As you learn more about the Ultimate Fighting Championship, you’ll recognize that there are so many different fighters across many divisions that it can be difficult to remember them all and, most importantly, who are the most famous UFC fighters to know of.
This article will list 20 of the most popular UFC fighters of all time. I’m ranking them by their fame in social following because this is one of the most accurate ways today to understand the popularity of each specific fighter.
Let’s get onto the list!
20. Tyron Woodley
Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley sits at the first spot on this list with an audience of 2.1 million followers on Instagram.
Woodley had a UFC career which gained him a strong following for his wrestling abilities and victories over many other great names during his era as the Welterweight Champion.
Although Woodley moved on from mixed martial arts to compete against Jake Paul in a couple of Boxing matchups, his following is still at the bottom of this list. It may be that these controversial choices to fight YouTubers caused an imbalance with many of his followers.
In his MMA career, Tyron earned more than $5 million.
19. Derrick Lewis
Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis is one of the Heavyweight knockout kings in the history of the UFC, so it makes sense that he has been able to attract such a loyal audience and 2.2 million followers on Instagram.
Even though Lewis isn’t much of a social media guy, his social following just keeps growing because he is such a fan favorite.
He’s one of those fighters that brings a rush of excitement to the fans because you simply don’t know when he’s going to finish the fight. It could be 20 seconds, maybe even 3 minutes into the fight, but the chances are that he’s going to land a super punch and TKO or KO his opponent!
In Derrick’s MMA career so far, he’s earned over $4.9 million.
18. Donald Cerrone
Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone has such a rich history with the UFC that he’s developed a big following over the years and amassed over 2.3 million followers on Instagram.
He’s always been one of those fighters who will take on just about any fight that is thrown his way, which has led him to fight more than 50 times in mixed martial arts and many of those with the UFC.
Fights with huge names like Conor McGregor have helped to expand his following even more than he had done on his own. He’s fought many other names that we consider some of modern UFC’s top prospects, like Justin Gaethje, Tony Ferguson, and Leon Edwards.
Donald has pocketed over $7.5 million in his mixed martial arts career! This number exceeds most of his level, probably because he’s had many more fights than others and earned a pretty pay packet in his clash with Conor McGregor from 2020.
17. Tony Ferguson
Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson has dazzled the UFC audience for several years not only because of his successes but his unique fighting and training styles. His following has grown to over 2.4 million followers on Instagram.
Tony’s abilities started to drag in the later years of his fighting career. But for some reason, the fans just love watching him get into the octagon because he never backs down and never stops going for some fancy spinning backhands or elbows to win the fight.
The man is just pure entertainment and is well-deserving of this list!
Over Tony’s career, he has earned over $4.2 million in payouts for his fighting skills.
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16. Cody Garbrandt
Cody “No Love” Garbrandt had an incredible beginning to his MMA career with 11 straight wins from turning pro, 6 of those were in the UFC alone. This early success made plenty of MMA fans take notice and has helped him accrue over 2.5 million followers on Instagram.
The last opponent on his winning streak was Dominick Cruz, as Cody won the Bantamweight belt in 2016. This only continued Cody’s love from his fanbase and kept the eyes on him, as everyone expected big things.
But Cody’s title reign was short-lived as T.J. Dillashaw swept in to take it from him and continue to defend it in their immediate rematch.
There’s still time for Cody No Love to build his way back up to a challenger spot if he can find the weight class that works best for him.
Over Cody’s career so far, he’s earned over $1.9 million for competing.
15. Zabit Magomedsharipov
A surprise entry on this list, Zabit is a Dagestani fighter in the Flyweight division, which remains undefeated from his first 6 fights in the UFC. His unique style and difficulty in beating have gained him a strong fanbase with over 2.6 million followers on Instagram.
But Zabit has struggled with health problems to keep his UFC fighting career moving in an upward direction, and in that time, has taken to successfully coach his brother Khasan Magomedsharipov with several wins in Bellator MMA.
