Are you wondering who the best French UFC fighters of all time are?
In this article, we’ll look at the 5 best French UFC fighters of all time and the reasons why they’re elite.
5 Best French UFC Fighters
There are some exceptional French UFC fighters coming through in 2020 and beyond, but it’s taken France quite a while to develop MMA fighters.
The reason there has been a limited number of French UFC fighters is that France is a very big judo country and MMA was even banned in France for 4 years between 2016 and 2020.
This is a list of French UFC fighters who were born in France or who moved to France at an early age and have citizenship. This list doesn’t include Canadian fighters that speak French.
1. Francis Ngannou (17-3)
Height: 6’4” | Reach: 83” | Stance: Orthodox | Weight Class: Heavyweight
Francis Ngannou is a former Cameroonian-French UFC fighter who left the promotion in January 2023 after difficulties signing a new UFC contract, despite being the current UFC heavyweight champion.
Francis Ngannou holds the record for the highest punch power ever recorded at the UFC Performance Institute at 129,161 units on the PunchTrack device. He’s also another French UFC fighter who joined MMA Factory after Fernand Lopez took him in and covered his costs when Ngannou was broke and coming up in MMA.
Francis Ngannou’s best attributes are as follows.
- Ridiculous knockout power which often ends fights in the first round – Ngannou is tied 2nd for the most heavyweight UFC knockouts with 10
- An unparalleled combination of athleticism and explosiveness in any MMA heavyweight division – Ngannou can close the distance in a flash and overwhelm his opponents with blitz combinations
- Heavy top control – used his takedowns and top control to stifle Ciryl Gane on the ground
- Whole body strength allows him to dominate in the clinch
- Solid chin and great defense – Ngannou has never lost by submission or knockout in his decade-long MMA career
Francis Ngannou was in the UFC for 8 years between 2015 and 2023 and beat many of the most elite MMA heavyweights around. Names include Stipe Miocic, Cyril Gane, Junior Dos Santos, Cain Velasquez, Curtis Blaydes, and Alistair Overeem.
For the names he beat and the manner in which he did it, Francis Ngannou goes down as one of the scariest and great heavyweight UFC fighters of all time.
2. Ciryl Gane (12-2)
Height: 6’4” | Reach: 81” | Stance: Orthodox | Weight Class: Heavyweight
Ciryl Gane is a former interim UFC heavyweight champion and TKO Major League MMA heavyweight champion. Gane’s earliest introduction to martial arts was in Muay Thai, which can be seen in his very skillful stand-up game.
Gane only made his MMA debut in 2018 and has quickly risen to become one of the most feared heavyweights in all of MMA.
Ciryl Gane is an elite MMA fighter for the following reasons.
- Light on his feet and the footwork of a middleweight – he’s very evasive and likes to switch stances very often
- Expert counterpuncher with excellent timing and accuracy
- Likes to pick apart his opponents and break them down over time with fluid movement and striking as well as speed
- Well-rounded finisher and is dangerous standing and on the ground with submissions
- His best attribute is his fight IQ where he’s able to adapt his striking strategy based on his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses
- Strong in the clinch where he uses his Muay Thai experience to land heavy elbows and knees
In such a short time, Gane has taken over and beaten the likes of Tai Tuivasa, Derrick Lewis, Alexander Volkov, Junior Dos Santos, and Jairzinho Rozenstruik. He’s one of the most naturally gifted fighters the UFC has ever seen and is certainly a future UFC heavyweight champion.
3. Cheick Kongo (31-12-2-1NC)
Height: 6’4” | Reach: 82” | Stance: Orthodox | Weight Class: Heavyweight
Cheick Kongo is considered a veteran in the MMA world and has had a long and successful career – fighting in the UFC for 7 years between 2006 and 2013 and having 46 MMA fights.
Cheick Kongo started kendo and karate at the age of 5 and earned black belts in both martial arts. On top of that, he also trained in boxing, savate (French kickboxing), and wrestling; so Cheick Kongo is very well trained for MMA where he uses more of a kickboxing style.
Making Cheick Kongo one of the best French UFC fighters is as follows.
- An ability to knockout opponents with powerful punching – he has 15 knockouts and only 4 submissions in 31 wins
- High striking accuracy and output helped by his very long 82” reach
- Strong takedown defense which allows Cheick to keep the fight standing
- Good stamina and durability for a heavyweight – Cheick can go for five rounds and maintain a high pace
- Great Bjj defense – Cheick has only been submitted once in 46 MMA fights
At 47 years old when most MMA fighters have already long retired, Cheick Kongo is still competing at the highest level in Bellator. Some of the best wins in his career have come against Mirko Filipovic, Matt Mitrione, and Alexander Volkov.
4. Manon Fiorot (11-1)
Height: 5’7” | Reach: 65” | Stance: Orthodox | Weight Class: Flyweight
Manon Fiorot cemented her position as the best French female UFC fighter by rattling off a 5 win streak since joining in 2021. She only made her MMA debut in 2018, but the 32-year-old is in prime fighting condition and ready to make a splash in the UFC flyweight division.
Before MMA, Manon Fiorot earned a black belt in karate and a purple belt in Bjj. She’s also undefeated in amateur muay Thai (12-0) and has three national champion titles in amateur K-1 kickboxing.
Manon’s greatest attributes are as follows.
- Utilizes the side kick to the body and the oblique kick to keep distance and set up boxing combinations
- Blitzing boxing combinations
- Mixes in and executes infrequent takedowns perfectly
- Extremely speedy and agile punches, footwork, and movement
- Tall and extremely strong for the flyweight division which translates into an exceptional takedown defense of 83% after 5 UFC fights and an ability to hold her own in the grappling department
In 2 short years, Manon Fiorot has beaten Tabatha Ricci, Jennifer Maia, and Katlyn Chookagian. She’s set to face Valentina Shevchenko for the undisputed flyweight UFC title in 2023 or 2024 and is already one of the 5 best French UFC fighters of all time.
5. Nassourdine Imavov (12-4)
Height: 6’3” | Reach: 75” | Stance: Orthodox | Weight Class: Middleweight
Nassourdine Imavov is a French-Russian UFC fighter competing in the middleweight division and is the former Thunderstrike Fight League welterweight champion.
Imavov was born in Dagestan, Russia, and started boxing at the age of 9 upon moving to Paris, France. Ten years on, Imavov took up MMA after joining Fernand Lopez at the best MMA gym in France. He joined the UFC in 2020 after impressing and has so far compiled a 4-2 UFC record (January 2023).
Nassourdine Imavov’s greatest skills are as follows.
- Well-roundedness consisting of strong striking and grappling (Bjj is untested in the UFC but he has 4 MMA submission victories)
- Exceptional conditioning which allows him to keep a high pace throughout the fight
- Strong chin and mentally tough, Imavov can take a lot of damage and push through – he’s yet to be knocked out in his MMA career
- Calm, controlled, and composed throughout fights
- Technically gifted boxing with good precision and hard-to-read feints
- Light footwork for a middleweight which he uses to set up his boxing from different angles
- Solid head movement and footwork allow him to evade strikes, block, and counter
While joining the UFC at 24 years old and being still only 27, Nassourdine Imavov is skilled beyond his years and is a future title contender. He’s already beaten Joaquin Buckley, Ian Heinisch, and Edmen Shahbazyan, and lost close decisions to Sean Strickland and Phil Hawes.