Most influential fighters in MMA history
From the arrival of the MMA, a chunk of fighters with a unique set of skills have succeeded to leave a special mark on the sport to the end of moulding it into what is known as the modern MMA. So what better than to know these pioneers, as we delve into the most influential fighters in MMA history.
While it is not more than several decades, that MMA has been accepted among people, it is no wonder to see that it is evolving every year.
Thereby, for the first time that fighters began to compete in MMA, the sport was not as it is today since there was just a single style of training in addition to some basic knowledge from other disciplines.
Whereas initially fighters were required to be almost pure strikers or at least a good boxer without being mastered in any other necessary skills, as time goes by this perception has changed drastically.
Because, nowadays fighters have expertise at least in some competencies like striking, stand-up grappling, and groundwork. To be specific, MMA fighters currently have all sorts of various backgrounds including jiu-jitsu, kickboxing, wrestling, Karate and Tekvando among others.
Here we would get to know some of these fighters that were either the first or amongst the first people to change the landscape of MMA, with their great contributions they made in the development of the sport.
While a myriad of fighters listed here has inspired others from future generations to evolve the sport even further, they are not necessarilyThe Greatest MMA Fighters of All Time.
Most influential fighters in MMA History
Here you would read on the list of the Most influential fighters in MMA History, who has had very heroically the responsibility for bringing the sport to another level.
Royce Gracie (1993-2015)
Royce Gracie has a special place at the heart of the most influential fighters in MMA history, in as much as he proved that being undersized doesn’t mean you can’t compete and be a great fighter.
Right from his first UFC fight, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu raised awareness about how effective it is to have excellent ground fighting techniques.
Just at the weight of 175 pounds, he could topple opponents weighing more than 240 pounds on the stage. That is to say, with a very small body frame, he succeeded to win the first UFC fight against the boxer Art Jimmerson.
Moreover, he went on to score 11 successive finishes from UFC 1 to UFC 4, so as to become the first-ever UFC champion and a man who took direct responsibility for the rise of MMA and BJJ as its main element.
After his UFC run, he continued to gain even more fame in Japan and score more finishes in Pride FC promotion so as to be enlisted amongThe Most Famous MMA Fighters Ever too.
Nowadays, he is widely dubbed to be the father of modern MMA and the underlying reason why MMA and BJJ have exploded in the 90s and still flourishing to such an extent that ever since his presence in the UFC, there has been a multitude of UFC champions who had expertise in BJJ.
In essence, if you look at MMA, from a historic perspective, it is self-evident that the uprising of jiu-jitsu was too fast to be reckoned. Much of this credit would go to Royce Gracie, owing to the massive exposure of his tournament wins, which has landed him an indispensable spot among the
most influential fighters in MMA history.
Chuck Liddell (1998-2018)
Before competing in the sport of MMA, as a kickboxer he had an unbeaten record of 22–0. Not to mention that he had an NCAA Division I wrestling background and was a black belt in Karate too.
Much to many people's consternation, notwithstanding such a great grappling resume, he tended to put people to sleep with a single touch of the wrist with using the raw power in his hands and feet, while he also utilized his great wrestling to defend the takedowns and keep the battle standing.
Although there was already a raft of powerful kick-boxers in MMA, Liddell brought a style all of his own, being widely dubbed as “sprawl and brawl,” in that he used his wrestling to hinder his rivals' takedown attempts and batter them on the feet.
Therefore it is of little surprise to see him become the first-ever UFC/MMA mainstream superstar that had put on show legendary fights with Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture.
While they are among the first rivalries that have converted into huge PPV numbers, they are also considered to be among the best MMA fighters of all time.
Following that he went on a nine-fight winning streak inside the UFC, he managed to grab the belt, until he was finished by Randy Couture at UFC 43. Yet, he came back two years later to knock Couture out at UFC 52, so as to avenge his previous loss and grab the Light Heavyweight belt.
Yet, as one ofThe most intimidating MMA fighters ever
, although he eventually underwent some terrible defeats at the closing stages of his career, he still goes down as one of The Top Ten Most Influential Fighters in History.
Bas Rutten (1993-2006)
While Rutten initially was so mastered in Taekwondo and Karate, he was the first one who felt that it is required to add other combat styles like boxing and Muay Thai to his game and this has made him be ahead of his own era.
Perhaps that is why many consider him as the pioneer of striking in MMA in as much as his striking style, was a combination of various combat arts kickings or punchings, from Karate palm strike to boxing punch in MMA fights.
