The world of MMA and the UFC has seen a diverse array of talent from across the globe. However, certain countries have consistently stood out in producing some of the best fighters in the sport.
In this article, we delve into which country produces the best MMA/UFC fighters by looking at their total UFC champions and the reasons why they come out on top.
Which Country Produces the Best MMA/UFC Fighters?
The country that produces the best MMA and UFC fighters is America, followed by Brazil.
These 2 countries are way ahead of every other country in terms of total UFC champions, total TUF winners, and the number of fighters on the UFC roster.
Following these 2 are Russia, the United Kingdom, and Canada.
America and Brazil produce the best MMA/UFC fighters because they’re heavily populated countries, they have rich martial arts cultures, and high-level training facilities, and large parts of the country are poor and see MMA as an avenue to a better life.
These are the shared factors between the two, but there are many individual factors. So, let’s take a closer look at why each country produces the best MMA/UFC fighters.
1. United States of America
America is the number 1 country for producing the best MMA/UFC fighters. There have been 60 American UFC undisputed champions, not including the American UFC interim champions.
The American UFC champions were from the following weight classes:
- 14 American heavyweight champions
- 10 American light heavyweight champions
- 6 American middleweight champions
- 7 American welterweight champions
- 7 American lightweight champions
- 1 American featherweight champion
- 6 American bantamweight champions
- 2 American flyweight champions
- 4 American women’s bantamweight champions
- 1 American women’s flyweight champion
- 2 American women’s strawweight champion
America’s dominance in MMA and the UFC can be attributed to 7 key factors:
1. Rich Martial Arts Culture
The United States has a diverse and rich martial arts culture, incorporating various styles such as wrestling, boxing, karate, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai, and more.
This melting pot of martial arts provides a comprehensive training ground for fighters. Many of these martial arts are the most effective for MMA.
2. High-Quality Training Facilities
America is home to some of the world’s most renowned MMA gyms and training centers, like American Top Team, Jackson Wink MMA, and AKA (American Kickboxing Academy).
These facilities are equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and resources that are essential for high-level training.
3. Experienced Coaches
Many of the coaches in American gyms have extensive experience, either as former fighters or long-time trainers.
They bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise, which is invaluable in training fighters to compete at the highest levels.
4. Competitive Domestic Circuit
The U.S. has a highly competitive domestic MMA circuit, with numerous regional promotions where fighters can hone their skills.
This competitive environment fosters excellence and prepares fighters for the rigors of top-tier competitions like the UFC.
The competition and popularity of MMA in America, as well as the economy, means that money isn’t an issue (mostly) when it comes to training MMA fighters.
The only thing stopping an American fighter from being their best is themself.
5. Early Exposure and Popularity of the Sport
MMA is widely popular in the U.S., and many athletes are exposed to it at a young age.
This early exposure allows for a longer developmental period, which is crucial in building a fighter’s skill set and mental toughness.
On top of this, America is a highly populated country, which is why there are thousands of elite-level MMA fighters. They were guided into martial arts at a young age.
6. Cross-Training Opportunities
American fighters often have the opportunity to cross-train in different martial arts disciplines, allowing them to develop a well-rounded skill set.
This versatility is a significant advantage in the diverse world of MMA.
7. Supportive Infrastructure
The infrastructure for sports in the U.S., including sponsorships, media coverage, and fan support, is highly developed.
This support system not only promotes the sport but also provides fighters with the necessary resources to train and compete effectively.
8. Legacy and History
The legacy of iconic American fighters and champions inspires new generations to pursue MMA.
This history creates a culture of excellence and a pathway for upcoming fighters to follow.
Also, although MMA started on a very small scale in Japan in the mid-1980s, America is where MMA exploded with the founding of the UFC in 1993.
America has since carried the torch for MMA around the world, for the past 30 years. Therefore, Americans feel like MMA is their sport and this inspires the current and future MMA/UFC fighters to be the best they can be.
Brazil is the second-best country for producing the best MMA/UFC fighters. There have been 20 Brazilian undisputed UFC champions, not including the Brazilian UFC interim champions.
The Brazilian UFC champions were from the following weight classes:
- 2 Brazilian heavyweight champions
- 5 Brazilian light heavyweight champions
- 3 Brazilian middleweight champions
- 2 Brazilian lightweight champions
- 1 Brazilian featherweight champion
- 1 Brazilian bantamweight champion
- 2 Brazilian flyweight champions
- 2 Brazilian women’s featherweight champions
- 1 Brazilian women’s bantamweight champion
- 1 Brazilian women’s strawweight champion
Brazil’s success in MMA and the UFC can be attributed to 6 key factors:
1. Rich Fighting Culture
Brazil has a deeply ingrained fighting culture. Martial arts aren’t just sports but are often seen as a way of life, deeply embedded in the cultural fabric of the country.
Because of this, Brazilian MMA/UFC fighters train and fight with huge passion, determination, and competitive spirit.
Many Brazilian kids also start training at a younger age compared to other countries.
