The UFC’s 25 greatest Brazilian fighters of all time, ranked

The UFC’s 25 greatest Brazilian fighters of all time, ranked

13 minutes, 55 seconds Read

You can’t tell the story of mixed martial arts without talking about Brazil.

A country that’s hosted Vale Tudo (a Portuguese term for “anything goes”) fights since the 1920s, it’s no surprise to see that the martial arts mecca of Brazil continues to carry a strong presence throughout MMA.

Whether there’s a fight card going down in Russia or Japan, it’s still not uncommon to see Brazilian competitors being flown in to test the local talent. The Ultimate Fighting Championship, most famously, has had a major Brazilian presence since Royce Gracie won the first tournament at UFC 1.

The UFC, which was in part created by Brazilians like Rorion Gracie back in 1993, initially served as not just an amazing spectacle — but also a successful way of selling the effectiveness of both Brazilian jiu-jitsu and the Gracie brand alike.

The sport would quickly evolve into the 21st century, which saw the UFC, under its new ownership of the Fertitta’s and Zuffa, steadily take over the landscape as they helped bring MMA to the mainstream.

Knowing the importance of Brazil and its history with the organization, the UFC would end up repaying Brazil’s faithful by investing in the Brazilian market with everything from a plethora of live shows to talent cultivation in the form of “The Ultimate Fighter: Brasil” during its world-expansion era.

With the UFC set to host yet another pay-per-view in Brazil, it’s a great excuse to take a stroll down memory lane to pay homage to the great Brazilian fighters of our time.

It’s almost unfairly impossible to list and rank all of Brazil’s finest, so I limited this list to Brazilians who have competed in the UFC. Though this caveat will likely tinker with the rankings given that a lot of these fighters had fantastic accomplishments outside of the octagon, I did my best to recognize each combatant and their contribution to the landscape as a whole.

I purposely left Royce Gracie off the list in order to make room for all the fighters that he opened the proverbial door for, but make no mistake: This list doesn’t likely exist without what he was able to accomplish with his early tournament wins.

As usual, these lists reflect my personal tastes and biases and are not meant to serve as some ultimate authority. That said, I feel very strongly about not only my list – but also my honorable mentions at the end.

So, without further ado …


Gleison Tibau

Gleison Tibau

Making the cut to kick off this list is longtime UFC lightweight wins leader Gleison Tibau.

You might not see a lot of Tibau footage being played on highlight reels, but this Brazilian powerhouse was quietly one of the toughest outs at 155 pounds throughout the promotion’s golden era.

Not only is Tibau the only fighter who has an argument for beating the undefeated phenom, Khabib Nurmagomedov, but the American Top Team representative still holds the record for the most takedowns landed in UFC lightweight history (84).

Tibau, at least according to Joe Rogan, is also one of the biggest lightweights we’ve seen touch down in the UFC’s octagon.


Edson Barboza

May 15, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Edson Barboza celebrates his TKO victory against Shane Burgos at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Also making the cut as a non-champion who never challenged for a UFC title is Brazilian warhorse, Edson Barboza.

Despite surprisingly never challenging for a belt, no one should be questioning Barboza’s place on this list.

Aside from having a list of knockouts that deserves its own article, Barboza continues to wreak havoc across two of the sport’s deepest division well over a decade since his UFC debut.

From following the footsteps of Brazilians who came before by scoring leg kick knockouts to setting his own bar with spinning kick highlights that will stand the test of time, Barboza remains a stalwart for Brazil’s finest when talking about striking in MMA.


Demian Maia

Demian Maia

When it comes to specialists who have found success in the octagon, it’s difficult to deny Demian Maia for what he was able to accomplish with Brazilian jiu-jitsu in MMA’s modern era.

After mixed success at and failed bid for the UFC title at 185 pounds, Maia moved down to the welterweight division where he would experience an incredible career renaissance.

Seamlessly melding his jiu-jitsu with some newfound wrestling skills into one solid sword, Maia was able to take the division by storm, setting submission records in the process.

Maia may have never won a UFC title despite his two tries at-bat, but the Brazilian jiu-jitsu legend still holds standings for having the third most submission wins in UFC history.


Ronaldo Souza

Speaking of Brazilian jiu-jitsu legends who did well in the octagon, how can you deny Ronaldo Souza a spot on this list?

An athletic phenom who tore through the Gi and No-Gi grappling world, “Jacare” eventually made his way over to MMA to apply himself similarly.

Not only did Souza’s athleticism seamlessly lend itself to the wrestling aspect of MMA, but the former Strikeforce champion was also able to pick up striking skills at a surprising clip.

Souza’s lack of UFC gold keeps him from being ranked higher on this list, though it should be noted that it was injuries and unfortunate matchmaking circumstances that unfairly kept Souza away from a deserved title shot during his prime (a time when no one wanted to fight Jacare).


Cris Cyborg

Say what you will about women’s divisions north of 135 pounds, but I’d be remiss if I left Cris Cyborg off of this list.

