8 African UFC Fighters: With Incredible Video Highlights

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Africa is a continent of 1.3 billion people, in 54 countries, with a long history of warriors. But when it comes to the world’s number one fight promotion, African UFC fighters represent a surprisingly small number.

But while Africa might now have a lot of fighters in the UFC, they have had a big impact. In fact, three of their fighters have recently held and defended championships in three different divisions.

This article will look at some of the best African fighters in the UFC and some fighters to watch out for!

Is MMA popular in Africa?

Before we examine the top African UFC fighters, let’s discuss the big question of MMA in Africa.


While relatively new on the continent, MMA is becoming increasingly popular in Africa. In fact, all of the African athletes shared in this article were introduced and began training in MMA outside of Africa.

But across Africa, more and more people are beginning to recognize Mixed Martial Arts as an adrenaline-infused form of entertainment with both physical and mental benefits.

Social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube have helped make MMA accessible to the masses, giving African fans access to fights and educational content about the sport.

But perhaps the greatest reason MMA is rapidly increasing in popularity in Africa is that African fighters are achieving such incredible results and inspiring others to see the possibilities.

Best African UFC Fighters

Here are some of the most successful African fighters to ever grace the octagon.

Francis Ngannou: Cameroon

Francis Ngannou (known as the Predator after the lethal creature from the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie) currently holds the title of UFC heavyweight champion and is the #5 ranked fighter in the UFC.

He has had a long journey to reach this achievement, overcoming incredible adversity in and out of the octagon.

Background Info

Born in an impoverished village in Cameroon in 1986, Ngannou worked in a sand quarry to support his family from age 13. He was a relative latecomer to martial arts, beginning to train in boxing at age 22. At the age of 26, he decided to pursue a career in boxing in France. He entered Europe illegally, was held in a Spanish internment camp, and eventually found himself living on the streets of Paris with no friends, no income, and nowhere to stay.

In a fortunate twist of fate, Ngannou was taken in fellow-Cameroonian Fernand Lopez, MMA coach and founder of Paris’ MMA Factory. Ngannou was allowed to live in Lopez’s MMA gym where he shifted his interest from training boxing to training MMA.

Under Lopez’s training, Ngannou took his first MMA fight in 2013 at the age of 27.

Ngannou spent the next two years fighting in European MMA promotions in France and Switzerland, achieving a 5 wins and 1 loss (by decision) record before entering UFC in 2015.

Ngannou’s move to the UFC resulted in six consecutive wins against impressive opponents, including Curtis Blaydes, Andrei Arlovski, and Alistair Overeem.

Most of his early fights showcased his boxing background, with four of the six fights ending in knockouts from punches and just one victory from submission.

His victory against UFC veteran Alistair Overeem was particularly decisive and brutal, taking place in the first round via an uppercut. That knockout is considered one of the best knockouts in UFC history. This victory cemented Ngannou’s place in the UFC, and he was rewarded with an 8 fight contract.

Despite his strong start, Ngannou then suffered back-to-back decision losses in the UFC against opponents Stipe Miocic and Derrick Lewis.

The Predator rebounded from these losses to win decisively via knockouts and TKOs against Curtis Blaydes, Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos, and Jairzinho Rozenstruik, respectively.

Following these victories, Ngannou faced off for a second time against Stipe Miocic, this time for the UFC Heavyweight belt at UFC 260. Ngannou again demonstrated his impressive punching power with a knockout in the second round.

He then went on to defend his belt in a bout with fellow MMA Factory fighter Ciryl Gane in his first decision win of his career.

The fight was particularly challenging as the two had been former training partners, and for much of the fight, Ciryl Gane appeared favored to win. You can see highlights from the Francis Ngannou vs Ciryl Gane fight below:

Throughout his career with the UFC, Ngannou has frequently been at odds with Dana White and has spoken out on UFC contracts and the lack of freedom awarded to fighters to have more control of their careers.

Following his successful title defense against Ciryl Gane, Ngannou stated that he would not compete in the UFC again under the conditions of his then-current contract after his January 22 fight against Ciryl Gane.

Francis Ngannou has since signed a multi-fight deal with PFL. The deal is a “strategic partnership” that gives Ngannou equity and leadership roles in the mixed martial arts company and guarantees a high 7 figure salary per fight. Ngannou also can have his own sponsors in the PFL cage – something he was denied in the UFC.

