For centuries, combat sports have been part of Russian DNA and culture, but you may be wondering if there have been any elite Russian UFC fighters since the promotion’s inception in 1993 – after all, the UFC is American and Russia is on the other side of the world.
The distance is impactful and there have been a lot fewer Russian fighters as a result, especially compared to Brazilian UFC fighters.
This was also caused by the UFC’s inability to access the Russian market due to how costly it is and the complications between the US and Russia at government levels.
This changed when the UFC hosted its first event there in 2018, causing a surge in incredible Russian UFC fighters.
- What Determines Which Russian UFC Fighters Make the List?
- Russian UFC Fighters
- To Conclude
What Determines Which Russian UFC Fighters Make the List?
- UFC titles won and title defenses
- MMA record
- Other records set
- Competition faced
- Fighting ability, entertainment, influence in the UFC, (subjective)
- Future potential
Russian UFC Fighters
This list features a mixture of the greatest Russian UFC fighters and future stars, who are either Russian-born or have Russian heritage.
Here’s the list in alphabetical order:
Aleksei Oleinik (60-17-1)
Aleksei has been an MMA fighter for 25 years after making his debut in 1997 and he has fought for the UFC since 2013, where he has a 9-7 record. His longevity makes him the first MMA fighter to compete across four decades, and the fact he’s still fighting aged 44 shows how great an athlete he is.
With one of the most fitting nicknames, “The Boa Constrictor”, he’s an absolute submission machine with a Bjj black belt, and 47 out of 60 wins this way – meanwhile only losing twice by submission. He’s the first UFC fighter to win via Ezekiel choke, and he’s done so twice.
On top of his submission expertise, as a former sambo champion, Aleksei is a hugely framed and strong heavyweight with great grappling and takedowns; which he looks for continuously until he gets his opponent on the ground where they’re at his mercy.
He’s an insanely exciting and interesting fighter to watch, proven by how he’s finished 55 of his 60 wins (8 knockouts) as he’s always being aggressive and on the front foot.
He’s fought decent competition throughout his career and his best wins are over Fabricio Werdum, Mark Hunt, and Mirko Filipovic. Despite this, he never became a UFC champion as he joined the UFC past his prime, aged 36.
- Height: 6’2” | Reach: 80”
- First and only UFC fighter to win by Ezekiel choke (2 wins in the UFC) and the most in MMA competitions with 14
- First MMA fighter to compete across 4 decades (90s, 2000s, 2010s, 2020s)
Alexander Volkov (36-10)
Alexander Volkov, or “Drago”, made his UFC debut in 2016 and is a former Bellator and M1 heavyweight champion. Volkov is well known for being one of the most imposing and tallest UFC fighters, standing at 6’7” and recently packing on a lot of muscle since 2020.
Volkov is a standup and distance fighter through and through, and you’ll rarely see him shoot for a takedown – or anyone attempt to take him down because of his ridiculous size and distance management.
Due to his karate background and a black belt in Tsu Shin Gen, Volkov uses his length very well with his best weapons, the straight jab and kicks to the body of his opponents.
His boxing is extremely sharp and technical for such a tall fighter, and he throws every punch with extreme power and accuracy – in 35 wins, 23 are by knockout.
Being critical, he needs to improve his jiu-jitsu, speed of strikes and movement, and mix up his fighting with wrestling; because he often loses to quicker, well-rounded fighters such as Tom Aspinall, and Ciryl Gane.
He’s beaten the likes of Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum, Stefan Struve, and Jairzinho Rozenstruik.
These are all great fighters but Volkov shows inconsistency – he was moments away from a win against Derrick Lewis and on the way to a title shot before he was knocked out in the last 11 seconds of the fight.
Despite this, Volkov is already hugely successful and is only 33 years old; he’s currently in his prime and always improving.
To have 45 MMA fights by the age of 33 shows how dedicated and experienced he is, and how it’s highly likely for him to have a heavyweight title fight in the near future.
