The UFC is universally recognized as the best MMA promotion on the planet. However, that doesn’t mean that all the best fighters in the world are signed with the UFC. We’ve seen former UFC fighters like Sage Northcutt and Eddie Alvarez head to other promotions, fight lesser-known fighters, and get their butts kicked. I’m not saying that UFC fighters are overrated but what I’m trying to say is that talent exists in other MMA promotions all over the globe and these talents are at par with or may even be better than the ones that are fighting inside the UFC octagon.
Check out these fighters:
Bibiano Fernandes may be the best fighter outside the UFC regardless of weight class. The 39-year old Brazilian was the first DREAM bantamweight and featherweight champion and he is currently in his second reign as ONE bantamweight king. Fernandes is considered as the most dominant champion in the ONE Championship promotion where he has spent his last seven years of fighting. The three-time World Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champion successfully defended the ONE bantamweight belts seven times before losing a close split decision to Kevin Belingon in 2018. He recaptured the belt in their rematch but after that bout ended in a disqualification, he fought Belingon a third time. Fernandes submitted Belingon last October to assert his reign as the best bantamweight in ONE and outside the UFC. He is the regular sparring partner of Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson which says a lot about this Brazilian fighter.
Demetrious Johnson won the recent ONE flyweight Grand Prix at Asia’s ONE Championship promotion. D.J. was the inaugural UFC flyweight champion and is considered the greatest flyweight of all-time. He has defeated the best flyweights in the UFC, including current bantamweight king Henry Cejudo. DJ was one of the UFC’s staple fighters before he was “traded” to ONE for welterweight star Ben Askren. Since coming over from the UFC, Johnson has won three fights in a row in One Championship. His next fight is likely a title challenge against ONE flyweight king Adriano Moraes. His last fight in the UFC was a loss to Henry Cejudo but it was a close fight that he could have won if there was a different set of judges. I think Mighty Mouse has redeemed himself after that loss with three wins and the ONE flyweight tournament title added to his already impressive resume. He may be getting older but no question that DJ is still one of the best pounds for pound fighters on the planet.
The Pitbull is the reigning Bellator World lightweight champion and Bellator World featherweight champion. The 32-year old Brazilian is the second concurrent two-division title in the history of Bellator and he is currently ranked as the #1 featherweight fighter outside the UFC. Freire holds the record for most title fight wins in Bellator history with 8. He is also the record-holder for most wins in the history of the promotion with 18. Pitbull won two Bellator Featherweight tournaments and was a runner-up in a third. At Bellator 221, he became a two-division champion after knocking out Michael Chandler. He has only two losses since 2013 including one where he suffered an injury during the fight. He is considered as Bellator’s top fighter right now and if you put him in the UFC, he will surely give even Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway a run for their money.
Kyoji Horiguchi is a former Shooto bantamweight champion and a former UFC fighter. The 29-year old from Takasaki in Gunma, Japan moved to the UFC in 2013 and won four straight bouts to earn a shot at Demetrious Johnson’s UFC flyweight belt. He lost to DJ and won three more bouts inside the octagon before transferring to the Rizin Fighting Federation where he won the 2017 Rizin Bantamweight Grand Prix. He is coming off a first-round knockout loss to Kai Asakura but his accomplishments since leaving the UFC is impressive.
He has won seven consecutive bouts at Rizin including wins over Ian McCall, Kape, and Hiromasa Ogikubo. Horiguchi captured the Rizin bantamweight title by defeating former Bellator champion Darion Caldwell. He beat Ben Nguyen in a 132-pound bout and then won the Bellator bantamweight by defeating Caldwell again. Horiguchi has vacated both his titles due to injury but there is still plenty of fight left in this warrior given his age. His recent body of work suggests that he is one of the best fighters outside the UFC promotion.
Douglas Lima is a former MFC welterweight champion. The current and three-time Bellator world heavyweight champion is ranked as the 6th best welterweight on the planet by Fight Matrix. The 32-year old Brazilian has notable wins over Rory McDonald, Andrey Koreshkov, Lorenz Larkin, and Michael Page. Lima is a three-time tournament winner at Bellator, having won the Bellator Welterweight World Grand Prix in 2018, the Bellator Season 5 welterweight tournament, and Bellator Season 8 welterweight tournament. He is 14-3 inside the Bellator cage with two of his losses to McDonald and Koreshkov avenged.
Lima has proven himself against the best in the world and he has accepted every challenge given to him without reservation. He is reportedly eyeing a second weight class by moving up to middleweight. Although he may never avenge his loss to Funky Ben Askren, Lima is, without doubt, one of the best fighters outside the UFC. Along with Pitbull Freire, he is one of Bellator’s top fighters and he has been among the elites for almost a decade now.
Ryan Bader is the current heavyweight and light heavyweight champion in the Bellator promotion. Bader is a former UFC fighter and was the winner of The Ultimate Fighter’s eight seasons. He was the first fighter in Bellator history to hold two belts simultaneously and is a former NCAA Division I wrestler. Bader won the Bellator Heavyweight World Grand Prix last year and annexed the Bellator heavyweight title after knocking out the legendary Fedor Emelianenko at Bellator 214.
Bader went to Bellator not because he was cut by the UFC but because he was looking for greener pastures. In the UFC, he fought the likes of Tito Ortiz, Jon Jones, Glover Teixeira, Lyoto Machida, and Anthony “Rumble’ Johnson. He lost those mentioned bouts but was certainly a force in the UFC before becoming a two-division champion in Bellator. Bader’s last fight against Cheick Congo ended in a no-contest due to an eye poke but there is no question that he is among the best light heavyweights in the world.