There have been some very impressive champions in the history of MMA, like Anderson Silva, Fedor Emelianenko and Royce Gracie. While Anderson Silva is clearly the best MMA fighter walking around on planet earth right now, Royce Gracie is the greatest fighter to ever compete in the sport of MMA.
Gracie came into the MMA when it was barely a sport. There were no gloves, no weight classes, and few rules in the beginning stages of what has now become one of the fastest growing sports on the planet.
Gracie immediately established himself as the top fighter in MMA, winning three fights in one night to become the winner of the UFC’s first tournament. In every single one of his fights at the UFC 1 MMA fight event, Gracie was significantly smaller than his opponent.
Gracie was even more impressive in the UFC 2 MMA fight event, winning four fights in one night this time around. Royce was on his way to winning his the third UFC tournament, but had to pull out due to dehydration, after defeating Kimo Leopoldo in his first fight. He came back strong at the UFC 4 MMA fight event, winning three fights in one night, the final match against Dan Severn (99-16-7 professional record, 253lbs).
Most newcomers to the sport of MMA can’t even comprehend how the UFC would actually allow such a big size discrepancy between fighters, but back in those days that was the norm. Being smaller than his opponents never bothered Royce, who turned Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and MMA into a mainstream sports. Royce submitted every single opponent that stepped into the Octagon against him in his first 11 fights.
In Gracie’s 18 year career as a mixed martial artist, he only has one legitimate loss on his record against Kazushi Sakuraba. His second loss was a cheap attempt by the UFC to legitimize then welterweight champion Matt Hughes.
While Anderson Silva is a close runner up, the title of greatest MMA fighter ever has to go to Royce Gracie. Without Gracie’s accomplishments in the Octagon, you probably wouldn’t be reading this right now.