Best Boxers and MMA Fighters of All Time: Where Are They Now?
In a world of cold-blooded destroyers and men seemingly born with literal ice in their veins, there are some fighters who stand above the rest. Countless men have stepped into the ring and octagon to duke it out, but few have come out victorious time and time and time again.
Amongst the top boxers and mixed martial artists is an even more elite class of fighters that controls their respective fields. Let’s take a look at some of the legends who paved a career path to glory and check out what endeavors they took (or are taking) on since retiring their fists of fury.
1. BJ Penn
BJ Penn took everything we knew about MMA, chewed it up and spit it out. A BJJ gold medalist turned mixed martial artist, Penn went to war with MMA fighters like Matt Hughes and GSP for some of the most unforgettable battles to date.
Penn took a break in 2014, which he spent pretty much just chilling. But this great fighter couldn’t stay away for long. He hopped back inside the octagon in 2017 to experience the rush of getting his face pounded in again. Shout out Yair Rodriguez and Dennis Silver!
2. Mike Tyson
What’s a guy gotta do to get a choice cut of ear around here? Stepping into the ring with Mike Tyson (or meeting him out of it) is like coming face to face with your executioner. One of the greatest boxers of all time, Tyson retired with 50 wins under his belt, 44 of which were KOs. Night night, son.
Since hanging up his gloves, Tyson sure has had one wild turnaround. The former heavyweight fighter is still in the entertainment industry, though. Today, Tyson entertains crowds by stepping onstage for his one-man play. He also gets behind the mic to voice his cartoon show on Adult Swim.
Like night and day.
3. Chuck Liddell
Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell is, without a doubt, one of the most recognizable names and faces in MMA history. His iconic handlebar mustache and mohawk were one of the most dangerous duos in the ring for nearly two decades.
After three straight losses had Liddell’s family and friends worried about his personal health, he decided to call it a career in 2010. But The Iceman has continued to spend plenty of time in front of the camera. Liddell has made a variety of television appearances, including roles on reality shows and commentating on big fights.
4. Roy Jones Jr.
Roy Jones Jr. was a boxing beast whose career was pure greatness from start to finish. A 66-9 record backs that up. He also earned the honor of Fighter of the Year in 1994 and Fighter of the Decade for the 1990s.
Jones has slowed down since then, but seemingly refuses to retire. At the age of 49, he still keeps putting people to sleep.
Our best guess as to why Jones continues to fight is to help cover up what his music actually sounds like. Keep spraying that Febreze, it’s still gonna smell like trash, Jones.
5. Chael Sonnen
Chael Sonnen has gotten busted in the face more times than any inappropriate joke we can come up with, but it isn’t his knack for knockouts that makes him a UFC legend. Sonnen brought something to the table that the UFC had no idea it was desperately lacking – trash talk.
When it comes to slinging insults that crawl under your skin and never go away, Sonnen can go toe-to-toe with anyone. He took his spectacular word sparring to his role as a commentator, where he remains actively involved in MMA.
Oh, and don’t forget the comeback. Rampage and Wanderlai Silva sure haven’t.
6. Rocky Marciano
This is him, the guy behind the guy.
The name “Rocky” should ring some bells (zing) even for those who aren’t familiar with the boxing world. Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky character was inspired by the great Rocky Marciano, who went a stunning 49-0 before hanging up the gloves.
Most incredible of all, Marciano finished his undefeated career at age 32. This means there very well could have been years of more knockouts if he hadn’t chosen to retire so young. After he stopped throwing hands, Marciano worked as a boxing ref and commentator for years. Sadly, a tragic plane crash cut his life short at age 46.
7. Royce Gracie
Drill this name into your head and get woke.
The Gracie surname represents the OG of mixed martial arts, specifically Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ). Royce Gracie is a product of the revolutionary BJJ style that has become indispensable to any legit mixed martial artist. Gracie introduced it to the world by winning UFC 1, 2 and 4.
Since blazing a path for so many great fighters to follow in his footsteps, the UFC’s first ever Hall of Fame inductee remains actively involved in the sport. He teaches the art of Gracie jiu-jitsu to countless students around the world, including top fighters and celebrities.