2. Birthplace of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
Brazil is the country that developed and spread Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a martial art that has become a cornerstone in MMA.
Bjj’s emphasis on ground fighting and submission holds has proven to be highly effective in MMA competitions, ever since Royce Gracie showed its power in winning the early UFC tournaments.
Because of this, Brazilian MMA fighters have an excellent fighting base and only have to develop their striking and wrestling to become very well-rounded MMA/UFC fighters.
3. Poverty and Aspiration
For many in Brazil, especially in poorer communities, becoming an MMA fighter is seen as a viable path to escape poverty and provide a better life for themselves and their families.
This aspiration and hunger drive a high level of dedication and commitment to the sport, and the results are there to see.
4. Legacy of Vale Tudo
Brazil’s history with Vale Tudo, a no-holds-barred combat sport dating back to the 1920s, has been pivotal in shaping its MMA fighters.
This early form of MMA, meaning “anything goes”, required fighters to be versatile and skilled in multiple combat forms, laying the foundation for modern MMA.
Vale Tudo’s intense nature fostered toughness and resilience and encouraged innovation in fighting techniques, many of which have been integrated into MMA, especially by Brazilian fighters.
5. High-Level Training Facilities
Brazil boasts high-level training facilities for Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai, crucial for MMA success.
While training affordability varies, with urban areas offering more accessible options, challenges remain for those in less affluent communities.
However, community programs and non-profits often help bridge this gap, making martial arts training more attainable across different socio-economic backgrounds.
Overall, for those who have aspirations of becoming an elite MMA fighter, training in martial arts in Brazil is mostly affordable.
6. Influential Figures and Role Models
Brazil has produced legendary figures in MMA, such as the Gracie family, Anderson Silva, Amanda Nunes, José Aldo, and many more, who have inspired subsequent generations of fighters.
Russia is the third-best country for producing the best MMA/UFC fighters. There have been 4 Russian undisputed UFC champions, not including the Russian UFC interim champions.
The Russian UFC champions were from the following weight classes:
- 2 Russian lightweight champions
- 1 Russian bantamweight champion
- 1 Russian women’s flyweight champion
While Russia has significantly fewer UFC champions than Brazil and Russia, they also have significantly fewer UFC fighters.
It’s a lot harder to recruit Russian fighters because the UFC is an American MMA promotion and Russia is on the other side of the planet. At the same time, there’s a lot of talent coming out of America and Brazil.
Most of the UFC fighters from Russia are highly skilled and in the top 10 of their given weight class. When Russia produces a UFC fighter, they often become a champion or challenge for titles.
Russia’s success in MMA and the UFC can be attributed to 5 key factors:
1. Strong Wrestling and Sambo Background
Russia has a rich history in combat sports, particularly in wrestling and Sambo.
Sambo, a martial art developed in the Soviet Union, is especially influential in MMA due to its emphasis on both striking and grappling, and wrestling is the most effective martial art in MMA.
Combined, Sambo and wrestling give Russian MMA fighters an incredible base for success in MMA.
2. High-Level Combat Sports Infrastructure
Russia has a well-established infrastructure for combat sports, with numerous academies and training centers that focus on disciplines relevant to MMA.
Combat sports often receive support from the government in Russia, which helps in nurturing talent from a young age.
3. Toughness and Resilience
Russian fighters are renowned for their exceptional mental and physical toughness, a trait shaped by Russia’s harsh climate, cultural heritage, and historical hardships.
The challenging living conditions and a strong tradition in combat sports have instilled a resilience that is evident in their fighting style.
Rigorous training, combined with a survival mentality and a sense of national pride, contribute to the formidable mental fortitude and endurance of Russian MMA fighters.
4. Legacy of Combat Sports Champions
Russia has produced numerous champions in sports like boxing, judo, and wrestling, creating a culture of excellence and a pathway for athletes to transition into MMA.
Success in combat sports is a matter of national pride in Russia, motivating fighters to achieve at the highest levels.
With the huge success of Khabib Nurmagomedov and more recently with Islam Makhachev, Russia will continue to produce some of the best MMA fighters on the planet.
5. Focus on Technique and Discipline
Russian MMA training is characterized by a strong emphasis on technical proficiency and strict discipline. This approach stems from Russia’s rich martial arts legacy, where mastering diverse combat techniques is paramount.
Training is systematic and methodical, ensuring fighters are well-rounded and skilled across all MMA disciplines.
The Bottom Line
Overall, America, Brazil, and Russia have emerged as the top countries producing the best MMA/UFC fighters, each bringing unique strengths to the sport.
America leads with a rich martial arts culture, high-quality training facilities and coaches, and a legacy that inspires fighters.
Brazil follows, with its deep-rooted fighting culture, the birthplace of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and a legacy of Vale Tudo shaping versatile and resilient fighters.
Russia, with its strong background in wrestling and Sambo, focuses on technique and discipline, fostering fighters known for their toughness and resilience.
These countries’ success in MMA and UFC is a testament to their comprehensive approach to combat sports, blending cultural heritage, training rigor, and a passion for martial arts to produce world-class fighters.