, McGregor went on a voyage through the divisions. He was originally scheduled to fight Rafael Dos Anjos for the lightweight title immediately after, but RDA withdrew injured. That led to Nate Diaz stepping in on late notice and we all know what happened after that. By the time he’d defeated Alvarez to become a duel-weight champion, the Featherweight division was held up. The UFC stripped him of the belt and awarded it back to Aldo. McGregor then transitioned to boxing to fight Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather. He didn’t fight in the UFC following the Alvarez fight until his return to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov over three years later. The UFC moved on.
McGregor’s CV is undeniable but with all the gaps and questions left unanswered about his career, it’s hard to rank him any higher.
#8 Demetrious Johnson (30-3*)
Arguably the most complete fighter in Flyweight history, DJ’s record speaks volumes about his ability. Wins over Joseph Benavidez (twice), Henry Cejudo, John Dodson (twice), Ray Borg, Wilson Reis, Kyoji Horiguchi, Ian McCall and others saw ‘Mighty Mouse’ go on a 13-fight win streak including 11 successful title defences.
He would win fights in all ways too, with his iconic flying armbar against Ray Borg a particular highlight. Only 5 TKO/KO wins to his name is surprising considering how crisp his striking was throughout his tenure. Often dismissed by UFC management for his lack of draw, it didn’t help that Johnson literally cleaned out his entire division. He was so dominant, there was talk of a super-fight between he and TJ Dillashaw to spice the division up. That fell apart however when he suffered a controversial defeat to Henry Cejudo and lost the belt.
He left shortly the UFC shortly after that in a trade for Ben Askren to ONE Championship, but his skillset often has people wishing he was bigger physically so he could have fought more top level fighters in different divisions.
#7 Henry Cejudo (16-2)
An Olympic Gold medalist in freestyle wrestling, Cejudo’s legacy extends far beyond the sport of MMA. His legacy in this sport stands up with the best ever though. He has wins over Demetrious Johnson, TJ Dillashaw, Marlon Moraes, Dominick Cruz, Sergio Pettis, Wilson Reis and Jussier Formiga across two weight divisions and held both the Flyweight and Bantamweight titles simultaneously.
After losing to Mighty Mouse by KO and then to Joseph Benavidez by decision in 2016, ‘The Chosen One’ never lost again. He avenged his defeat to Johnson in a controversial decision win, before KO’ing TJ Dillashaw in a champion vs champion bout in just 32 seconds. At that point he moved up to Dillashaw’s Bantamweight division and took his belt, beating Marlon Moraes by KO for the vacant title following Dillashaw’s suspension. To top it off, he defeated the consensus greatest Bantamweight of all-time in Dominick Cruz via second-round knockout in May, handing Cruz only his 3rd defeat ever.
Cejudo retired following that win and vacated his belts, meaning he retired from the sport having held two titles in two different weight classes and having beaten the consensus G.O.A.T in both those divisions too. Not bad for the ‘King of Cringe’, eh?
#6 Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0*)
Undefeated, untroubled and unchallenged. Khabib Nurmagomedov is the greatest lightweight of all time and has defeated all comers, including Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, Al Iaquinta, Edson Barboza, Rafael Dos Anjos and Michael Johnson.
An unblemished record at this level of MMA is an unheard of accomplishment, so when Khabib continues to take on all challengers without complaint and beats them (usually convincingly) it’s hard not to have him high up on this list. His style of completely overwhelming an opponent to the point where they just completely lose hope is a sight that fans enjoy watching despite it’s dominance. ‘The Eagle’ is also a massive draw commercially, having been a part of the biggest PPV in UFC history when he main-evented UFC 229 with Conor McGregor, while he was also the headline attraction for the organisation’s first card in Abu Dhabi against Dustin Poirier.
He’s expected to defend the title against Justin Gaethje later this year, while other challengers like Tony Ferguson still wait in the wings. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he beats both Gaethje and ‘El Cucoy’ and then retires with an unflappable 30-0 record as the undisputed best lightweight of all time.
#5 Daniel Cormier (22-2*)
The baddest man on the planet for a long time, but also one of the greatest minds in MMA. Cormier was the reigning champion in both the Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight divisions, defending both belts successfully. He has wins over Stipe Miocic, Derrick Lewis, Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson, Alexander Gustafsson, Anderson Silva, Dan Henderson, Roy Nelson, Frank Mir and Volkan Oezdemir during his career, proving he knows how to come out on top on the big occasion.
Cormier, a teammate of Khabib, ranks at No.5 mainly due to the double title wins. He held both belts simultaneously after moving up from 205lbs to defeat Stipe Miocic by 1st round KO, before the UFC forced him to vacate the Light Heavyweight belt. He defended that belt too before losing to Stipe, and a rubber match is slated for this year before he retires.
DC’s only fault is that he could never beat Jon Jones. He lost a decision to Jones in their first bout before being head-kick KO’d in their second (later overturned to a NC). Other than those results, Cormier would without be the greatest big-man the sport has ever seen, having dominated the Light Heavyweight division in Jones’ absence while also only ever losing once at heavyweight.