.It goes without saying that he was among the first ones who exercised impressive leglocks. This is while even in modern jiu-jitsu, heel hooks have only gained popularity in the late 2010s, and Rutten was tapping his rivals in MMA back in 1995.
His unique style encompassing different combat styles has changed how standup fights should be fought in MMA and this is enough to consider him among the
most influential fighters in MMA history
In his illustrious career, he popularized his favourite liver shot in MMA which causes the shutdown of the body’s autonomic nervous system and was by far the most competent standup fighter, who became the first standup fighter to dominate in the Asian “Pancrase” MMA promotion.
Then as one of the first well-rounded fighters, he ended up his career with a 22 win streak so as to be among theUFC fighters who retired as champions
after he was exhausted with his submission defeats, yet he carved his name among The Top Ten Most Influential Fighters in History.
Mark Coleman (1996–2010)
As one of the first elite wrestlers to ever compete in the sport of MMA, he underscored the importance of wrestling skills in MMA, being widely referred to as the godfather of ground and pound technique.
Since he was a former NCAA Division I wrestling champion (1988) and three times Pan American wrestling champion, he could manage to score takedowns against any fighter at the prime heyday of his career.
Yet, instead of holding his opponents on the bottom, he tended to posture up and land brutal strikes, smashing their faces with an awful lot of punches and elbows, devising a new technique that was particularly effective against BJJ fighters.
Coleman started to compete in the UFC in the mid-90s when he made his presence known by grabbing victory at the UFC 10 and 11 tournaments.
However, after he underwent a number of defeats, he made his mind to leave the promotion after a while. Then he joined Pride FC in 2000 and succeeded to topple Allan Goes to earn the Pride FC 2000 Openweight Grand Prix Tournament.
Finally in his post pride days, while he was expected to retire, he preferred to continue losing fights one after the other in the next nine years of his career.
Be that as it may, there is not a shadow of a doubt that he is still enlisted among one of the most influential fighters in MMA history, due to his influence on other wrestlers who joined MMA and established dominance over BJJ fighters.
Frank Shamrock (1994-2010)
Frank Shamrock is considered to be among the first ones who realized that in order to exceed in the sport of MMA, one should be mastered in various combat sports.
So he started to train at his brothers’ infamous Lions Den gym, shoot fighting, jeet kune do, kickboxing, and a chunk of leglocks.
Except for Bas Rutten, nobody else at the time of his era in the mid-1990s, was a true well rounded mixed martial artist. In other words, unlike many other fighters who knew just how to box or grapple, not only he was competent in both of them but also was skilful in a blend of other martial arts.
In essence, he has grabbed a spot among the
most influential fighters in MMA history
in as much as he changed the way fighting was done in the mid-’90s.
Without the presence of people like him, MMA would conceivably remain a fighting style with a particular skill set rather than a wide manifold set for a very long time.
He also played a significant role in raising awareness about the importance of cardiovascular training. That is to say, all the great talents and endeavours would be futile when the exhausted fighter has not that much of endurance in his battles.
Randy Couture (1997-2011)
As one of the first superstars in UFC history, as well as oneThe most overrated UFC fighters of all time
, he is considered to be among the famous MMA fighters.
Aside from the great success he achieved through competing in both the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions, what has made him grab a place among
the top ten most influential fighters in history
, is his lasting pedigree of devising perfect strategies to confront even much stronger fighters.
That is to say, as a gifted fight strategist, he deemed fighting more of a game of war in that he had always a plan to cope with varied situations in the battle.
At the time when many fighters tended to go into a fight just with their pure instincts, Randy proved that how important it is to have a smart plan for each bout, while he used to study his opponents so as to figure out their games and find the ways that he could beat them.
This is while he was totally aware of his own strengths and deficiencies in so far as to make his game plans on the basis of his strengths with minimizing his weaknesses.
With this game plan, he was benefitted from this ability to stay away from suffering much damage while he could manage to establish dominance in the fight by being a smarter fighter, and that is the reason why he could compete very well even in his 40s.
Anderson Silva (1997-2020)
Being widely recognized with his nickname of the spider, Silva is a truly well-rounded fighter as he is extremely competent in Muay Thai, Wing Chun, Taekwondo, Wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
While an overwhelming majority of his battles took place during the 2000s, it seems that he was simply the only one who could blend such a diverse kind of martial arts into a winning style at the highest level.
Therefore he soon became not only an idol but also a role model for many ambitious fighters who fervently wanted to learn a variety of disciplines along with the ability to put them in use effectively.