Even though a lot of Cyborg’s success came under Scott Coker-ran promotions like Strikeforce and Bellator, her arrival in the UFC marked a breaking of barriers that many wouldn’t have thought possible given her history with UFC president, Dana White.

Cyborg may have come up short in a strange fight with Amanda Nunes back at UFC 232, but that doesn’t change the positive impact she’s had on women’s MMA.


Renan Barao

Renan Barao

Breaking the top 20 is former UFC bantamweight champion, Renan Barao.

Despite most remembering “The Baron” for his precipitous decline after his series with T.J. Dillashaw, many forget that Barao was riding an impressive 32-fight winning streak headed into that title fight.

And though we never got a title-unification bout with Dominick Cruz during Barao’s reign, the Nova Uniao fighter was still able to deliver some insanely entertaining finishes during his tenure.


Jessica Andrade

Jessica Andrade

Fighting in just about every women’s division that’s ever existed in the UFC, it’s difficult to deny former UFC strawweight champion Jessica Andrade a spot on this list.

A powerhouse who started her UFC career at 135 pounds, “Bate Estaca” would eventually work her way down to strawweight, where she was able to secure a world title opposite Rose Namajunas in front of her home country of Brazil.

Andrade also managed to work her way to a title shot at flyweight, but continues to campaign at 115 pounds.


Murilo Bustamante

Securing a firm spot on this list is Brazil’s first UFC titleholder, Murilo Bustamante.

Although many are probably shouting the name “Royce Gracie” at this article, allow me to remind you that up until Bustamante’s win over Dave Menne back at UFC 35, Brazil could only have claim to UFC tournament champions (given that weight classes like middleweight weren’t officially rolled out in the UFC until 2001 per the New Jersey Athletic Control Board).

After utilizing his underrated boxing skills to beat the UFC’s first middleweight champion, Menne, Bustamante then defended his title against Team Quest standout Matt Linland (whom Bustamante had to submit twice due to a major error on the part of referee John McCarthy).

Like many champions during the UFC’s early days, Bustamante ended up departing from the organization due to contract issues. Not only did Bustamante never lose his UFC middleweight title in the octagon, but the Brazilian Top Team founder arguably beat prime versions of Chuck Liddell and Rampage Jackson in nip-tuck affairs north of 185 pounds.


Marco Ruas

Speaking of Brazilian pioneers who don’t get talked about enough, there was no way I wasn’t going to include Marco Ruas on this list.

Aside from following Royce Gracie to become Brazil’s second UFC tournament champion at UFC 7, Ruas was the first Brazilian fighter to successfully cross-train and apply multiple martial arts at the highest level (something that was considered controversial at the time amongst his fellow Brazilian martial artist).

Despite being largely billed as a Luta Livre fighter (which is Brazilian submission wrestling), Ruas was also a very skilled striker who popularized everything from foot stomps to leg kicks in the octagon.

Marco Ruas x Paul Varelans. The incredible spectacle of Ruas systematically chopping down the awesome 6’8 Polar Bear with leg kicks/stomps went a long way towards changing perceptions of size/strength/skill in NHB/MMA (and pro wrestling). (9.8.1995) 🌟

— Vintage Puroresu プロレス (@vintagepuro) February 25, 2024

“If you grapple me, I punch and kick you. If you punch and kick me, I grapple you. There’s no way out.” – Marco Ruas


Alexandre Pantoja

Alexandre Pantoja

Ranking active champions on these sorts of lists can be tricky, but I have a hard time not firmly ranking one of my favorite fighters, Alexandre Pantoja.

Aside from being a perennially underrated talent who had to take the long road to get here, Pantoja has proven to be an all-action entertainer in victory or defeat.

Not only has Pantoja delivered some of the greatest flyweight fights en route to capturing the division’s title, but the Brazilian remains a role model for fans and future fighters alike, reminding us what we can achieve despite some of life’s darker struggles.

This is so deep man. Not many people noticed or took time to understand.

Pantoja asks his father who left him & his mother years ago with nothing, “You proud of me now dad?!”

— Kota (@kotamarrello) July 9, 2023


Deiveson Figueiredo

Deiveson Figueiredo

Narrowly notching a top 15 spot is a former flyweight champion, Deiveson Figueiredo.

Arguably the most devastating puncher that the division has seen since John Lineker, Figueiredo was an absolute force at 125 pounds.

Figueiredo struggled to make the weight and perform consistently toward the end of his flyweight run, but “Deus da Guerra” continues to successfully campaign up a division at bantamweight.


Alex Pereira

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – APRIL 13: Alex Pereira of Brazil reacts to defeating Jamahal Hill in their light heavyweight championship fight at T-Mobile Arena on April 13, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Despite his unique UFC rise making it difficult for many to both rank and gauge his potential, there’s no denying the combat sports resume that Alex Pereira has been able to accrue in such a short time.

Between being a two-division Glory kickboxing champion and having serious history with Israel Adesanya, Pereira was fast-tracked to a title shot after a few successful showings in the octagon.

