UFC Pound-for-Pound Rankings: The Ultimate Guide 1

In the exhilarating world of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), one list stands as a testament to supreme skill and unmatched prowess – the UFC pound-for-pound rankings.

Yet, this intriguing system often leads fans and newcomers alike into a whirlwind of questions.

What exactly does ‘Pound for Pound’ mean? How are these rankings decided and who are the exceptional athletes that have etched their names in this prestigious list?

Join me, as we embark on a journey to untangle the intricacies of the UFC’s most talked-about ranking system.

UFC Men’s Pound-for-Pound Rankings

Rankings last updated April 27, 2023

1Jon Jones
2Alexander Volkanovski
3Islam Makhachev
4Leon Edwards
5Israel Adesanya
6Aljamain Sterling
7Kamaru Usman
8Charles Oliveira
9Brandon Moreno
10Alex Pereira
11Jiri Prochazka
12Dustin Poirier
13Max Holloway
14Jamahal Hill
15Robert Whittaker
Jon Jones defeats Ciryl Gane at UFC 285 and becomes the new UFC heavyweight champion (Zuffa LLC)
Jon Jones defeats Ciryl Gane at UFC 285 and becomes the new UFC heavyweight champion (Zuffa LLC)

UFC Women’s Pound-for-Pound Rankings

Rankings last updated April 27, 2023

1Amanda Nunes
2Alexa Grasso
3Valentina Shevchenko
4Zhang Weili
5Rose Namajunas
6Julianna Pena
7Carla Esparza
8Jessica Andrade
9Erin Blanchfield
10Amanda Lemos
11Manon Fiorot
12Taila Santos
13Raquel Pennington
14Marina Rodriguez
15Holly Holm
Amanda Nunes shows off her two UFC titles
Amanda Nunes celebrates with her UFC Women’s Featherweight and Bantamweight titles (Getty Images)

What is Pound-for-Pound in UFC?

So, what is pound for pound in UFC? On the surface, it might seem like a strange term to those unfamiliar with combat sports. Derived from boxing, the pound-for-pound concept is an attempt to answer a fascinating, albeit hypothetical, question: Who would be the best fighter if all competitors were the same weight?

The UFC, like boxing, has various weight classes, each with its own champion. However, comparing fighters across these weight classes is inherently challenging due to the physical advantages or disadvantages tied to size and weight. The pound-for-pound rankings, therefore, offer a way to level the playing field, creating a platform for comparison that transcends weight classes.

In essence, the UFC pound-for-pound rankings are a tribute to skill, technique, strength, and versatility, rather than physical stature alone. They represent a fascinating “what-if” scenario and have become an integral part of combat sports, providing fans and analysts with endless debate material.

Since its inception, the UFC has used this system to highlight the most exceptional talents in the organization, creating a unique blend of honor and competition that pushes fighters to prove they are the best, irrespective of weight class.

The UFC’s Pound-for-Pound Ranking System

Now that we have a basic understanding of the concept, let’s delve into the specifics of the UFC pound-for-pound ranking system. Unlike the rankings within individual weight classes, the pound-for-pound list doesn’t directly influence a fighter’s career in terms of title shots or contractual bonuses. Rather, it serves as an honorary title and a means of sparking debates about the relative skills and performances of fighters across different weight divisions.

So, who decides the UFC pound-for-pound rankings? The rankings are determined by a voting panel made up of media members. Each member of the panel ranks their top fighters, with the results compiled to create the final list.

A range of factors influence these rankings. Firstly, the fighter’s record and recent performance play a significant role. A winning streak or a dominant victory can significantly boost a fighter’s ranking. Secondly, the quality of opponents matters. Fighters who consistently face and defeat top-ranked opponents are likely to be ranked higher. Thirdly, the manner of victory is considered. A fighter who wins via spectacular knockout or submission is often favored over one who wins by decision.

Another crucial factor is the fighter’s activity level. An inactive fighter, even one with an impressive record, may drop in the rankings due to inactivity, while active fighters may ascend. Lastly, the champion of each division generally gets preferential treatment and is usually ranked higher in the pound-for-pound list.

