The most obvious example of one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time is Anderson Silva
. The last time Silva lost was in 2006 by disqualification. Wherever he fought he rose to the top and stayed there. Before beating Rich Franklin at UFC
64 to gain the UFC middleweight belt he was the champion in in the U.K. under the Cage Rage promotion, defending his title three times before leaving. He has defended his UFC belt a record eight times (as of UFC 126) never losing the title in the process. Along the way he has faced and beat the best in his division including Vitor Belfort, Chael Sonnen
, Nate Marquardt, and Dan Henderson. To add to his greatness he has occasionally moved up a weight class to fight at light heavyweight and gained the same success beating James Irvin and Forrest Griffin.
A second easy example of one of the greatest is Georges St-Pierre. As with Silva. GSP was successful before coming to the UFC gaining the UCC title in his native Quebec. After moving to the UFC he has had only two setbacks in his stellar career losing at UFC 60 in his first title shot against then champion Matt Hughes, and losing the welterweight title at UFC 69 to Matt Serra. Those have been his only two losses in the UFC out of a total of eighteen fights. The next time he faced both Hughes and Serra he won gaining the welterweight belt in the process. He has defended his title successfully six times (as of UFC 129) against the best of the division including: Jake Shields, Josh Koscheck, B.J. Penn, and Jon Fitch.
Fot the third example we will go outside the UFC and concentrate on Pride in Japan as the greatest heavyweight comes from this promotion. Fedor Emelianenko, before gaining legendary status in Pride, dominated the now defunct Rings promotion (also in Japan) winning the Absolute Class Tournament in 2001. When Fedor joined Pride it took only his third fight to gain a championship title shot against the seemingly unbeatable Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira. Fedor dispatched the Brazilian to win the title. Fighting for Pride, Fedor has amassed stunning unbeaten record of 15-0 beating the best the promotion and the world had to offer. He beat everyone including Heath Herring, Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira, Kazuyuki Fujita, Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, Naoya Ogawa, and Mirko Filipović. It wasn’t until he joined the STRIKEFORCE
promotion that he showed any signs of wear and tear losing to Fabricio Werdum and Antonio Silva (which might be a time to consider retirement).
Although these are the three examples I used, they are not the only ones that could have been chosen. Others include: José Aldo (19-1), Dominick Cruz (18-1), and Royce Gracie (14–2–3) among others.
Some more examples of great fighters not making the cut to greatest include: Tito Ortiz, Pat Miletich, Dan Henderson, Frank Shamrock and Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Rashad Evans, John Jones, Cain Velasquez, John Fitch, Junior Dos Santos and Frankie Edgar
Some examples of more recent fighters on the cusp of greatness include: Rashad Evans, John Jones, Cain Velasquez, John Fitch, Junior Dos Santos and Frankie Edgar among others.
It must be stated that those fighters included among the greatest, if they are still fighting, are in no way cemented into that category. Although it seems unlikely, a fall from grace may occur if they start losing consistently. As for the ones on the cusp, they need to continue dominating either to gain a title or to defend it. If they can do this through the remainder of their careers they will enter into the category and join the greatest of the sport.
Finally, for those who think I’m deluded, leave your comments below. But seriously consider what I have just said and maybe you too will come to the conclusion that the terms great and greatest do not mean the same thing and shouldn’t be stated as such. So when you mention BJ Penn and Randy Couture as two examples of the greatest in the sport, perhaps you should just consider remaining silent. As for Matt Hughes and Chuck Liddell, the two most obvious ones omitted from the list, let’s argue…