With these setbacks, Zabit has still earned over $500,000. Let’s hope he overcomes any issues and continues to compete.
14. José Aldo
José “Junior” Aldo is a highly respected Brazilian fighter who has gone toe-to-toe with what seems like three separate generations of UFC fighting talent since his arrival there in 2011. José’s popularity has gathered him over 2.7 million followers on Instagram.
Aldo has often used his Boxing talents to knock out many of his opponents or finish all rounds to win by decision. His gritty style, where he shines in the pocket and exchanges fast blows, is what makes him so lethal and a joy to watch.
Over José’s career, he’s earned himself over $9.9 million from competitive fighting.
13. Kamaru Usman
Kamaru “The Nigerian Nightmare” Usman has become a whirlwind of the Welterweight division in the UFC in recent years, successfully defending his championship title several times. That has gained him over 2.9 million followers on Instagram.
With his successes in defending his belt using his wrestling-mixed-with-heavy-hitting style, his popularity has continued to rise. Particularly with the hype generated around his fights against Colby Covington, Jorge Masvidal, and even his own teammate Gilbert Burns.
He may have a shiny bald head, but this fighter is not one to mess with on any day of the week.
Kamaru has pocketed over $8.4 million in career earnings. Not too shabby for this Nigerian Nightmare.
12. Max Holloway
Max “Blessed” Holloway is the self-proclaimed ‘best boxer in the UFC’ who has been consistently delighting fans with his style of never backing down and throwing an insane number of strikes every single fight. His popularity has grown to over 2.9 million followers on Instagram.
Holloway has only been out-performed a handful of times in his career, as he’s usually the fighter in the octagon with the greatest cardio fitness level, which allows him to just keep going.
Most of his losses had to go to the decision because he just couldn’t be finished. And even when he has lost, it has been to the likes of other amazing fighters like Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, and Alexander Volkanovski.
I love watching Max fight and always will! The legend even reached our top list for one of the best UFC fights in 2021 against Calvin Kattar at UFC Fight Island 7. A truly sensational performance.
His career earnings to date are approximately $6.3 million.
11. Jorge Masvidal
Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal is often thought of as one of the bad boys of UFC. His trash-talking abilities, some say, have earned him a career of fights way above his abilities. Still, the entertainment value of his fighting can’t be disregarded. Jorge has built a loyal fanbase of over 3 million followers on Instagram.
Masvidal has been fighting since he was very young, even in the backyard fights alongside the likes of Kimbo Slice in the early 2000s. This has given him natural confidence in competing to beat his opponents.
While Jorge hasn’t had the most impressive UFC record by any means, suffering several losses over his career, he’s still always considered a gamble to fight against because of his capabilities.
Jorge’s mouth has allowed him to earn fights against big names like Donald Cerrone, Kamaru Usman (twice), Nate Diaz, Darren Till, and Colby Covington.
Jorge Masvidal has earned over $5.4 million during his fight career.
10. Daniel Cormier
Daniel “DC” Cormier is now better known as a commentator for the UFC. Still, fans who have been watching him for a long time know him for his elite wrestling skills and strong record in the Heavyweight division. DC’s worldwide acclaim has earned him over 3.1 million followers on Instagram.
His fighting career began on a 15-fight win streak that only became undone by Jon Jones. That career spanned across Strikeforce, XMMA, and the UFC. Over his whole career, DC won 22 fights and only lost 3.
Before mixed martial arts, Daniel was an elite wrestling champion. So his name has been on the lips of combat sports enthusiasts for many years.
These days you can look out for his excited yelling coming from the commentary box alongside Joe Rogan in most UFC main events.
Over DC’s fighting career, he had earned over $12.5 million! Though I am sure, he’s earned way above that since becoming a public figure and commentator.
9. Islam Makhachev
Islam Makhachev is hailed as the understudy of Khabib Nurmagomedov, a fellow Dagestani who has developed an incredible grappling technique to successfully defeat almost every opponent he’s faced. The hype developing for this fighter has earned him over 3.7 million followers on Instagram.