8. Muhammad Ali
Fight of the Century. Thrilla in Manila. The Rumble in the Jungle.
All of these memorable event names are meaningless until to the man who made these fights famous – “The Greatest,” Muhammad Ali. The People’s champ had an unrivaled bark with a bite that backed it up time and again.
After Ali finished slapping the sense out of his opponents, he continued to live the life of an icon. Ali was one of the few athletes who was equally successful outside of athletics as he was competing. His accomplishments ranged from acting on Broadway to dropping Grammy-nominated spoken word records.
9. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson
The outcome of stepping in the octagon with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson is about as secret as this UFC list. Someone’s obviously going to sleep and it ain’t Rampage – believe that.
This light/heavyweight star helped make combat sports go global.
Rampage has also enjoyed an acting career, even starring as B. A. Baracus in The A-Team. Though the knockout artist certainly does a mean Mr. T impression, he simply can’t stay out of that octagon. Jackson has returned time and again, most recently spilling blood in Bellator his last few fights.
10. George Foreman
Ever pondered what food you’d turn your hands into if that’s all you could eat the rest of your life? George Foreman didn’t have a choice.
He was born with two monster ham hocks that, when balled up, transformed into human fists. Those hams sent 76 not-so-little piggies on a premature path to heavyweight heaven.
After Foreman retired from his heavyweight slugging, he cut the fat and trimmed down with his George Foreman Grill. That endorsement reportedly scored Big George over $200 million.
Though we haven’t crunched all the numbers, that probably earned him a few more bucks than the decade he spent as HBO’s boxing analyst.
11. Fedor Emelianenko
We simply refer to Fedor Emelianenko as “Fedor” for two reasons. First, that’s a long last name; second, it tops off his flawless Russian comic book villain persona.
Real talk, Fedor is like the James Bond villain who doesn’t feel pain in The World is Not Enough – or like he was born without emotions.
Fedor retired in 2012, then again in 2015. However, like every true comic villain, he just keeps coming back. After one fight in 2016 and another in 2017, Fedor remains as stubborn as ever, refusing to bow to father time.
Frank Mir will take on the living embodiment of Russia in April 2018. Get ready for that PPV action.
12. Joe Frazier
Every great fighter needs an equally great foe. Bitter rivalries like that between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier are what make spectacular athletes unforgettable stars.
Frazier was the yin to Ali’s yang. Their rivalry was pure and grew stronger with each of their three legendary bouts.
Even after Frazier stepped out of the ring for the final time, he remained heavily involved in the sport. Frazier managed a boxing gym in Philadelphia, where he even trained his son. Unfortunately Frazier lost his battle with cancer at age 67 in 2011.
13. Randy Couture
MMA is still in its infancy as a professional sport. Leagues around the world are growing by leaps and bounds each year.
Randy Couture is another mega star who helped make the UFC brand a household name. The Natural is the first fighter to win two weight division titles (light heavyweight, heavyweight).
Unlike so many stubborn fighters, when Couture left the octagon in 2011, he was done fighting professionally.
After retiring, Couture had several stints as an MMA commentator. He also opened Legends Gym in Hollywood, California with another great pioneer of the sport – Bas Rutten.
14. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
50-0. The end.
Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s outstanding boxing career has been marred by perpetual controversy. Even so, there is no denying his greatness. In fact, his perfect 50-0 record stands above the rest, making him the winningest undefeated boxer of all time. Mayweather’s final victory against UFC star Conor McGregor pushed him past Rocky Marciano, who previously held the record with 49-0.
Mayweather has raked in more PPV earnings than any other famous boxer by a longshot, totaling well over $1.5 billion. Many knock Mayweather for his slow pace and lack of “flair” during fights. However, it’s hard to argue the methodology of a guy generally accepted as the greatest defensive fighter ever.
15. Ken Shamrock
Along with Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock was one of the early UFC stars responsible for helping the organization gain traction.
Shamrock was (and still is) an icon. One would expect nothing less of any fighter nicknamed “The World’s Most Dangerous Man.”