The rankings are updated weekly, usually a few days after an event. However, they can be updated at any time in case of an interim fight or a sudden change, such as a fighter’s retirement.

In essence, the UFC pound-for-pound ranking system is a dynamic and ever-evolving list that reflects the current landscape of the sport, capturing the ebb and flow of fighters’ careers and the relentless pace of the UFC.

Alexander Volkanovski
UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski is considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport (Zuffa LLC)

Controversies and Criticisms of the Pound-for-Pound Rankings

Despite the intrigue and honor associated with the UFC pound-for-pound rankings, it’s not without its share of controversies and criticisms. The ranking system has often been a hotbed for debates and disagreements, largely due to its inherent subjectivity and perceived inconsistencies.

One of the most prevalent criticisms is the potential bias in the rankings. The voting panel, consisting of media members, is susceptible to personal biases, conscious or unconscious, which could influence the rankings. For instance, a fighter’s popularity, charisma, or media presence could sway voters, potentially skewing the rankings in favor of more marketable fighters.

The subjective nature of the rankings has also led to accusations of inconsistency. There’s no definitive criteria or scoring system for determining the pound-for-pound rankings, making it possible for two different voters to have vastly different rankings based on their personal interpretations of a fighter’s skill, performance, and record. This inconsistency often leads to disputes and debates about the fairness and legitimacy of the rankings.

A classic example of the subjective nature of the UFC pound-for-pound rankings was when top-ranked pound-for-pound fighter Alexander Volkanovski moved up to lightweight to face the second-ranked pound-for-pound fighter, Islam Makhachev. The fight was billed as a battle that would determine who is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport. After all, the two top guys were scheduled to fight one another.

However, at the end of five rounds, Makhachev won a close, competitive fight by decision, despite fans expecting him to dominate Volkanovski, the champion of the smaller weight class. In a surprise turn of events, Volkanovski’s impressive performance — albeit in a fight that he lost — ultimately led to him maintaining the top position in the pound-for-pound rankings.

After the rankings were updated, Makhachev hinted that the pound-for-pound may be biased against Russian fighters.

“I never expected justice and I still don’t,” Makhachev said. “Because we have always seen the attitude towards us on the example of our other fighters- Ankalaev, Petr Yan.”

“The main thing is that I drove 13,000 km, and defeated their champion there. The referee raised my hand up. With my head up, confident, with a belt, I came home.”

Islam Makhachev
Islam Makhachev celebrates after defeating Charles Oliveira and winning the UFC Lightweight Championship (Zuffa LLC)

Another reason for the controversy is the issue of inactivity and how it’s handled in the rankings. Some believe that inactive fighters, regardless of their previous achievements, should be removed from the rankings to maintain their relevance and accuracy. Others argue that a fighter’s past achievements shouldn’t be discounted due to periods of inactivity.

Despite these controversies and criticisms, the UFC pound-for-pound rankings remain a central part of the sport, providing a source of intrigue, debate, and recognition that adds to the rich tapestry of the UFC.

Notable Pound-for-Pound UFC Fighters

Over the years, the UFC’s pound-for-pound list has been graced by some of the most skilled, formidable, and iconic fighters in the history of the sport. The best pound-for-pound UFC fighters are a testament to the diversity of skill sets and the array of talent present in the organization.

One name that often emerges in pound-for-pound discussions is Jon Jones. Known for his unprecedented reach, creative striking, and dominant wrestling, Jones held the light heavyweight title for many years, defending it successfully against a series of top contenders. In 2023, he made a successful return in his move up to the heavyweight division, claiming the title by submitting Ciryl Gane in the first round. His ability to adapt and overcome adversity in the octagon has seen him frequently top the pound-for-pound list. It’s no wonder why Jones is regarded as one of the best UFC fighters of all time.

Another fighter who has consistently found himself atop the pound-for-pound rankings is Khabib Nurmagomedov. His flawless record and utterly dominant performances in the lightweight division, coupled with his unique and relentless grappling style, cemented his place among the best pound-for-pound UFC fighters until his retirement.

