With widespread TV coverage via BT Sport, lucrative sponsorship deals from big household names and live events that mix WWF style razzmatazz with technical skill and elite sportsmanship, it is hardly surprising that the UFC is making mixed martial arts one of the biggest growth sports across Europe.
Every sport needs its heroes, and the UFC is raising a whole new breed of them. Here, we take a look at five of the biggest names and rising stars in mixed martial arts.
Ask Conor McGregor who is the biggest name in the UFC and he will assure you that it is Conor McGregor. The 29 year old from Dublin is the sport’s biggest pay per view draw in the history of the sport, although his recent foray into the world of boxing has been criticised as having little to do with sport and everything to do with pantomime and TV ratings.
If McGregor seems like a throwback to the days of the old fashioned pugilist who lets his fists do the talking, rising star Tim Barnett represents a whole new breed of MMA star for the new millennium. A fighter from Merseyside, Barnett only appeared on the scene last year, but has beaten all comers, having been undefeated in five professional bouts to date.
His growing profile and popularity is reflected in the sponsorship deal he recently penned with online betting site Fruityking.co.uk. This brings a new dimension to the sport, and we can expect other similar deals to follow. You can read the full announcement on Fruity King’s website.
The former UFC middleweight champion holds the longest title streak in the sport’s history. He had remained undefeated for 2,457 days, during which time he secured 16 wins and 10 successful title defences. His run finally came to an end when he lost to Chris Weidman in June 2013 at UFC 153.
At 42, “The Spider” is still going strong, and ranked at No.6 in the official UFC middleweight rankings.
As the first woman to sign up for the UFC, Roussey is fully deserving of a place on the list. The 30 year old from California is one of the most famous female fighters ever, and also claimed to be the highest earner, male or female, in the UFC in 2015. In the same year, ESPN viewers voted her the best female athlete ever.
However, an increased focus on her burgeoning acting career has meant she has lost some muscle over the past year or so, and it could be that she is ready to hand on the baton.
If Rousey is the most famous, Jędrzejczyk is likely to be seen as the most successful. The Polish fighter is universally acknowledged as the top female MMA performer on the circuit. She is so far undefeated in 16 bouts, most recently defeating Jessica Andrade at UFC 211 in Dallas. She holds the record for most leg kicks thrown in a single fight (75).