- Height: 6’7” | Reach: 80”
- Former M1 and Bellator heavyweight champion
- 23 out of 35 wins by knockout
Askar Askarov (14-1)
Askar Askarov, or “Bullet”, has been in the UFC since 2019, is a former ACB flyweight champion with 2 title defenses, and a master of sport in freestyle wrestling and sambo.
Askarov is regarded as a future star by the UFC as he was matched against Brandon Moreno (former flyweight champion) in his first UFC fight (2019), with the result being a draw.
Here, Bullet’s superior wrestling ability was on display as he took Moreno down 4 times, and his average takedowns per fight in his 5 UFC fights is 2.6.
Also, Askarov has a great front kick to the body, which he uses to wear down his opponents before shooting for takedowns, where he finishes fights on the ground with slick submissions; 7 of his 14 MMA fights were won this way.
Aiding this, he has great cardio and outlasts his opponents in terms of energy for the entirety of a fight.
Being critical, Askarov needs to improve his striking as although he has 4 wins by TKO/KO, all three of his wins in the UFC have come by decision. He lost 2-1 to Kai Kara-France as Kai was able to stay on his feet in the second and third rounds and land more effective strikes.
However, with his dominant wrestling and tireless nature, he’s beaten the likes of Joseph Benavidez, Alexandre Pantoja, and Tim Elliott. Ultimately, Askarov will be a future undisputed champion if he improves his striking.
- Height: 5’6” | Reach: 67”
- Former ACB flyweight champion with 2 title defenses
- Master of sports in freestyle wrestling and sambo
- 2017 Summer Deaflympics Gold medalist in freestyle wrestling
Islam Makhachev (25-1-0)
Islam has been fighting in the UFC since 2015 and has just one loss. He’s a Dagestani fighter very similar to Khabib and has been described as his protege. He’s a former Sambo world champion and has had 12 UFC fights, where he’s 13-1 and currently on a 12-fight win streak.
What makes Makhachev so good is his wrestling dominance and submission prowess, where he’s easily able to take his opponent down and finish them with a variety of submissions or ground-and-pound.
He gets opponents down by level-changing and securing the double leg, but he’s also exceptional with trips from the clinch.
Not only this, but he also stands and bangs with the best fighters in the lightweight division, showing his versatility and well-roundedness.
He has great fluidity for such a large lightweight, with bouncing movement and silky yet powerful boxing – of his 24 wins, he has 4 knockouts, 11 submissions, and 9 decisions.
Perhaps his best skill is his ability to notice and pounce on an opponent’s mistake like a rash, closely followed by composure and his dedication to executing fundamentals perfectly.
His best wins have come against Charles Oliveira, Alexander Volkanovski (twice), Dan Hooker, Drew Dober, and Arman Tsarukyan; all formidable lightweight opponents he easily dominated.
After comfortably beating Oliveira to become the new lightweight champion and defending his belt against Alexander Volkanovski, Makhachev is the new pound-for-pound king of the UFC.
- Height: 5’10” | Reach: 70”
- 2016 sambo world champion
- 12-fight UFC win streak
Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0-0)
Khabib Nurmagomedov, or “The Eagle”, is by far the best Russian UFC fighter of all time, and one of the top five best UFC fighters. He retired as an undefeated and undisputed champion, vacating the belt after dismantling all competition he faced.
His UFC career was 9 years long (2012-2021), and during this time he was extremely dominant, only losing two rounds. What made him supreme was his elite-level wrestling, takedowns, and ground-and-pound, where it felt like he was a weight class above all of his opponents.
Every opponent knew his game was to take them down and control them this way, but it was impossible to stop Khabib as he was always one step ahead – he had more strength, fight IQ, energy, and ability.
Sometimes he had fun with his opponents and stood toe-to-toe with them to display his proficient boxing and forward pressure; before his opponent slowed and he’d take them to the ground.
In 29 fights, he has 8 knockouts, 11 submissions, and 10 decision victories, making him an all-around great fighter, who would win no matter the direction the fight went in. In a game of blood, we as fans witnessed a man who never bled.
Although he smashed everyone he faced, he’s far from the greatest UFC fighter of all time as his UFC career was too short; as he had only 3 title defenses.