Islam’s fighting has a clear resemblance to Khabib’s Sambo-Wrestling style, making him an undefeated MMA fighter. Like Khabib, Islam has that unique ability to strike with an opponent on the feet right up until the perfect moment opens up for shooting to the takedown and overcoming them with grappling.
Unsurprisingly, a majority of Makhachev’s wins come by submission. Mostly the rear-naked choke or the triangle choke, being his favorite finishers.
Over Islam’s career so far, he’s won over $500,000 from fighting. A small amount compared with every other fighter on this list. It’s inevitable that if he continues his winning trajectory, the money will follow.
8. Francis Ngannou
Francis “The Predator” Ngannou became the UFC Heavyweight Champion in 2021, fulfilling his dream and overcoming many challenges from his younger years. Francis’ knockout power has made him one of the hugely popular MMA fighters, gaining over 3.8 million followers on Instagram.
Ngannou has won over many of his fans from his heavy hands and finished many of his battles in the first round. Great KOs against Stipe Miocic and Alistair Overeem have contributed to his popularity.
Francis has earned over $4.1 million from fight winnings in his career. I am certain he earns more than that from sponsorships and brand partnerships, though.
7. Dustin Poirier
Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier is one of the UFC famous fighters who earned his nickname from being a fighter that just seems to get stronger the longer the fight goes on and the more pressure he’s put under. He thrives under the challenge, and this nature has earned him a fanbase of over 3.9 million followers on Instagram.
Dustin has challenged the Lightweight championship multiple times. Still, he comes up short by being submitted by Charles Oliveira and Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The Diamond finds most of his success on his feet, displaying stellar boxing abilities to slip and weave punches and counter with his own. When he gets backed up against the cage, he just seems to get more energized, whereas most fighters feel pressured.
Over his career, Dustin Poirier has earned over $11.2 million. Competing for championship belts and facing off with Conor McGregor certainly added a lot to that pay.
6. Anderson Silva
Anderson “The Spider” Silva is undoubtedly one of the top UFC fighters in combat sports history. He is well respected across mixed martial arts as a pioneer and has shown us some exciting fights. Silva’s fanbase is well over 4 million followers on Instagram.
Towards the end of his mixed martial arts career, Silva struggled to put many wins together and probably should have ended with the UFC earlier than he did. Even so, it was always a joy to see him get into the octagon.
Lately, Silva has had success in Boxing despite being in his late 40s. His desire to return to his first love, Boxing, seems to have generated new life in his fighting and makes it look easy overcoming all barriers of age.
5. Nate Diaz
Nate Diaz has long been a favorite of fans, commentators, and fighters alike. His carefree attitude during press conferences leading up to his fights has entertained us all that you just can’t help but root for him. Nate has a fanbase of over 5.4 million followers on Instagram.
Like his brother Nick Diaz, Nate has entertained us for years by boxing with some of the best UFC fighters of all time using his long reach. He could beat them with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a 3rd-degree black belt whenever fights went to the ground.
Nate’s Californian street attitude is part of what made him so successful. But having an emphatic victory over Conor McGregor in 2016 certainly helped.
Over his fighting career, Nate Diaz has generated over $9.9 million in earnings.
4. Jon Jones
Jon “Bones” Jones has had a constant struggle with keeping himself out of negative news throughout his career, whether it’s breaking the rules of dosing for UFC fights or news stories about his personal life. Whatever the reason, Jones’ infamy has created over 5.8 million followers on Instagram.
But it’s not always about Jones’s drama with such a massive following. Even today, while he has been competing very sporadically, his fighting abilities have been noted as extraordinary by many.
Jones was the youngest UFC champion ever and only had 1 loss on his record way back in 2009. Since then, he’s been unstoppable.
Although Jones has not been fighting consistently lately, he’s earned more than $14.3 million over his career.
3. Israel Adesanya
Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya is one of those rare fighters who can outperform most opponents with striking on the feet and even nullify grapplers to remain undefeated at Middleweight. His style-bending has generated an audience of over 6.1 million followers on Instagram.