Take the World’s Most Dangerous Man and pit him up against Gracie, the son of the contest’s creator – it made for one of the greatest rivalries in sports history.
Interested in seeing firsthand what this bitter rivalry looked like? Flip on UFC 5: The Return of the Beast. Strap in for a 36:00 marathon of a war.
16. Marvin Hagler
Marvin Hagler’s chin may as well have been made of diamond, because it was literally helping him make bank. Hagler could take a shot to the sweet spot that would send most boxers to an early bedtime.
Hagler was named fighter of the decade for the second half of his career through the 1980s. The award was well-deserved. Hagler finished with a 62-3-2 overall record. His third loss (to Sugar Ray Leonard) came in the final fight of his career in a split decision that is still hotly debated.
17. Tito Ortiz
The UFC was introduced as a tournament to test which mixed martial art was truly the greatest. The first wave of competition was highly experimental; it looked like the WWF without the script.
The second wave featured a far more polished sport and athletes, along with top line fighters like Tito Ortiz.
Ortiz has suffered more than his fair share of losses, but even his losses were a thing of beauty. His epic bouts against greats like Ken Shamrock and Vitor Belfort are classics.
Awards like Fight of the Night (four times) and 2006 Fight of the Year against Forrest Griffin are just a few reasons why Tito Ortiz will never be forgotten.
18. Sugar Ray Robinson
It’s hard to top Mayweather and Marciano’s superhuman boxing feats of retiring undefeated. Amazing as their contributions to the sport were, it is Sugar Ray Robinson who is widely regarded as the greatest pound for pound fighter of all time.
So how much evidence do we have to prove that a guy who boxed from 1940-65 is the greatest? Plenty, considering he stepped in the ring for 200 professional fights!
Robinson’s final record of 173-19-6 speaks for itself.
Oh yeah, that’s not including his 85-0 amateur record…
19. Matt Hughes
Despite wide agreement that Matt Hughes was the best pound for pound fighter while active, he never quite reached the same level of celebrity as many of his peers. Hughes’ style differed with his lack of eccentrics and flash.
Hughes didn’t bother with social media or building his brand – but that doesn’t take away from his dominance.
A lifetime of wrestling – including achieving All-American status while attending Eastern Illinois University – made Hughes’ ground game nearly impossible to defend. Plus, his unrivaled lock on mastering submissions makes Hughes a Welterweight champ for the ages.
20. Evander Holyfield
Newsflash for the extremely casual boxing fan: Evander Holyfield contributed more to the sport of boxing than simply getting his ear bit off by Mike Tyson.
If there’s one thing Holyfield is best known for, it’s his haymakers that doubled as light switches.
Holyfield wasn’t just known for taking on Tyson, either. He faced all the greats: George Foreman, Buster Douglas and Lennox Leewis – amongst others.
Fans nicknamed Holyfield “The Real Deal” and others called him “The Warrior.” By any name, Holyfield was the biggest boxing star since Ali to step in the ring.
21. Rich Franklin
Rich Franklin was a fantastic pro mixed martial artist. He worked his way up after bouncing around various competitions to become a full-time fighter in the UFC.
Franklin has victories over a slew of top names on his resume, along with a UFC Middleweight Championship.
To add to his incredible professional career, Franklin has one of the best nicknames MMA has ever seen. UFC commentator and comedian Joe Rogan once famously referred to Franklin as “Angry Jim Carrey.” The comment promptly led to dubbing Franklin “Ace” after Carrey’s classic Ace Ventura character.
22. Julio Cesar Chavez Sr.
Over the years, the sport of boxing has developed considerably. One constant has always been the abundance of top notch boxers hailing from Mexico. Among the country’s many greats, Chavez’s status as the greatest Mexican boxer is essentially undisputed.
After competing in the super featherweight, lightweight, light welterweight and welterweight division, his overall record of 107-6-2 proves that JC is “The Grand Mexican Champion.” Unfortunately, his son didn’t prove to be the Second Coming we were all waiting for.
23. Brock Lesnar
We’re giving Brock Lesnar the benefit of the doubt. Let’s put him in the “human” category despite mountains of evidence suggesting his gorilla origins.
