UFC rivalries have a unique way of captivating fans and elevating the sport of mixed martial arts to new heights. They showcase the intensity of competition, the unrelenting drive of athletes, and the incredible stories that unfold in and outside the cage. The passion and dedication of fighters, the drama, and the high stakes make these rivalries the lifeblood of MMA, generating excitement and anticipation that is unmatched.
In this article, we will explore the top 10 biggest UFC rivalries of all time, delving deep into the history and significance of these epic battles that have left an indelible mark on the sport.
#10 – Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes
The Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes rivalry represents a classic striker vs. wrestler clash that has left an indelible mark on the featherweight division. Aldo, a lethal Muay Thai specialist, and Mendes, a relentless wrestler, engaged in a captivating battle for dominance in the UFC.
Their first meeting at UFC 142 saw Aldo deliver a brutal knee, securing a victory over Mendes in the final seconds of the first round. The knockout finish created an iconic image of Aldo celebrating among his ecstatic Brazilian fans.
Their UFC 179 rematch was a five-round war, showcasing the evolution of both fighters. The back-and-forth brawl earned Fight of the Night honors and solidified their rivalry as one of the greatest in MMA history.
The rivalry elevated both fighters’ careers, with Aldo retaining his undisputed title as the featherweight king, cementing his position as one of the greatest UFC fighters of all time, and Mendes earning respect and admiration for his resilience and improvement.
#9 – Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate
Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate’s rivalry was one of the most heated and personal in MMA history. The two fighters’ animosity towards each other began when Rousey was awarded a title shot against Tate’s Strikeforce Bantamweight Championship in 2012. Rousey, a former Olympic judoka, had taken the MMA world by storm with her quick submissions and brash personality, while Tate, a skilled wrestler, and striker, was not one to back down.
Their first fight ended with Rousey submitting Tate via her signature armbar in the first round. The rivalry only intensified from there, with both fighters trading barbs in the media and on social media. Their feud caught the attention of the mainstream, transcending the sport and turning both women into household names.
The two would meet again in the UFC, with Rousey once again defending her title against Tate at UFC 168. In a much more competitive fight, Rousey showcased her striking and grappling skills before eventually submitting Tate in the third round. While their rivalry may have ended inside the cage, the impact of Rousey vs. Tate on women’s MMA and the sport as a whole cannot be overstated.
#8 – Wanderlei Silva vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson
The rivalry between Wanderlei Silva and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson spans three brutal fights across two different organizations, PRIDE and the UFC. Their feud began in PRIDE, where Silva defeated Jackson twice, with both fights ending in violent, highlight-reel finishes.
Their first bout at PRIDE Final Conflict 2003 saw Silva deliver a brutal barrage of knees from the Muay Thai clinch, finishing Jackson with a devastating knee that sent him crashing through the ropes. Their second encounter at PRIDE 28 in 2004 was equally as violent, with Silva once again finishing Jackson with a barrage of strikes.
The rivalry would continue in the UFC, where both fighters found themselves competing years later. At UFC 92, Jackson finally got his revenge, knocking out Silva in the first round with a vicious left hook. While their rivalry may not have been built on personal animosity, the violence and intensity of their fights make Silva vs. Jackson one of the most unforgettable MMA rivalries in history.
#7 – Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard
Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard’s intense rivalry spanned three unforgettable fights, each showcasing the heart, grit, and determination of both competitors. Their first encounter took place in 2008 at UFC Fight Night 13, where Maynard’s wrestling and top control earned him a unanimous decision victory over Edgar.
They would meet again two years later at UFC 125, with Edgar defending his UFC Lightweight Championship against Maynard. In one of the most memorable comebacks in MMA history, Edgar survived a brutal first round where Maynard nearly finished him on multiple occasions. Displaying the heart of a champion, Edgar battled back and fought Maynard to a draw, retaining his title in a fight that would go down as one of the most thrilling in UFC history.
The stage was set for their trilogy bout at UFC 136, with the lightweight title once again on the line. In another back-and-forth battle, Edgar showcased his growth as a fighter, finishing Maynard with strikes in the fourth round and putting an exclamation point on their storied rivalry. Edgar vs. Maynard remains an iconic trilogy, synonymous with the resilience and spirit of both fighters.
#6 – Georges St-Pierre vs. B.J. Penn
Georges St-Pierre and B.J. Penn are two of the most respected and accomplished fighters in MMA history. When they first faced off at UFC 58 in 2006, it was an opportunity for Penn, the former UFC Welterweight Champion, to re-establish himself as a dominant force after a brief stint outside the promotion. For St-Pierre, it was a chance to solidify his status as the next great welterweight.
In their first encounter, St-Pierre edged out Penn in a razor-thin split decision victory. The fight was so closely contested that it left fans clamoring for a rematch. That rematch would come at UFC 94 in 2009, with both fighters now holding UFC titles – St-Pierre as the reigning Welterweight Champion and Penn as the Lightweight Champion.
Their second bout was a much more decisive affair, with St-Pierre utilizing his superior wrestling and relentless ground and pound to force Penn’s corner to throw in the towel after four grueling rounds. Despite the definitive outcome, the fight was not without controversy, as accusations of greasing against St-Pierre’s corner added an extra layer to what is regarded as one of the biggest UFC rivalries in history.