His best wins came against Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, Justin Gaethje, and Edson Barboza – so it’s hard to say he was massively tested as they were all strikers who couldn’t compete with his wrestling ability.
- Height: 5’10” | Reach: 70”
- Featured in the UFC’s highest PPV fight with Conor McGregor at UFC 229, which has 2.4 million PPV buys.
- Undefeated and undisputed UFC lightweight champion
- Longest UFC lightweight champion reign of 1077 days
- UFC Hall of Famer
- 3 successful title defenses and 4 title fight wins
- Two-time combat sambo world champion
- In 13 UFC wins, he only lost 2 rounds
Khamzat Chimaev (12-0-0)
Khamzat Chimaev, or “Borz”, moved to Sweden aged 18 where he’s now a Swedish national – although he was born in Chechnya, Russia, where he competed in junior wrestling at the Russian National Championships.
He’s only been in the UFC since July 2020 and has inspired one of the biggest UFC hype trains in recent memory.
This was caused by his undefeated record, being compared to Khabib, and 5 straight UFC wins. Across his first 4 fights, he dominated everyone and landed 252 strikes while receiving only two.
Coming as no surprise due to his comparison to Khabib, what gives him an edge over his opponents is his insane strength and wrestling ability, where he’s a three-time Swedish National Champion wrestler.
He combines this with relentless pressure and explosive energy; coming out of the gates very fast and overwhelming his opponents.
Also, Khamzat stands at 6’2” and is huge for a welterweight, where he also manages his weight cuts extremely well.
He has knockout power in his punches, which are thrown with lethal precision and speed; as evidenced by his one-punch knockout of Gerald Meerschaert where he’d even moved up to middleweight.
Not only this but Khamzat has the drive of a future UFC champion. He practically lives in the gym and outworks all of his opponents; often having 5 training sessions a day.
He limits his daily activities to eating, sleeping, and training – making the occasional detour for a UFC fight on the weekend.
Although early into his UFC career, we’ve seen him dominate 4 opponents and have an incredible fight with #2 ranked welterweight Gilbert Burns, where we saw Chimaev’s ability to take a punch and stride forward with the same pressure and energy.
His best wins have been over Gilbert Burns and Gerald Meerschaert, and he’s well on his way to a welterweight title shot and becoming one of the best Russian UFC fighters of all time.
- Height: 6’2” | Reach: 75”
- Undefeated in the UFC and MMA
- Three-time Swedish National Champion wrestler
- Fastest 3-fight win streak in UFC history (66 days)
- Fastest consecutive win streak in UFC history (2 wins in 10 days)
Magomed Ankalaev (18-1-1)
Ankalaev is a former WFCA light heavyweight champion and master of sport in amateur MMA and sambo. With a near-perfect record, he’s been a professional since 2014, and in the UFC since 2018.
He’s an extremely technical kickboxer who maintains and controls the distance with the use of amazing front kicks down the middle, as evidenced by his knockout of Lungiambula.
On top of this, he has great footwork for a light heavyweight which he uses to avoid strikes and counter with elite accuracy and powerful punches.
Due to his sambo background, he’s an elite wrestler but because of his absolute confidence in his striking skills, he uses his wrestling pedigree to keep fights on the feet by having brilliant takedown defense and dominant grappling.
Although, when he does have an opponent down his top control is suffering.
Despite losing his first UFC fight by triangle choke in the dying seconds to veteran Paul Craig because of a lack of concentration and Bjj awareness, Ankalaev has sharpened his focus to go on a 9-fight win streak.
On this streak, he’s beaten some great fighters, such as Thiago Santos, Volkan Oezdemir, Ion Cutelaba, and Dalcha Lungiambula. Overall, Ankalaev is exceptionally skilled and will be a future light heavyweight champion.
- Height: 6’3” | Reach: 75”
- 9-fight UFC win streak
- Former WFCA light heavyweight champion
- World Amateur MMA champion
Petr Yan (16-5-0)
Peter “No Mercy” Yan is one of the most technically gifted fighters to ever step foot in the octagon.
Yan is described as one of the best UFC boxers, with a high guard and great defense, an unmatched jab, and extreme power in the bantamweight division; everything thrown is tight, accurate, and lightning-quick.
