When it comes to the UFC, determining the ultimate greatest fighter has always been a topic of great debate. Unlike other individual sports like tennis and cycling where all athletes fight in open tournaments, combat sports divide fighters into separate weight classes, thus, determining the absolute best remains a problematic task and an unresolved matter.
Yet, this hasn’t stopped fans and pundits alike from engaging in a never-ending discussion called the pound-for-pound rankings (or simply P4P).
So what is the UFC pound-for-pound list? Who determines the rankings? And who are the fighters who held the top spot?
Let’s reveal the answers.
What is UFC Pound-for-Pound?
The UFC pound-for-pound is a list that ranks the best 15 fighters in the organization from all weight classes and is updated on a weekly basis. It’s essentially composed of the current title holders plus some of the highest-ranked contenders.
This list is called pound-for-pound because it’s based solely on the fighter’s success in his own division, regardless of his size. The P4P notion is based on the following fictional idea: “Who would have been the absolute best if all fighters had weighed the same?”
Therefore, if a flyweight is ranked above a heavyweight in the pound-for-pound list, this doesn’t mean that the 125-pounder would prevail in an actual fight against his enormous colleague, but it only suggests that he’s finding more success in his own division.
********* THE POUND-FOR-POUND LIST RANKS THE BEST UFC FIGHTERS FROM ALL WEIGHT CLASSES
How Are the UFC Pound-for-Pound Rankings Determined?
The UFC pound-for-pound rankings are determined by a voting panel composed of around 20 highly-regarded MMA journalists. However, their identities remain anonymous in order to preserve integrity and avoid unwanted controversy.
The pundits must provide fresh rankings following every weekend, so the organization releases an updated list every Monday. Aside from P4P rankings, the voting panel also determines the rankings of every UFC weight class.
When Did the UFC Add P4P Rankings?
The UFC launched an official pound-for-pound list in February 2013, along with Top 10 rankings for every weight class. The lists were then extended to Top 15.
But even prior to the release of the official UFC P4P list, fight fans and observers alike had always picked one or two fighters as the consensus the pound-for-pound best.
1. Anderson Silva
February 2013 till July 2013
Anderson Silva had been the consensus UFC pound-for-pound king long before the introduction of the official listing. The knockout artist wiped up the competition in the middleweight division in a reign of terror between 2006 and 2013.
However, the Brazilian lost his crown in July 2013 following a stunning TKO defeat at the hands of Chris Weidman. A devastating leg injury in the rematch spelled the end of his days as a bona fide contender for the P4P top spot.
2. Jon Jones
July 2013 till April 2015, January 2016 till July 2016, July 2017 till August 2017, August 2019 till October 2020, March 2021 till October 2021, March 2023 till present
With six separate stints on top of the rankings, Jon Jones is the ultimate UFC pound-for-pound king. The American ascended the throne for the first time in July 2013 following Anderson Silva’s defeat to Chris Weidman. At the time, he had established himself as a dominant light heavyweight champion despite his relatively young age.
“Bones” remains virtually undefeated in his MMA career, but his most fearsome foe has always been his own demeanor. Jones never lost the top P4P spot in the Octagon, but rather due to recurring controversial incidents and legal troubles which marred his career and personal life.
3. José Aldo
April 2015 to December 2015
Following Jon Jones’ suspension in April 2015, the P4P throne passed to José Aldo who reigned supreme over the UFC featherweight division since its creation in 2011.
Nevertheless, the Brazilian’s spell as top pound-for-pound fighter ended in dramatic fashion when Conor McGregor knocked him out in just 13 seconds at UFC 194.
4. Demetrious Johnson
December 2015 till January 2016, July 2016 till July 2017, August 2017 till July 2018
When Conor McGregor stunned José Aldo in December 2015, the Notorious became the UFC featherweight champion, but it was Demetrious Johnson who inherited the P4P crown.
“Mighty Mouse” was the most dominant UFC champion at the time, cleaning up the flyweight division since its creation in 2012. However, his first reign was short-lived, ending when the company reinstated Jon Jones following a suspension.
A similar scenario signaled the end of his second stint between July 2016 and July 2017, but Jones’ recurring problems saw him crowned for a third spell. But in July 2018, Daniel Cormier cemented himself as the pound-pound king after becoming the “Champ Champ”. For his part, Demetrious lost his flyweight belt to Henry Cejudo a month later and subsequently left the organization.
5. Daniel Cormier
July 2018 till August 2019
While most members on the list ascended the throne due to the fall of the previous P4P king, Daniel Cormier seized the crown himself by simultaneously winning two belts.
DC was already the reigning light heavyweight champion when he knocked out Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight title in July 2018. His spell ended almost a year later when he lost the rematch to the Ohio native.
6. Khabib Nurmagomedov
October 2020 till March 2021
Despite being one of the most dominant fighters in the sport’s history, Khabib Nurmagomedov only topped the UFC pound-for-pound list between for six months. Ironically, his reign occured after announcing his retirement following his victory over Justin Gaethje.
The Eagles’ win in October 2020 coincided with Jon Jones’ departure from the company. His reign ended when his retirement was made official in March 2021.
7. Kamaru Usman
October 2021 till August 2022
When Kamaru Usman replaced Jon Jones as the UFC pound-for-pound king in October 2021, he had already defended his welterweight belt on four occasions. The Nigerian then consolidated his status by beating Colby Covington a month later.
Nevertheless, a shocking fifth-round head kick from Leon Edwards shook the whole P4P scene, ending Usman’s reign in vicious fashion.
8. Alexander Volkanovski
August 2022 till Mach 2023
After beating the who’s who of the featherweight division, Alexander Volkanovski was the obvious pick for the UFC pound-for-pound throne following Kamaru Usman’s fall.
In February 2023, the Australian challenged lightweight champion Islam Makhachev, and despite coming just short in a razor-tight affair, his maiden UFC defeat didn’t cost him his spot on top of the P4P list.
However, the result left him in a somewhat vulnerable position, so a month later, he relinquished the throne to Jon Jones (yes, him again) who won the heavyweight belt following a three-year hiatus.
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