Then there’s Amanda Nunes, who has made history as the first woman to hold two UFC titles simultaneously, in the Bantamweight and Featherweight divisions. Her striking power, accuracy, and well-rounded skills have seen her dominate opponents, and she was a fixture in the combined pound-for-pound rankings years ago before then reigning over the women’s list post-2020.

These fighters, among others, exemplify the essence of the pound-for-pound concept. They embody the skill, versatility, and excellence that transcends weight classes and exemplifies the highest level of martial arts competition.

UFC 254: Khabib vs. Gaethje start time and world broadcast details
Khabib Nurmagomedov was one of the greatest fighters to ever compete in the UFC (Zuffa LLC)

The Evolution of Pound-for-Pound Rankings in UFC

The evolution of the UFC pound-for-pound rankings has mirrored the dynamic growth and development of the sport itself. When these rankings were first introduced, they were largely theoretical, a topic of barroom debates and armchair punditry. However, over time, they’ve become an essential part of the UFC landscape, holding a tangible value in the world of MMA.

Early on, fighters like Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre frequently topped the pound-for-pound rankings due to their dominance in their respective divisions and their ability to defeat high-level opponents with relative ease. They set the standard for what it meant to be a pound-for-pound great.

As the sport grew, new stars emerged, and the rankings evolved. Names like Jon Jones, Demetrious Johnson, and Jose Aldo began to take their place at the top of the rankings, showcasing the ever-increasing level of talent within the UFC.

The introduction of women’s divisions in the UFC brought another layer of depth to the pound-for-pound rankings. Fighters like Ronda Rousey, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and later, Amanda Nunes, began to feature in the list, shattering the glass ceiling and proving that skill and talent know no gender.

In 2020, after years of both male and female athletes sharing the combined pound-for-pound rankings list, the UFC moved forward and created separate lists for both men and women.

In recent years, we’ve seen a continued reshuffling of the pound-for-pound rankings, as new champions emerge and established ones falter or retire. The rankings have become more diverse, reflecting the global growth of the sport and the emergence of talent from all corners of the world.

The UFC pound-for-pound rankings have become more than just a hypothetical list. They’ve become a testament to the growth of the sport, a chronicle of its history, and a beacon for aspiring fighters aiming for greatness. They symbolize the ongoing evolution of the sport and the relentless pursuit of excellence by its athletes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is pound for pound in UFC?

In the UFC, the term “pound for pound” refers to a ranking system that aims to compare fighters across different weight divisions. The concept is derived from boxing and is designed to answer a hypothetical question: Who would be the best fighter if all competitors were the same weight?

How is pound for pound ranking calculated?

The pound for pound rankings in UFC are determined by a voting panel made up of media members. These panelists consider several factors when casting their votes, including a fighter’s record, recent performance, quality of opponents, manner of victory, and activity level. The rankings are updated weekly and can also be updated at any time in case of a significant event like a title fight or a fighter’s retirement.

Who is the best pound for pound UFC fighter?

As of the most recent update, Jon Jones is considered the best pound-for-pound UFC fighter. He has consistently demonstrated exceptional skill, technique, and adaptability in the octagon, earning him top spots in the rankings.

What does pound for pound mean in UFC?

The term “pound for pound” in UFC is used to identify the best fighters in the organization, regardless of their weight class. It’s a way to level the playing field and compare fighters’ skills, techniques, and performance, irrespective of their size and weight.


In the thrilling world of the UFC, where every punch, kick, and submission hold can make or break a fight, the pound-for-pound rankings hold a unique place. They represent a convergence of skill, accomplishment, and potential, providing a platform that transcends the confines of weight classes.

For fighters, these rankings offer recognition of their exceptional talent and hard work. They provide a benchmark, a target to aim for, and a testament to their prowess in the octagon. For fans, they fuel debates and discussions, adding another layer of intrigue to the sport. The rankings offer a unique perspective, a chance to compare the greats of the sport across different eras and weight classes.

In essence, the UFC pound-for-pound rankings are more than just a list. They are a celebration of the sport and its athletes, a recognition of greatness, and a testament to the ongoing evolution of mixed martial arts. They embody the spirit of the UFC – the relentless pursuit of excellence and the never-ending quest to be the best.

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