Silva who set one ofThe Best UFC Records of All Time
still is the holder of the longest reign of 16 victories over 2457 days. Moreover what has made him even more influential, is the fact that he put on show how agility would be an instrumental tool in MMA.
With his great agility, he could avoid just about every attack as he let his opponents step into his range and then he used agility to catch them with brutal counter combinations.
It goes without saying that he was a terrific striker too, who could move in and out very quickly and strike from awkward angles, while he was armoured with the fascinating agility that made him avoid every strike and any dangers inside the cage.
Although he had not a very great defensive wrestling skill, with his agility not any single wrestler could do much against him, to the point that he urged many fighters to mimic his style, yet it was a herculean task to achieve Silva’s type of agility and timing.
Lyoto Machida (2003-present)
At the time when MMA was in its infancy, many traditional styles were proved to be futile in the sport, yet due to Machida's influential role, Karate did not fall under that category.
Instead, very exquisitely he illustrated how efficient it is to use a traditional art like karate, as he went on to grab the UFC championship with his unique Karate fighting style.
Since Machida's father was a Japanese Shotokan master, he trained and acquired a diversity of movements and a style all of his own.
While fighters had got used to each other managing distance or tended to defend an insane bombardment of non-stop punches, Machida's style was neither of these and was somewhat between them.
To be specific, with his measured and controlled rushes in and out of his rival's range, he could knock so many people unconscious.
He always tended to use his great footwork and lateral movement to stay out of the range and preferred to quickly close the distance from the outside, so as to land his strikes with high precision and power.
With holding his hands low, he used the low centre of gravity for the sake of closing the distance and escaping the dangers as quickly as possible.
Moreover, he successfully beat a raft of MMA giants with a rush of extremely high-level karate techniques that were not already used in the sport.
Thereby he anchored his name to many great finishes, as the likes of his notable knockouts over Randy Couture and Vitor Belfort that were the result of brutal Karate front kicks.
Likewise, he changed how people fought in the UFC since many modern MMA stars tried to acquire his skills; just, for instance,
famous MMA fighters
like Thompson and George St. Pierre are among those successful Karatekas in the sport of MMA.
Jon Jones (2008- present)
Any list of the most influential MMA fighters would be incomplete without the presence of Jon Jones who is one of the best MMA fighters of all time.
He is the youngest and most dominant UFC champion ever and while many fans see him as the GOAT it is of little surprise to see him amongThe Highest Paid UFC Fighters of All Time
Being considered as arguably the most well-rounded fighter the world has ever observed, he managed to keep his wrestling, striking and ground abilities all at the highest level.
That is to say, while he has been a pioneer in the art of not being taken to the ground, his spectacular defensive wrestling as well as his striking ability make him a truly influential and impeccable fighter.
Being blessed with a great physical advantage over his opponents, he has kept his rivals at the range with a lot of mastery so as to control the fight from the distance.
In other words, at distance, he could land nasty roundhouse kicks and sharp elbows during the clinch. But, among all of these nothing is as impressive as his unorthodox style and unpredictability.
In essence, he is among the first ones who started to exercise awkward and not casual techniques inside the cage.
As an accurate representation of the modern-day fighter, he is very influential because he encouraged fighters to add the element of creativity in their fights. It is fair to say that many warriors have tried to replicate his style of keeping the fights standing as much as it is possible.
George St. Pierre (2002-2017)
As one of the
best MMA fighters of all time
in all sense of the words, he has such a great personality and professionalism that has made him become one of the most marketable fighters in the world too.
Although he started martial arts as a Karate fighter and had never fought in amateur wrestling, he eventually turned out to become a high-level wrestler and a true takedown artist in MMA.
It is quite spectacular that in his entire glorious career, he never gave up to improve his game by sticking only with what he does the best.
When he was submitted by Hughes in his first MMA defeat, he improved his BJJ skills with vows never to lose again in a submission, to the point that in their rematch, he terrifically landed one of theTop 10 Head Kick Knockouts in MMA History
and had never any issues in his BJJ game anymore. The same went with his defeat against Matt Serra.
When he was beaten by Serra via a hard TKO, he immediately focused his concentration on improving his striking skills. Therefore he made himself a much better striker in the rematch against Serra where he toppled him via a TKO.
That is the reason why he has been an unstoppable force since his defeat against Serra, yet unfortunately has only been slowed by an ACL tear.
But he already influenced many fighters to never stop becoming complete fighters and prepare themselves for every fighting scenario.
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