Monday, August 15, 2022

The 11 Best British MMA Fighters Of All Time

Some of the best British MMA fighters will be on display when the UFC returns to London this weekend. A proud fighting nation, the UK has for years produced scores of talented fighters who’ve made an immense impact on the MMA world.

Let’s take a look at the 11 best British MMA fighters of all time.

11. Molly McCann

With seven wins in the UFC and now in the prime of her career, Liverpool’s Molly McCann is on track to become Britain’s best ever female fighter. “Meatball” first came to prominence in the UK based Cage Warriors promotion, becoming its women’s flyweight champ in 2018.

That win saw McCann earn a place in the UFC, where she’s carved out a solid 7-3 record. She’s currently riding back-to-back wins, with her most recent coming via a stunning spinning back elbow KO against Luana Carolina at UFC London in March this year.

10. Jimi Manuwa

Jimi Manuwa may have ended his career with multiple consecutive losses, but he started it in phenomenal fashion. Such was the Londoner’s KO power that he didn’t fight for a full three rounds until his sixteenth bout, some seven years into his professional career.

“Poster Boy” claimed the light heavyweight title of London based promotion Ultimate Challenge MMA in just his fifth fight and thereafter defended his crown five times. He spent seven years in the UFC, achieving wins over future champ Jan Blachowicz, Ovince Saint Preux and Corey Anderson.

9. Paul Craig

The dark-horse of the UFC light heavyweight division, Scotland’s Paul Craig has in recent years resurrected his career and established himself as one of MMA’s most dangerous jiu-jitsu specialists.

Fighting across a number of UK based promotions, the “Bear Jew” achieved eight submission victories in his first nine fights, seven of which came in the first round, winning the FightStar light heavyweight title in the process.

Paul Craig

Craig entered the UFC in 2016, and while he experienced a rough patch early on, he’s now riding a four-fight win streak, which has included first-round wins over Jamahal Hill and Nikita Krylov. Incredibly, Craig has gone to a decision just once in his career, with 13 of his 16 wins coming via submission.

8. Ross Pearson

Hailing from Sunderland, England’s Ross Pearson doesn’t have the most glamourous MMA record, but he’ll surely be remembered as one of the best scrappers to come out of Britain.

Pearson first entered the mainstream in the ninth installment of The Ultimate Fighter, which was billed as the UK vs the US. Pearson featured as a pivotal part of the British team, winning the lightweight finale against Andre Winner.

In 2009, “The Real Deal” entered the UFC, where he fought for almost a decade and achieved notable wins against the likes of Gray Maynard and Paul Felder. Pearson would end his UFC stint with a 12-13-1 record.

Ross Pearson

7. Paul Daley

With a career spanning 18 years and 64 fights, and with an astonishing 35 knockouts to his name, Paul Daley is one of the most prolific and talented MMA fighters to come out of Britain.

The Londoner won the Cage Rage British welterweight title in 2006. Three years later, he was in the UFC, where he won his first two fights by knockout, earning him a title eliminator against Josh Koscheck.

Daley would lose via unanimous decision, but it’s what he did after the bell that stole the headlines and changed the trajectory of his career. At the end of the third and final round, “Semtex” approached Koscheck from behind and attempted to sucker-punch him with a left hook—an act that saw him blacklisted from the UFC.

Daley would eventually find his way into Strikeforce, where in 2011 he lost his welterweight title fight via first-round TKO to Nick Diaz. Now 39-years-old, Daley currently fights in Bellator, where since 2012 he’s carved out a 10-5 record.

6. Michael Page

One of the most exciting fighters to come out of the UK, Michael Page has for years been a staple of Bellator’s welterweight division. For “Venom,” martial arts has been a life-long calling. The Londoner began training at the age of three, and by five, he competed in his first kickboxing tournament.

After stringing together six wins, including one over Douglas Lima, Page challenged for the Bellator interim title in May, losing to Logan Storley via split decision. The 35-year-old’s record now stands at 20-2, which includes 15 finishes and none more eye-widening than his flying knee against Evangelista Santos in 2016. Such was the impact that referee John McCarthy described it as the loudest he had ever heard.

5. Brad Pickett

If there’s one thing many believe British MMA fighters lack, it’s wrestling skills. Englishman Brad Pickett, however, is the notable exception. During the Londoner’s 39-fight career, which saw him compete across four weight classes, Pickett held his own against some of the most experienced American wrestlers.

“One-Punch” first made a name for himself in the UK based Cage Rage promotion, becoming its featherweight champ in just his fifth MMA fight. He then found his way into the WEC, where he picked up the most notable win of his career against future pound-for-pound great Demetrious Johnson.

