2021 could be a big year for UK-based fighters in the UFC. Darren Till faces Marvin Vettori in the UFC’s next main event and could receive a UFC Middleweight title shot with a win. Meanwhile, Liverpool-based prospect Paddy Plimblett has also been signed by the promotion.
Over the years, we’ve seen plenty of UK-based fighters enter the UFC’s Octagon, but who is the greatest British UFC fighter of all time?
There are a number of notable candidates, but the following five stand out as being the best British fighters in UFC history.
#5 Ross Pearson (UFC record: 12-13-1)
While the back end of his UFC career damaged his record somewhat, Ross Pearson remains one of the most outstanding UFC fighters to be produced by the UK.
The Real Deal first emerged into the UFC via the ninth season of TUF. Coached by Michael Bisping, Pearson won the Lightweight tournament in the USA vs. UK tournament, outpointing his countryman Andre Winner in the finals.
Few fans expected him to go onto major UFC success, but he actually became one of the Lightweight division’s most reliable fighters.
Pearson picked up major wins over the likes of Dennis Siver, Spencer Fisher, and Gray Maynard during his decade-long tenure with the UFC.
And in 2012, he became the second British fighter to coach on a series of TUF, going up against George Sotiropoulos’ team of Australians. The Real Deal would knock Sotiropoulos out at the finale of the show.
Pearson was never able to gain a shot at the UFC Lightweight title and was way past his prime when he finally left the UFC in 2019. But this likable fighter still makes it onto the list of the best British fighters in UFC history.
#4 Darren Till (UFC record: 6-3-1)
Darren Till’s UFC record isn’t all that gaudy, but there’s no denying this product of Liverpool has established himself as one of the UFC’s greatest British fighters.
The Gorilla debuted in the UFC on short notice back in 2015 but made an instant splash by violently TKO’ing Wendell Oliveira.
From there, his rise was understated. He drew with Nicolas Dalby after injuring his shoulder, but after wins over Jessin Ayari and Bojan Velickovic, Till was given a big chance by the UFC.
In the main event of the UFC’s first show in Gdansk, he found himself facing off with veteran Donald Cerrone. He subsequently stopped Cowboy in the first round.
The win launched Till into stardom, particularly in the UK. And just months later, he headlined the UFC’s first show in his hometown of Liverpool against veteran Stephen Thompson.
After receiving one of the biggest reactions in UFC history from his home crowd, The Gorilla outpointed Wonderboy to earn a shot at UFC Welterweight champ Tyron Woodley.
Till lost that fight, and following another loss to Jorge Masvidal, he moved to 185lbs, where he instantly moved into title contention with a win over Kelvin Gastelum.
The Gorilla is now likely one win away from a shot at UFC Middleweight champ Israel Adesanya – which could mean that he may become the next fighter from the UK to claim UFC gold.
#3 Dan Hardy (UFC record: 6-4)
The first fighter from the UK to receive a shot at a UFC title, it’s easy to forget Dan Hardy’s accomplishments.
That’s probably because The Outlaw is seen more as a commentator these days, as he was forced into semi-retirement due to a congenital heart issue discovered back in 2012.
Hardy – who was recently released by the UFC after a mysterious spat with an unnamed UFC official – joined the promotion in 2008 after an impressive run that saw him win eight of nine fights, with the only loss coming via disqualification.
He defeated PRIDE veteran Akihiro Gono in his UFC debut and followed that up with impressive wins over Rory Markham and Marcus Davis.
Those wins propelled The Outlaw into a surprising UFC Welterweight title eliminator with Mike Swick. And Hardy duly won the fight to earn a shot at champion Georges St. Pierre.
The native of Nottingham lost that title shot but put up a good fight and lasted the distance with GSP. And while he lost his next three fights – to Carlos Condit, Anthony Johnson, and Chris Lytle – he was never truly outclassed.
Hardy got back on the winning track in 2012 with wins over Duane Ludwig and Amir Sadollah. But as previously stated, his rare heart condition then forced him into early retirement.
Despite this, though, Hardy’s achievements remain some of the best from a British fighter in the UFC and definitely warrant him a spot on this list.
#2 Leon Edwards (UFC record: 10-2-1)
When Leon Edwards debuted in the UFC in 2014 in a forgettable loss to Claudio Silva, nobody would’ve predicted that he’d be considered one of the best Welterweights in the world just a few years later.
But that’s exactly what Rocky now is, and with perhaps one or two more wins, he could find himself in line for a shot at the UFC Welterweight title.
The change in Edwards’ fortunes really began when he took almost six months off following a loss to Kamaru Usman in December 2015. Rocky returned in 2016 a much-improved fighter, complete with arguably the best wrestling UFC fans had ever seen from a British fighter.
And in the years that have followed, Edwards has put together an unbeaten run of nine fights, including wins over Donald Cerrone, Vicente Luque, and Rafael Dos Anjos.
Rocky would perhaps be in line for the next title shot had he defeated Belal Muhammad earlier this month. But the fight ended in a No Contest – leaving his next fight a major question mark.
However, no other British UFC fighter has put together a winning streak quite like his, making him a comfortable number two on this list.
#1 Michael Bisping (UFC record: 20-9)
Michael Bisping may not have been the first UFC fighter to hail from the UK – that was Ian The Machine Freeman way back in 2000 – but he remains by far the most successful.
Bisping was given a big push from the UFC’s brass from the off. He won the Light-Heavyweight tournament on the third season of TUF and quickly found himself positioned as the face of the UFC in the UK.
It was Bisping’s star power that helped the promotion sell-out Manchester’s MEN Arena for UFC 70 in 2007. And The Count lived up to his hype, stopping Elvis Sinosic in the co-main event.
But Bisping’s greatest successes came once he dropped to 185lbs in 2008.
With a constantly developing skillset based around his sharp striking, underrated wrestling, and unbelievable cardio, he beat fighters like Chris Leben, Denis Kang, and Yoshihiro Akiyama to establish himself as one of the world’s top Middleweights.
And his outspoken, brash personality also helped to build his reputation as one of the UFC’s premier villains.
However, for a long time, it felt like The Count was destined to go down as one of the best fighters to never claim UFC gold, as he continually fell short before gaining a title shot.
That all changed in 2016, though.
Bisping was thrown into a fight with UFC Middleweight champion Luke Rockhold on late notice, replacing the injured Chris Weidman.
And in one of the biggest upsets in UFC history, he knocked Rockhold out in the first round to become the first British fighter to win a UFC title.
Bisping lost the title in his first defense and then retired after one further loss, but by that point, his legacy was intact. With an impressive record of 20-9 as well as a reign as UFC Middleweight champion, he stands as the greatest British fighter in UFC history.