All-Time MMA Rankings: Who’s the GOAT?

Mar 3, 2024

As I was browsing our recently updated All-Time MMA rankings, I couldn’t help but wonder: what are the odds that the current top ranked fighters of all time in each division will be replaced in the next decade? Let’s take a deeper look, in an attempt to answer one of the eternal sports questions: who is the greatest of all time?

The numbers in parentheses represent the all-time rating points.

Men’s Absolute

[#1]: Georges St. Pierre (36945)

Next active fighter: [#2] Jon Jones (34157)

Point differential: 1.08x

Other contenders: [#7] Alexander Volkanovski, [#8] Max Holloway, [#9] Demetrious Johnson

The all-time absolute ranking takes into account the sum of fighters’ accomplishments across all divisions. And this list is the one with the least amount of separation between the top two.  If Jon Jones sticks around for another year or two and defeats Stipe Miocic and Tom Aspinall, as he promised to do, he will certainly overtake GSP for the #1 spot. In the eyes of many, Jones is already the GOAT, and he would rightfully sit atop of our absolute ranking – for a very long time, if the rest of the list is any indication.

The next highest ranked active fighters on the all-time absolute list sit at #7-9. Alexander Volkanovski is on a clear decline, losing three of his last four fights, and having been on a receiving end of a KO in his two most recent outings. Holloway is still hanging in there and with a move to lightweight division he might soon pass his long-time rival Volk. However it’s fairly obvious that this 32-year old with a whole lot of fight mileage is nearing his ceiling, and will not break into the truly elite Top 5. Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson should be ranked higher in my opinion – but the relative weakness of the flyweight division has held him back here. At 37, the Mouse is at the tail end of a illustrious career and is unlikely to move much higher on the list.

Women’s Open

[#1]:  Amanda Nunes (7458)

Next active fighter: [#2] Cristiane Justino (5154)

Point differential: 1.44x

Other contenders: [#3] Valentina Shevchenko, [#5] Weili Zhang

Cristiane ‘Cyborg’ Justino has ruled the women’s featherweight (and above) roost for a long time, before getting knocked out and knocked off the top spot by Amanda Nunes. Justino remains undefeated since the Nunes loss, and because of Amanda’s retirement, she can continue to rack up points and bridge the gap, if not take the #1 spot back. However, she is 38 years old and so her time to climb the ranking is limited.

Beyond Justino and Nunes, we have Valentina ‘Bullet’ Shevchenko – another all-time great nearing the end of her career. Bullet fought Nunes twice, losing by a unanimous decision the first time around, and a split at UFC 215. Had the split decision gone her way, Shevchenko may have been ranked higher – and Nunes may have never gotten the chance to fight Cyborg, which would bring us to a very different picture at the top of this list.  Alas, two of the three judges saw it for Nunes, showing how much power they wield over fighters’ careers.

With [#4] Ronda Rousey long retired and not planning a comeback, up next is Zhang Weili. Though Weili is only a year younger than Shevchenko, she has a decade on her in terms of fighting career, which makes Zhang still very much in her prime.  I could see her continuing to accumulate strawweight title defenses and shooting up a few spots up the ranking.

It’s interesting that in the absolute/open-weight rankings, there is a reasonable chance for the top dog being replaced in the foreseeable future. This is very much not the case in the men’s weight-class specific all-time rankings, which we will examine in the coming days.

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