Yan is a standup fighter who has relentless forward pressure and his fighting style is a mix of muay thai and boxing, while he integrates grappling and beautifully timed Judo trips to keep his attacks fresh.
Once he has an opponent down, he looks for ground-and-pound as his submission offense is muted.
Another skill of his is mental toughness, which Yan attributes to his homeland Siberia, where he says it’s extremely cold and people are on their own growing up.
While he’s only been in the UFC for 4 years, he’s beaten some of the best such as Cory Sandhagen, Urijah Faber, and Jose Aldo who he destroyed.
Unfortunately, he lost his first title defense after being disqualified against Aljamain Sterling via an illegal knee and was then outwrestled in the rematch to fail to regain the title.
However, Yan is only 29 years old and only just entering his prime as a fighter, which is scary considering he’s already one of the best Russian UFC fighters, who can progress to another level by focusing on wrestling and Bjj.
- Height: 5’7” | Reach: 67”
- Former ACB bantamweight champion
- Former UFC bantamweight champion
Umar Nurmagomedov (16-0)
Umar is the cousin of Khabib and is being trained and cornered by him through his undefeated MMA career and the UFC bantamweight division.
Therefore it’s unsurprising that Umar is extremely proficient in the wrestling department, where in his first two UFC fights he has a takedown average of 7.5.
The timing of his level changes is second to none, usually ducking under his opponent’s jab or hook; he then likes to take the back of his opponent and be aggressive with submissions – 6 out of his 7 submission wins are by rear-naked chokes.
Umar also has competent striking abilities, split between average boxing and elite kicking. His kicks are very dynamic, snappy, and powerful, while his teep and question mark kicks are things of beauty.
His kicks are so effective because his opponents are focused on takedown defense and therefore leaning forward into his kicks – which he throws equally impressively from both sides.
In his first two UFC fights, he beat an experienced Brian Kelleher and a skillful Sergey Morozov, who was 16-3 when fighting Umar.
If Umar can develop his boxing and power, there’s nothing stopping him from being a UFC bantamweight title contender in a couple of years and eventually one of the best Russian UFC fighters of all time.
- Height: 5’8” | Reach: 69”
- Undefeated in MMA and UFC
Valentina Shevchenko (23-4-0)
Despite being born in Kryzgstan, Valentina has Russian heritage, her mother tongue is Russian, and she considers herself to be Russian, which is why she’s on this list.
She’s one of the most dominant female UFC fighters over the past decade, as she’s ruled over the flyweight division with an iron fist since winning the title in 2018.
Her reign has seen her have 7 successful title defenses and a close-fought decision loss against Amanda Nunes for the bantamweight title. She’s also produced multiple UFC records in the flyweight division, such as most takedowns, most knockouts (4), and most title wins (8).
She’s by far the most technically gifted female UFC fighter of all time and showing this is one of her best weapons, the spinning back kick; as she throws it incredibly fast with sensational timing, accuracy, and zero telegraphing.
On top of this, she has zero wasted movements and executes everything with maximum efficiency. Her ability to scramble and transition on the ground is also way ahead of her competition – she’s been described as being military-like in all of her actions.
Her fighting style is kickboxing and muay thai dominant with a southpaw stance, and she has black belts in Judo and Taekwondo; making her a versatile, skilled, and offensive striker.
As she’s regarded so highly, it’s no surprise she’s beaten the likes of Jessica Andrade, Julianna Pena, Holly Holm, and Joanna Jedrzejczyk. However, she came unstuck twice against Amanda Nunes, mostly down to the weight difference.
Overall, she’s easily one of the best Russian UFC fighters of all time and either the best or second-best female UFC fighter of all time.
- Height: 5’5” | Reach: 66”
- 7 successful title defenses in the flyweight division
- Most takedowns, most knockouts (4), and most title wins (8) in the women’s UFC flyweight division
These have been the best Russian UFC fighters of all time, and as they’re limited, this list includes the many future Russian stars and champions in the promotion – meaning this list won’t change much over the next decade.