There’s plenty to love about Israel. Whether it’s his extremely high kickboxing skills, his dancing abilities, or his YouTube content.
Most undefeated fighters in the UFC have one thing in common: grappling. But Adesanya maintained an undefeated MMA record in the Middleweight division with elite striking and kickboxing. It was only when he went up a weight class to Light Heavyweight to try and secure that division’s belt while holding the Middleweight belt that he suffered his first MMA defeat.
When Israel beat Anderson Silva in 2019, it felt like the baton was being passed over to him to continue a great legacy of masterful striking arts. I am thrilled about Adesanya’s progress and looking forward to it continuing.
In his fighting career, Israel has earned over $7.4 million. With his fame, he’s likely to have earned way more than that through sponsorships.
2. Khabib Nurmagomedov
Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov is up there as one of the most famous UFC fighters on the planet. Khabib retired from MMA with an undefeated 29-0 record. His wrestling creativity is like something of a legend, and his global reach has produced over 33 million followers on Instagram.
Most notably, Khabib’s conflict with the big-mouthed Conor McGregor became such a huge media spectacle which likely brought along so much awareness for Khabib in 2018 when the two faced off.
Khabib continuing his undefeated record through Conor McGregor at his peak was enough to set the world on fire and solidify The Eagle as the second-biggest name in the UFC and easily well known by the wider sporting world.
Khabib has earned over $21.7 million for his undefeated fighting record.
1. Conor McGregor
And finally, at the number one spot, there can be only one. Conor “Notorious” McGregor is not just easily one of the most known names of all sports but was even declared the highest-paid athlete in the world in 2021. McGregor’s fame has generated an entourage of over 44.3 million followers on Instagram.
Conor’s name is known throughout the majority of the world. His fame began generating to a high level when he moved into the UFC to continue a winning streak that would stretch 15 fights.
Conor beat other up-and-coming stars like Dustin Poirier, Max Holloway, and Chad Mendes for the interim Featherweight belt in those fights.
At the end of this stretch, McGregor faced José Aldo to unify the Featherweight belt and declare a champion. He knocked out Aldo within 13 seconds of the first round, and this was when his fame skyrocketed.
Although McGregor would then fight Nate Diaz twice, at Welterweight and losing one and winning the rematch, he moved his sights onto Eddie Alvarez for his Lightweight Championship belt.
McGregor was successful in beating Alvarez and became the “double champ” by holding two Championship belts simultaneously.
Conor’s gift of the gab enabled him to trash talk his opponents until they simply wanted to go into a dark room and have a cry, and this only generated insane levels of media attention and hype building up to any of his fights.
His trash-talking and the attention it got reached such a level that it bordered on him looking like a babbling patient of an insane asylum, particularly when it was directed at Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Nevertheless, screaming obscenities at his enemies brought a new level of attention and mass appeal, and tons of money with it.
In Conor’s fighting career, he was able to earn over $108 million! His earnings potential was high because of pay-per-view revenue shares with the UFC. With such a huge brand and appeal, participating in a fight meant Conor would bring more than just MMA fans to watch, which meant a lot of revenue for the UFC.
In 2021, Conor was announced as the highest-earning sports star globally, having grossed over $180 million in just one year. It’s clear that the Notorious brand just continues to earn hundreds of millions over the years.
Will we ever see a star in the UFC again like Conor McGregor? I’m not even sure it will be possible, but let’s just hope Conor doesn’t hang up his gloves just yet so we can keep enjoying the media frenzy leading up to every fight of his.
Now you know the top 20 most popular UFC fighters. These are those names that most fans of MMA know because of their fighting record or their unique ability to trash talk their opponents that it just becomes an exciting ride to watch them.
Joe Bloom is the lead author and editor of MMA Hive. Joe has been a passionate mixed martial artist in training since 2019, having studied Boxing and Muay Thai at BaliMMA and Soma Fight Club, as well as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with RitualsJJ.