#4 Amanda Nunes (20-4*)
The undisputed, greatest female fighter of all-time. The Lioness extended her winning record at UFC250 with a win over Felicia Spencer, adding another former champion to her resumé. Nunes has beaten Germaine De Randamie (twice), Valentina Shevchenko (twice), Miesha Tate, Holly Holm, Raquel Pennington, Cris Cyborg and Ronda Rousey in her career, with the latter two taking her just a combined 1:39 to KO.
She’s a two-weight World Champion, holding both the Bantamweight and Featherweight titles at the same time. She has beaten every single woman to have held a title in the UFC in her two weight divisions, all while improving and growing as an all-round mixed martial artist in the process. She is the hardest hitting female in history, and yet ironically won her first belt by tapping-out Miesha Tate via RNC. She’s currently on a 11-fight win streak, having not tasted defeat since 2014.
While nobody is truly sure what’s next for Nunes, her legacy is cemented as the first fighter (male or female) to defend two titles in two weight divisions successfully while simultaneously holding both belts. A true GOAT.
#3 Anderson Silva (34-10*)
The Spider is one of the most charismatic and dominant champions in UFC history. A legendary figure among MMA fighters and fans, Silva has wins over Chris Leben, Rich Franklin, Dan Henderson, Forest Griffin, Demian Maia, Chael Sonnen (twice), Vitor Belfort, Yushin Okami and Stephan Bonnar on his CV.
The Brazilian dominated the middleweight division in his prime, defending the Middleweight title 10 times after unifying the division with the Pride title. He fought in both middleweight and light-heavyweight divisions throughout his career and until his career began to wind down he was unbeaten in both. His first loss in middleweight came after he was mocking Chris Weidman and got KO’d with a grazing right hand, before breaking his leg famously in the rematch. The leg break was a defining moment in his career that he never really recovered from. He lost at light-heavyweight to champion Daniel Cormier at UFC 200 as a late replacement. He’s suffered with several positive drug tests since USADA came in which has somewhat damaged his reputation too.
Since his broken leg Silva’s record reads 1-5-1NC, showing just how much it really affected him. He continues to fight even at 45 years old. Despite the recent damage his record has taken, his legacy remains untouched and he will go down as one of the greatest fighters of all-time.
#2 Georges St-Pierre (26-2)
The consensus greatest welterweight of all time, and it’s hard to argue. GSP’s record is phenomenal, having lost just twice in his entire career across two weight divisions. At welterweight, ‘Rush’ has wins over legends such as Frank Trigg, Matt Serra, BJ Penn (twice), Matt Hughes (twice), Dan Hardy, Jon Fitch, Josh Koshcheck, Jake Shields, Carlos Condit, Nick Diaz and Johny Hendricks, while he won the middleweight title by submitting Michael Bisping following a four-year hiatus from the sport.
At his peak, GSP was one of the most complete fights around. Of his 26 wins, he has 8 KO/TKO’s, 6 submissions and 12 decisions proving he can beat you in a variety of ways and was always dangerous. He improved his wrestling skills following defeat to Matt Hughes and never looked back. His two defeats were avenged and he went on a hot streak of 12 successive wins. That 12th win however came against Johny Hendricks, who many believe won the fight. Dana White famously said in the post-fight press conference, “I’m blown away that Georges St-Pierre won that fight.” He retired from the sport immediately following that fight before returning to beat Bisping and retire again.
Had it not been for the several year hiatus plus the controversy surrounding his win over Hendricks, he might well have been top of this list.
#1 Jon Jones (26-1*)
The consensus greatest of all time, Jonny ‘Bones’ Jones comes in at No.1 of this list too. The reigning Light Heavyweight champion’s only blemish on an incredible record is a dodgy disqualification he suffered against Matt Hamill for 12-6 elbows. With wins over Daniel Cormier, Shogun Rua, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida, Vitor Belfort, Chael Sonnen, Rampage Jackson, Glover Teixeira, Alexander Gustafsson (twice) and Ryan Bader he has beaten 6 former UFC champions.
A career littered with controversy, including failed drugs tests and run-ins with the law, Jones has never let any of it affect his in-cage performances. He’s dominated everyone he’s stepped in a cage with and has rarely looked troubled. His most recent fight against Dominick Reyes was the first time people had seen a fight look like it may get away from him.
Despite missing several years through suspensions, Jones is still only 32 years old. He is the youngest champion in UFC history after winning the Light Heavyweight title for the first time in 2011 and has never lost the belt (although Cormier held the title while Jones was suspended and stripped of the belt). He has knockouts and submissions. Wrestling, striking and grappling are all trademarks of his style and he’s publicly stated that he trains in his opponents style “to beat them at their own game”. He is the best ever and if he ever loses it will be a monumental moment in the history of sport, not just MMA.