The discussion of who should be considered the UFC Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) is a divisive topic among MMA fans. No matter who you ask, chances are they will have an opinion on the subject. In an effort to understand how fans feel, I reached out to popular Facebook group, “UFC News & Opinions” to ask its members who they felt the GOAT was and hear their reasons why they felt that way.
The first thing to understand is the limits of the discussion. Many people have strong feelings that if a fighter has been suspended over a failed drug test, this instantly eliminates them from the GOAT conversation. On a personal note, I agree with this sentiment, although sadly it does mean we would be excluding some historically fantastic fighters from our list.
UFC light heavyweight contender Jimi Manuwa appears to agree that being caught cheating weakens a fighters claim to GOAT status. I asked him for his thoughts and he had the following to say.
“All the greats I like have been busted for PEDs. Anderson Silva, Jon Jones. Other than them I think Mighty Mouse could be the best of all time.”
British UFC legend Brad “One Punch” Pickett shares Manuwa’s views. I asked him his views on who he considered to be the greatest of all time and he emphatically went with Johnson, saying;
“Demetrious Johnson [is the] P4P king”
I followed up by asking if he believed that a fighter testing positive and being suspended takes them out of the GOAT conversation with Brad replying,
“Yes I do.”
Manuwa and Pickett aren’t the only ones to suggest Mighty Mouse could be the greatest of all time. Below I break down the popular selections into two categories.
To begin with, lets take a look at some of the ‘clean’ fighters and their case for being the greatest to ever do it.
Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson (26-2-1)
Current flyweight champion and holder of the most consecutive title defences in UFC history, Johnson is a popular candidate for the UFC GOAT. No active fighter has cleaned out his or her division with such efficiency as Johnson, he’s a model professional who has been a great ambassador for both the sport and the company over the years. Despite this, many still discount his achievements on the grounds that he is clearly so much better than the rest of his division. Should we really be penalizing someone for being head and shoulders above the competition? It does not seem reasonable to diminish Johnson’s achievements based on the level of competition he has faced. As the old saying goes, “you can only beat what is in front of you” and Johnson has done that emphatically, time and time again.
Georges St-Pierre (26-2-0)
GSP without a doubt has a valid claim on the title of UFC GOAT and further solidified that claim by returning from retirement st UFC 217 in November 2017 to claim the UFC Middleweight title from champion Michael Bisping. Being a two weight champion puts GSP in rare company joining Randy Couture, BJ Penn and Conor Mcgregor in the UFC two weight champ club. This achievement is not the reason he is in the GOAT conversation though. GSP has not lost a fight since a TKO loss to Matt Sera in 2006. Since then, he has won 13 in a row with wins over notable names including BJ Penn, Thiago Alves, Dan Hardy, Carlos Condit, Nick Diaz and Michael Bisping, as well as avenging his loss to Sera. Georges reached 9 successful title defences before taking the decision to step away from the sport in 2013 and while we will never know what may have been, there is every reason to believe he would have surpassed the record 11 title defences now held by Demetrious Johnson.
While achieving all of this, GSP has remained a role model to many and an incredible ambassador for the sport of MMA making him a consistently popular choice for the UFC greatest of all time.
Jose Aldo (26-4-0)
Jose Aldo is a pioneer of the sport and despite his recent losses to Max Holloway, remains not only in the conversation of the greatest featherweight of all time but also the overall greatest of all time. It’s easy to forget that before losing the belt to Conor McGregor back at UFC 194 he held an overall record of 25-1. His résumé is a who’s who of featherweight fighters and includes wins over Cub Swanson, Urijah Faber, Manny Gamburian, Kenny Florian and Ricardo Lamas in addition to holding a pair of victories each over both Chad Mendes and Frankie Edgar. Admittedly, Aldo has struggled in recent years but his contributions to growing the sport over the years and his utter dominance in the featherweight division make him a popular choice for the greatest featherweight of all time.
Daniel “DC” Cormier (20-1-0, 1 No Contest)
Fighters and fans alike recognise Cormiers achievements inside the octogon place him in contention to be the greatest of all time. Posting a perfect record of 13-0 at heavyweight to begin his career, his drop to light heavyweight has seen him dominate everyone he has faced to effectively clean out his division, with one notable exception who we will take a look at later. Certainly one of the most respected members of the UFC roster as far as fighters are concerned, he is only now beginning to receive the respect of the majority of the fan base. I believe now that he has successfully defeated Volkan Oezdemir, DC can look forward to another long reign as light heavyweight champion and further solidify his claim to GOAT status.
The next couple of fighters are somewhat controversial picks for UFC GOAT for a number of reasons. Perhaps most importantly, they have at one point or another failed a drugs test which has left a cloud hanging over their legacy. Despite this, they still remain popular choices for the Greatest Of All Time thanks to their incredible careers.
I asked UFC Welterweight Mickey Gall for his thoughts on who the UFC GOAT might be and his response included two of the fighters named below.
“I would say GSP is one of the best ever. Also Anderson Silva and Jon Jones!”
