Once again we take a step away from the Halloween series to look at this day that’s United Nations Day. In honor of the occasion, I decided it was a good idea to look at the top international fighters in MMA since this is an international sport. Criteria are relevance and drawing power:
~ 10 ~
At one point this man stood on top of the lightweight division. Takanori Gomi first started out in the Shooto promotion winning their welterweight championship (154 pounds). Despite back to back losses against Joachim Hansen and B.J. Penn, Gomi zipped into Pride FC and became their only lightweight champion.
After the fall of Pride, he went 4-2 in other organizations before finally entering the UFC. He has gone 3-4 in the promotion though he is still in the organization and another win might keep him in the organization and time will tell his eventual fate.
~ 9 ~
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson has been through a lot of highs and lows in his career but no one can deny his drawing power on the international MMA stage. After starting out in promotions such as King of the Cage and Gladiator Challenge, Jackson made a name for himself in Pride FC where he made a name for himself with highlight reel knockouts such as the slam against Ricardo Arona and rivalry with Wanderlei Silva.
After a brief stint in World Fighting Alliance, he burst onto the scene in the UFC where he dethroned Chuck Liddell as light heavyweight champion. Even though he immediately lost the title to Forrest Griffin, he still had a successful career in the UFC until he and Dana White started having issues and he suffered a three fight loosing streak to UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones, Ryan Bader, and Glover Teixeira. He now looks to make a fresh start in Bellator with his promotional debut against Tito Ortiz at Bellator 106.
~ 8 ~
Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic
Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic originally started out in K-1 kickboxing as one of the elite strikers before transitioning to MMA in the occasional fight in Pride. However, in 2003 he fully committed to MMA where he twice competed for the Pride Heavyweight Championships against other greats including Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Fedor Emelianenko.
After winning the 2006 Pride Absolute (Open weight) Grand Prix he then made his first run in the UFC where he went 1-2 before finding himself back in Japan fighting for Dream. Once again he made it back to the UFC and went 3-4 before going into an initial retirement from MMA and returning to K-1. Since then he won their 2012 Grand Prix and returned to MMA for the Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2012 fight card against Shinichi Suzukawa.
~ 7 ~
Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva first started out fighting in Brazilian Vale Tudo shows winning the International Vale Tudo Championship Light Heavyweight Championship in 1999. After competing in some early UFC fights including a title fight against Tito Ortiz, Silva concentrated solely in Pride FC where he became the promotions’ first Middleweight Champion (Light Heavyweight in the Unified Rules) and set multiple promotional records.
Following a loss to Mirko Filipovic in the Pride Absolute Grand Prix, Silva lost the Middleweight Championship to Dan Henderson before coming over to the UFC. Though he’s only gone 4-5 since transitioning to the UFC, Silva has earned the respect of Dana White and as a result will probably fight for the promotion until he retires. He’s looking to reignite his career with a fight against Chael Sonnen after both men coach opposite each other on The Ultimate Fighter Brazil Season 3.
~ 6 ~
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua started out fighting in Vale Tudo shows as well as his former Chute Boxe stablemate Wanderlei Silva and the International Fighting Championships. He then burst onto the scene in Pride FC where he won the 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix. Due to his teammate being the middleweight champion he never fought for the championship and eventually moved into the UFC when Pride closed down.
He lost to Forrest Griffin in his UFC debut but was able to bounce back with wins against Mark Coleman (avenging a Pride loss) and Chuck Liddell before going into a double header with Lyoto Machida, taking the Light Heavyweight Championship from him their second meeting. Unfortunately he lost the title to Jon Jones shortly afterwards and his record has been up and down with a current two loss streak.
~ 5 ~
Alistair Overeem started out in kickboxing then transitioned to MMA fighting for various European promotions as well as the Japanese promotion Rings before transitioning to Pride. After waffling between heavyweight and light heavyweight in Pride with mediocre results, Overeem eventually bulked up to heavyweight permanently, winning the Strikeforce Heavyweight Championship.
During that time he also fought for Dream and K-1 winning the Dream Heavyweight Championship and K-1 2010 Grand Prix. Finally he decided to sign with the UFC where he dismantled former UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar. However, he’s currently riding a two fight loosing streak.
~ 4 ~
Vitor Belfort first appeared in the early UFC winning the UFC 12 Heavyweight Tournament. He then went on his first stint in Pride before returning to the UFC primarily as a light heavyweight, going so far as to win the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship from Randy Couture before loosing it immediately.
Following a loss to Tito Ortiz, Belfort fought for a variety of promotions including a second stint in Pride, Cage Rage, Strikeforce, and Affliction. Belfort then had a third stint in the UFC where he fought for the middleweight and light heavyweight titles against Anderson Silva and Jon Jones respectively. He’s currently on a two fight win streak facing Dan Henderson at UFC Fight Night 32.
~ 3 ~
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira first started out fighting in World Extreme Fighting and Rings, winning the WEF Heavyweight Championship and Rings 2000 King of Kings tournament. He then transitioned to Pride where he won the Heavyweight Championship only three fights into the promotion.
His loss of the title to Fedor Emelianenko resulted in a trilogy between the two with Nogueira also participating in the Pride Absolute Grand Prix. Nogueira transitioned into the UFC where he won the Interim Heavyweight Championship then lost it to Frank Mir. Since then he’s had an up and down career including a recent loss to Frabricio Werdum but no one can take away his legendary status.
~ 2 ~
Dan Henderson started out winning the Brazil Open Tournament in 1997, UFC 17 Middleweight Tournament, and Rings King of Kings 1999 Tournament. He then fought in Pride where after a while he became the promotions only Welterweight Champion (Unified Rules middleweight).
In his last fight with the promotion he took the Middleweight Championship (Unified Rules light heavyweight) from Wanderlei Silva and because of that got two immediate title shots at light heavyweight and middleweight in the UFC. Due to a contract dispute with the UFC, Henderson left for Strikeforce where he became the Light Heavyweight Champion. Since his return to the UFC he’s gone 1-2.
~ 1 ~
Fedor Emelianenko started out fighting in the Rings organization winning the 2001 Absolute Class Tournament before transitioning to Pride and winning the Heavyweight Championship. It was during that time that he established himself as the top heavyweight in the world.
After the fall of Pride, Emelianenko fought for a few independent shows before fighting in Affliction and winning the World Alliance of Mixed Martial Arts Heavyweight Championship and defending it into Strikeforce. Emelianenko then went on a three fight loosing streak before finishing his career in M-1 Global. Despite the final skid of his career Emeliakenko can still be considered the as arguably the best heavyweight ever.
Anyone else you can think of that is a top international fighter? Leave a comment!