Although the two never fought again, their clashes remain a testament to the skill and heart of both fighters and solidify their place among the greatest rivalries in MMA history.
#5 – Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber
Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber’s rivalry is one of the longest-lasting and most significant in the history of MMA. Their first encounter dates back to 2007, with both fighters possessing contrasting styles and attitudes. Faber, the charismatic California Kid, was the reigning WEC Featherweight Champion at the time, while Cruz, the scrappy underdog, was looking to make a name for himself.
Their first bout took place at WEC 26, where Faber submitted Cruz in the first round with a guillotine choke. It would be the only loss Cruz would suffer in his career until 2016. The two would continue to talk trash and build up their rivalry, leading to a highly anticipated rematch in 2011 at UFC 132. This time, Cruz got the better of Faber, winning a close unanimous decision and retaining his UFC Bantamweight Championship.
The rivalry didn’t end there, though. Cruz and Faber would continue to trade verbal jabs and coach against each other on The Ultimate Fighter 15, setting up their trilogy fight at UFC 199 in 2016. Cruz, having successfully returned from a long injury layoff, once again outclassed Faber, securing a unanimous decision victory and putting a stamp on their storied rivalry.
Throughout their battles, both Cruz and Faber showcased their incredible skillsets and heart, creating what is undoubtedly one of the best UFC rivalries of all time.
#4 – Tito Ortiz vs. Chuck Liddell
Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell’s rivalry is a prime example of how personal animosity can lead to legendary battles inside the Octagon. The two fighters were once friends and training partners, but their friendship disintegrated when they found themselves on a collision course for the UFC light heavyweight title.
Their first encounter took place at UFC 47 in 2004, with Liddell emerging victorious via second-round knockout. The fight was a pivotal moment in the evolution of the UFC, as it helped elevate the promotion to new levels of popularity.
A highly anticipated rematch between Ortiz and Liddell occurred at UFC 66 in 2006. Once again, Liddell proved to be the superior fighter, defeating Ortiz by third-round TKO to retain his light heavyweight title. The bad blood between the two fighters continued even after their in-cage battles, as both men remained prominent figures in the sport.
Their rivalry culminated in a trilogy fight in 2018 under the Golden Boy Promotions banner, with Liddell coming out of retirement to face Ortiz one last time. Ortiz would finally secure a victory over his longtime rival, ending one of the biggest UFC rivalries on a high note.
#3 – Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen
Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen’s rivalry is a tale of two vastly different personalities and fighting styles. Silva, the dominant and enigmatic champion, was the epitome of grace and skill inside the Octagon. Sonnen, on the other hand, was an unapologetic trash-talker with a relentless wrestling style. Their contrasting personas and styles made for an enthralling rivalry.
Their first encounter at UFC 117 in 2010 was a classic. Sonnen dominated Silva for nearly five full rounds, only for Silva to secure a last-minute triangle choke submission, completing one of the most incredible comebacks in MMA history. The fight, along with Sonnen’s relentless trash-talking, captured the imagination of fans and set the stage for a highly anticipated rematch.
At UFC 148 in 2012, Silva and Sonnen met again, this time with Silva finishing the fight in the second round via TKO. The rivalry may have ended with Silva as the clear victor, but the unforgettable moments and the drama between the two fighters have solidified their place among the best UFC rivalries ever.
#2 – Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz
The rivalry between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz is nothing short of electric, showcasing the magnetic personalities and exceptional skills of both fighters. Their story began in 2016 when Diaz stepped in on short notice to face McGregor at UFC 196. In a shocking turn of events, Diaz submitted the seemingly unstoppable McGregor, handing him his first loss in the UFC.
The defeat only fueled McGregor’s desire for redemption, setting the stage for one of the most highly anticipated rematches in MMA history. At UFC 202, the two warriors engaged in a thrilling five-round battle, with McGregor emerging victorious by majority decision. The back-and-forth nature of the fight and the razor-thin margin between victory and defeat only intensified the rivalry.
While both fighters have gone on to face other opponents, the possibility of a trilogy fight between McGregor and Diaz continues to intrigue fans. Their explosive personalities, trash-talking antics, and incredible heart displayed inside the cage make this rivalry one of the biggest UFC rivalries of all time.
#1 – Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier
The rivalry between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier is one for the ages, fueled by genuine animosity, competitive fire, and two of the greatest fighters in UFC history. Their story begins in 2010 when they met backstage at a UFC event. What started as a friendly encounter quickly turned sour, with Jones taking a jab at Cormier’s wrestling credentials. This sparked a bitterness between the two that would last for years.
The rivalry heated up in 2014 when they were scheduled to fight at UFC 178. At a press conference promoting the event, the two men got into a brawl, further escalating tensions. Due to an injury, Jones had to pull out of the fight, but the stage was set for an epic showdown. They finally met at UFC 182 in 2015, with Jones successfully defending his light heavyweight title. However, their story was far from over.
In 2016, Jones was stripped of his title and suspended, leading to Cormier being crowned the new champion. When they met again at UFC 214, Jones reclaimed the belt with a knockout victory, but the result was later overturned due to a failed drug test. Despite never having a third fight, the rivalry between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier remains one of the most intense and significant in MMA history. Their heated exchanges, incredible performances, and undeniable talent mean that this ranks as our best and biggest UFC rivalry of all time.