Already submitted my #UFC287 breakdown for this week, but couldn’t help throw this video together after hearing @TeddyAtlasReal talk about the jabbing dynamic between Alex Pereira and Israel Adesanya.

Tacked on George Foreman-Gullick to help illustrate his Pereira comparisons:

— Dan Tom (@DanTomMMA) April 4, 2023

After going 1-1 with Adesanya and winning a title at 185 pounds, Pereira moved up to light heavyweight and found immediate success against three former champions en route to securing another undisputed UFC world championship.

Akin to the previous three selections, the book is still being written on Pereira’s career.


Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

Even though a majority of his accolades took place during his tenure with Pride Fighting Championships, there is no way I’m not mentioning Brazil’s most beloved heavyweight champion, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

Not only did Nogueira’s deceptively intelligent game influence the likes of other Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighters like Demian Maia and Rani Yahya, but “Big Nog” was also able to secure wins (as well as a UFC interim heavyweight title) opposite former champions like Tim Sylvia and Randy Couture.

The insane mileage of Nogueira eventually caught up to him in a hurry once he hit the post-prime stage of his career, but the legendary Brazilian still did his best to keep surprising us until the end. And though I wish he retired in front of his home country back at UFC 134, he produced a memory that no one in that crowd will soon forget.

With #UFC301 around the corner, I wanna know what your favorite UFC Brazil moment is?

Feels like too many to choose from, but Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira upsetting Brendan Schaub as north of a 2-1 underdog for the UFC’s return to Brazil back at UFC 134 is probably mine:

— Dan Tom (@DanTomMMA) April 30, 2024


Wanderlei Silva

Akin to the prior selection, Wanderlei Silva is another fighter who did his best work in other organizations – but still deserves a solid spot on this list.

In fact, before Silva began terrorizing Pride Fighting Championship’s middleweight division, “The Axe Murderer” had already competed inside the UFC’s octagon against some notable names. But with destiny taking Silva over to Japan, the Brazilian bruiser wouldn’t fight for the North American promotion until UFC 79, where he was immediately matched up with arch-rival Chuck Liddell.

Although Silva lost more than he won in the UFC, the former Pride champ was still able to put on some incredible performances – including an unforgettable barnburner with Brian Stann that closed out both of their UFC careers.

“The Axe Murderer” Wanderlei Silva vs Brian Stann | UFC on Fuel 8

After a insane pace in the 1st where both fighters scored multiple knockdowns, Wanderlei Silva knocked out Brian Stann in the 2nd in his return to Japan #UFC #MMA

Requested by @OTrillmatic

— Underrated MMA Performances (@MMAUnderrated) January 23, 2024


Glover Teixeira

Coming in just outside of the top 10 is MMA’s greatest sportsman, Glover Teixeira.

Not only does Teixeira hold the record for most finishes in light heavyweight history (13), but his title-winning effort opposite Jan Blachowicz made the Brazilian the oldest first-time champion at 42 years of age.

Not only was Teixeira’s late-career title run an improbable one, but John Hackleman-trained was able to produce unforgettable moments that ranged from epic title fights to real-life Game of Thrones reenactments.

Teixeira’s MMA lineage also connects Hall of Famer and former champion Chuck Liddell to the current UFC champ at 205 pounds (at least at the time of this article), Alex Pereira.


Fabricio Werdum

Fabricio Werdum

Making the top 10 is the legend killer himself, Fabricio Werdum.

Initially starting his MMA career as a grappling coach for other heavyweights like Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, Werdum eventually started to make a name for himself in organizations like Jungle Fight and Pride Fighting Championships. And after a brief stint in the UFC where Werdum was cut after going 2-2, “Vai Cavalo” eventually returned to the promotion years later with a much more complete game in tow.

Werdum already had a win over the legendary Fedor Emelianenko by the time of his second UFC run, but the Brazilian added the ultimate cherry on top by beating the highly touted Cain Velasquez for the UFC heavyweight title.

2 minutes and bit of Fabricio Werdum bringing Cain Velasquez’s title reign to a painful end. @FabricioWerdum went from going 2-2 and released from the UFC to a 6 fight winstreak in his return run which ended with him becoming UFC Heavyweight Champion.

— The Honest Jones Fan🦆 (@SmackdownLayer) February 10, 2023


Rafael dos Anjos

Rafael dos Anjos

Notching the No. 9 slot is former UFC lightweight champion, Rafael dos Anjos.

Another Brazilian champion who started his UFC career at 2-2, dos Anjos definitely had the harder road to success in regards to his title path.

After beating fighters like Nate Diaz and Benson Henderson, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt finally got a shot to show off his improved game for the lightweight title opposite Anthony Pettis.

Even though dos Anjos dropped the belt after one defense, the Brazilian warhorse was able to continue to prove his medal by moving up to welterweight, where he was able to beat former champions and challenge for an interim belt.


Junior Dos Santos

Junior Dos Santos at UFC 143. (USA TODAY Sports)

Coming in at No. 8 is one of the most fan-friendly UFC heavyweight champions, Junior Dos Santos.

Stepping onto the scene with an emphatic knockout of

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