Entering the UFC in 2011, Picket fought 14 times in the promotion, amassing just five wins. However, his all-action style won him many fans, in addition to five performance bonuses.

Brad Pickett

4. Darren Till

Darren Till might be experiencing the biggest slump of his career right now, but the Liverpudlian’s accomplishments surely warrant his inclusion on any list of the best British MMA fighters.

Making his UFC debut in 2015 at just 22-years-old, it would take Till just over three years to earn a welterweight title shot against the supremely dominant Tyron Woodley. Unbeaten in six fights, Till went into the matchup as the favorite. However, late in round two, “The Gorilla” was rocked by a huge right from Woodley, before succumbing to a D’arce choke shortly after.

Darren Till
Darren Till (Photo: Per Haljestam/USA TODAY Sports)

Since that loss, Till has struggled to capture that scintillating form that propelled him to a title shot at such a young age. A brutal KO loss to Jorge Masvidal saw him move up to middleweight, where on debut, he defeated Kelvin Gastelum. But since then, it’s been more heartache for 29-year-old, having racked up back-to-back losses to Robert Whittaker and Derek Brunson.

3. Dan Hardy

Today, Dan Hardy is best known as one of MMA’s sharpest commentators and analysts. But as a fighter, he’s certainly one of the pioneers of British MMA, having been the first from that region to receive a UFC title shot.

Fighting out of Nottingham, the Englishman first came to prominence in Cage Warriors, where he became welterweight champ in 2005—a year in which Hardy fought an astonishing nine times across three different promotions.

dan hardy
Image Credit: Esther Lin/MMAFighting.com

On the back of an impressive run that saw him win eight of nine fights, “The Outlaw” entered the UFC in 2008, winning on debut against Pride veteran Akihiro Gono. A first-round KO of Rory Markham and a decision against Marcus Davis saw Hardy propelled into a title eliminator with Mike Swick, from which he emerged victorious.

This set up a clash with champ Georges St. Pierre, then on a six-fight win streak. Hardy lost to St. Pierre via unanimous decision, however he drew widespread acclaim for the gutsy manner in which he fought, surviving several moments where he was almost put away. Hardy would fight only five more times, retiring in 2012 at the age of 30 due to a heart condition.

2. Leon Edwards

Now on the cusp of possibly becoming just the second British UFC champ in history, Leon Edwards is a fighter who has quietly earned his place among the UK’s best.

Fighting out of Birmingham, the Englishman entered the UFC in 2014 as a 23-year-old, losing on debut to Claudio Silva. But in his next fight, “Rocky” bounced back spectacularly with an incredible 8-second KO in his next fight.

For years, Edwards quietly and conscientiously racked up win after win while garnering little attention. And it wasn’t for his Octagon performances that Leon first drew mainstream attention, but rather for being on the receiving end of Jorge Masvidal’s infamous “three-piece and a soda” backstage at UFC London in 2019.

That incident did little to derail Edwards’ ascent to the top of the welterweight division. The 30-year-old is now unbeaten in 10 fights, having secured wins over the likes of Vicente Luque, Rafael dos Anjos and most recently, Nate Diaz. His last lost just happens to be to that man he’ll face for the title next, Kamaru Usman.

1. Michael Bisping

Perhaps no fighter has had a career with as many dramatic twists and turns than Michael Bisping—the consensus best British MMA fighter of all time.

Hailing from Lancashire, “The Count” first came to prominence in Cage Warriors, where in 2005 he won the light heavyweight title. Bisping defended his crown three times before earning a spot on the third season of The Ultimate Fighter, where he became one of the show’s most memorable stars, not only for his brash, trash-talking personality, but his fighting ability too.

Michael Bisping
Image Credit: Getty Images/ Niklas Halle’n

Defeating Josh Haynes in The Ultimate Fighter finale, Bisping entered the UFC in 2006, and during his 11-year stint in the promotion, experienced the full spectrum of debilitating lows and dizzying highs. He suffered one the most violent knockouts in UFC history against Dan Henderson at UFC 100. Continually came up short at the final hurdle, losing two title eliminators. And for the latter part of his career, effectively fought with one eye.

But Bisping surmounted these trials to achieve one of the most memorable fairy-tale endings in UFC history. In 2016, middleweight champ Luke Rockhold was expected to rematch Chris Weidman, who was forced to pull out at the last minute due to injury.

On 17 days notice, in stepped Bisping, who had lost to Rockhold via submission in 2014. Against all odds and fighting half blind, “The Count” spectacularly knocked out Rockhold in just the first round to become the first British MMA fighter to clinch UFC gold.

What do you think of our list of the best British MMA fighters of all time? Did we miss anyone?

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