Although Lesnar seemed to exit the UFC as fast as he’d entered, his impact was undeniable.
Lesnar brought his WWE stardom and gallons of juice with him to the UFC. There, fans of both worlds could not help but wonder what superhuman effort would be necessary to take down this behemoth. When it comes to playing the villain, Lesnar is the ultimate heavyweight.
24. Roberto Duran
Imagine stepping into a ring to take on a dude nicknamed “Hands of Stone.” Yeah, that’s a hard pass.
That was likely the mindset of all the unfortunate souls who were pitted against Roberto Duran as he blazed his path of destruction.
The pride and joy of Panama represented his country well. Duran fought his way to a 103-16 record.
Outstanding record aside, it’s an accomplishment in its own right for any fighter to endure a run the length of Duran’s. He made his professional debut in February 1968 and last entered the ring in July 2001.
25. Bas Rutten
When talking about the early beginnings and rise of MMA, Bas Rutten is a straight up OG. This handsome cueball served as a perfect ambassador for the sport. He even earned the nickname El Guapo (Handsome One). Beating up opponents with absurd flexibility and looking like a stud while doing it… not the worst life.
Before a form of MMA competition like the UFC was ever available, the kickboxing Dutchman relied on groundbreaking techniques to dominate Pancrase. The sport does not allow punches to the head. Rutten’s open palm strikes were, and still are, a thing of legend.
26. Bernard Hopkins
Just how good a boxer is Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins? He claimed the WBO middleweight title with a 2004 victory over Oscar De La Hoya, making him the first ever undisputed champion to simultaneously hold all four major titles (WBO, IBF, WBA, WBC).
While Hopkins holds an overall record of 55-8-2 (2), it’s hard to even fault Hopkins for a majority of his losses. His final six losses began at age 40 with his second-to-last loss coming at age 49 and, in his only loss by TKO, at age 51.
Good luck even climbing into a ring at that age.
27. Dan Henderson
Shout out to Downey, CA for breeding beasts. Downey gave us three heavyweight heroes: McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Dan “Hollywood” Henderson.
Actually, Henderson’s Greco-Roman wrestling background helped him excel in the welterweight, middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight division.
Henderson’s durability would suggest he might actually be made of rubber. His first UFC fight came at UFC 17: Redemption in May 1998. The 2x middleweight champ’s final fight didn’t come until UFC 204: Bisping vs. Henderson 2 in October 2016, when the 42-year-old was the oldest fighter in the organization.
28. Joe Louis
Joe Louis paved the way for African-American and minority athletes in a way that is simply unimaginable now. The Brown Bomber turned into public enemy number one in the eyes of many Americans throughout the 1930-40s who couldn’t accept a champion who was not white.
Louis was a titan of a heavyweight. When he first earned the title of heavyweight champion in 1937, he maintained that status through 1949. Everyone who stepped in the ring with the Brown Bomber got tossed around so bad during his reign that there was a “Bum of the Month Club” for all of the heavyweight hopefuls who walked away with nothing more than an L.
29. Antonio Nogueira
Antonio Nogueira is a monster among men. He’s responsible for the rise of MMA in Japan, where he fought in Fighting Network Rings (RINGS) and Pride Fighting Championships (Pride). The Brazilian native put BJJ to the test against many top talents.
Eventually, Pride merged with the UFC. Nogueira, who had already won a heavyweight title in Pride, also won UFC 81 making him one of three competitors to achieve such a feat.
Nogueira ended up on the wrong side of a number of haymakers in the tail end of his career, but his early pioneering days left an impact still felt today.
30. Oscar De La Hoya
Attempts to slander Oscar De La Hoya’s name are fruitless. Even poking fun at him only adds to his legend. The Golden Boy likes to play dress up and rock some fire high heels? Talk trash and see what happens.
The Golden Boy earned his nickname for a reason. When De La Hoya had a PPV fight, people were going to tune in. His 19 PPV fights brought in roughly $700 million. With world titles in six different weight classes, De La Hoya went above and beyond to prove he’s the best.