Jon “Bones” Jones (22-1-0, 1 No Contest)
No fighter in recent memory has split opinion as much as Jon Jones. Undeniably talented, with a list of achievements greater than most could only hope to reach in their careers, Jones has consistently been his own worst enemy. Jones won the UFC light heavyweight belt at just 23 years of age, becoming the promotions youngest ever champion. He holds several UFC records within his division including most submission victories, most consecutive title defences, the longest win streak and the most wins overall. Holding a record of 22-1 with 1 notorious no contest, Jones fight history reads like a whos who of the light heavyweight division. Jones can claim victories over Stephan Bonner, Ryan Bader, Shogun Rua, Rampage Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, Vitor Belfort, Chael Sonnen and Daniel Cormier to name just some, all of whom were still in their prime. It seems crazy to think that we saw him make his UFC début 10 years ago at UFC 87.
Unfortunately, his legacy has been tarnished by out of the cage issues along with twice being flagged for testing positive for banned substances. These issues have cast a significant shadow over his ability to be classed as the true, greatest of all time in the eyes of many. I spoke with former UFC fighter and TUF 22 coach Tom Egan who had the following to say;
“For me, as a fighter, Jon Jones is the GOAT as he’s disposed of the toughest competition over all in such dominant fashion during his climb to the belt and as champion he’s defeated DC twice, fair and square. Drugs don’t help your tactics in a fight.”
“I have Jones from the perspective of pure GOAT as a fighter.”
While we await the outcome of Jones’s latest brush with USADA, we can be certain that Jones will continue to divide the opinions of both professionals and fans alike for many years to come.
More on Jones and his latest career set back can be found here.
Anderson “The Spider” Silva (34-8-0, 1 No Contest)
Another fighter who divides opinions of fighters and fans is Anderson Silva. 42-year-old Silva made his promotional debut back in 2006 at UFC Fight Night 6, dispatching Chris Leben with a devestating knee KO inside the first minute of the first round. From that moment on, Silva was unstoppable, winning his next 15 fights in the middleweight division and defeating some huge names in the process. Silva captured the UFC middleweight title from Rich Franklin at UFC 64 and went on to defend the belt a record breaking 10 times before finally dropping the title to Chris Weidman at UFC 162. After seeming untouchable for so long, Silva lost the rematch with Weidman after suffering a horrible leg break mid fight. In his first fight post injury against Nick Diaz, Silva won convincingly but failed a post fight drugs test with anabolic steroids found in his urine. The result was overturned to a no contest and Silva was suspended for a year.
Were it not for this failed test, Silva would likely be a comfortable choice for UFC GOAT but much like Jones, this failed test has cast a shadow over his legacy. More recently, Silva was flagged by USADA for a potential violation in October 2017 prior to a scheduled fight with Kelvin Gastelum.
Following his recent run in with USADA, Silva has continued to protest his innocence and has claimed that he has never taken performance enhancing drugs.
An unavoidable choice…
Conor Mcgregor (21-3-0)
It can be argued that no fighter has had a bigger impact on modern MMA than “The Notorious” Conor Mcgregor. In 10 UFC fights over the course of the last 4 years, Conor has delivered both memorable fights and arguably even more memorable sound bites, quickly climbing the pound for pound rankings and talking his way into a place where he has been able to capture two UFC titles across two divisions. Fans and fighters alike will be quick to point out the fact that Conor has never defended any belt he has won. They will also point out that he lost via submission to Nate Diaz. Both of these are valid arguments against him having claim to UFC GOAT status. Despite that, he is easily the UFC most bankable star.
When talking with Tom Egan about the GOAT argument, Tom added;
“Conor however is the GOAT when it comes to being the most lucrative fighter of all time in MMA. He surely has fought tough competition, not as tough as Jon Jones during his reign since Jones disposed of multiple former champions in their prime, but Conor has taken the best opportunities and executed.”
“[I have] Conor as the GOAT purely in terms of his impact and how lucrative a fighter he became.”
No fighter has perfected the balance of fighting talent and microphone skills in the way Conor has. Whether you love him or hate him, everybody has an opinion and he has to be given credit for expanding the UFC audience over the past few years. I will leave it with you to decide if McGregor can be considered the GOAT just yet. After taking 2017 off to explore what I will call, “other interests”, Conor is expected to return to UFC action at some point this year. At just 29 years old, he has many more years of fighting left in front of him and will have ample opportunity to decide his own fate.
So who is the UFC’s GOAT?
All things considered, it is easy to find reasons why the names above should or should not be considered the UFCs greatest of all time. Personally, I can’t look past Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. Should be finally face off against TJ Dillashaw and emerge victorious, that will go a long way toward silencing the arguments that he has never defeated anyone of enough quality to be considered the best.
Thanks to Jimi Manuwa, Mickey Gall, Tom Egan, Brad Pickett and all the members of UFC News & Opinions for their comments. Let me know your thoughts on who the GOAT is in the comments.