More importantly, his new deal allows Ngannou to pursue non-MMA combat opportunities such as boxing and he is now scheduled to fight a lucrative exhibition boxing match against Tyson Fury in Saudi Arabia.

Israel Adesanya (Nigeria)

Israel Adesanya was born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1989 and is one of UFC’s most popular fighters. He fights in the middleweight division of the UFC, holding a professional MMA fight record of 22 wins and 2 losses.

Israel Adesanya is a unique personality who shatters any stereotypes about fighters. He goes by the nickname Last Stylebender, a nod to his love of anime and dancing.

Although he was born in Nigeria and has lived in New Zealand since 1999, he maintains strong ties to his birthplace.

Adesanya credits his difficulties adjusting to living in New Zealand to his dedication to martial arts. Facing racism, bullying, and loneliness, he began training in kickboxing at age 18 while a university student.

At 20 years old, he quit his studies and decided to dedicate his energy and focus on developing his amateur kickboxing career to become a professional fighter. Between 2010 and 2017, the Last Stylebender accumulated an impressive kickboxing record of 75 wins, 5 losses, and a boxing record of 5 wins and one loss.

Adesanya’s MMA Background

At age 21, he switched his focus from kickboxing to begin training MMA in Auckland alongside Alexander Volkanovski, Dan Hooker, and Kai Kara-France. He made his debut MMA fight in 2012 with a TKO win via punches.

Adesanya saw rapid success as an MMA fighter, accumulating a flawless 11 and 0 fight record between 2012 and 2017 before making his UFC debut in 2018.

His UFC career has been equally impressive. He earned three performance of the night bonuses in his first four fights, followed by a fight of the night against Anderson Silva.

His win streak continued with him defeating Kelvin Gastelum for the interim middleweight title, again winning the Fight of the Night bonus. Adesanya then went on to unify his belt by defeating Robert Whittaker in yet another performance of the night.

From 2019 to 2022, Adesanya defended his belt five times against the likes of Yoel Romero, Paulo Costa, Jared Cannonier, and Marvin Vettori.

Unsatisfied with his competition at Middleweight, Adesanya made the brave move to Light Heavyweight in March 2021 against Jan Błachowicz. While he lost this via unanimous decision, this was a

Adesanya’s impeccable win streak at middleweight ended in 2022, resulting in him losing his middleweight title to his most famous rival from kickboxing Alex Pereira who had made the crossover to UFC.

In fact, Pereira defeated Adesanya in three of their bouts across both kickboxing and now MMA. This comes despite the Last Stylebender’s incredible skills. But luckily for Adesanya, he got it all back in their latest bout in which he KO’ed Pereira.

Adesanya still very much has strong connections with Africa. And he’s pushed UFC President Dana White to hold a UFC event on the continent. His hope is to inspire African youth and create employment opportunities for the people there.

Kamaru Usman (Nigeria)

Also known as the Nigerian Nightmare, Kamaru Usman was born in Southern Nigeria in 1987 before immigrating to Texas in 1995.

Usman’s initial interest in martial arts was wrestling. By the time he left university, he had accumulated an impressive wrestling record. He was among the top three in the US and was twice a US national finalist. and became the NCAA Division II national champion at 174 pounds in 2010.

Despite his obvious talent, he unsuccessfully competed for a place on the 2012 US Olympic freestyle wrestling team, leading him to switch to MMA.

His MMA Career

Before joining the UFC, Usman earned a 5-1 MMA record, competing in Legacy FC and other smaller promotions.

The Nigerian Nightmare currently holds a professional MMA fight record of 22 wins and 2 losses. This record includes 9 knockouts, 1 submission, and 10 decision victories.

His losses come from one submission loss before joining the UFC and a well-timed head kick from Leon Edwards at UFC 278 in August 2022.

Between 2019 and 2022, he completely dominated the UFC welterweight division with big wins over Colby Covington, Jorge Masvidal, Leon Edwards, Tyron Woodley, Demian Maia, Gilbert Burns, and Rafael dos Anjos.

Check out some of his best highlights, including moments from his two fights each against Jorge Masvidal and his fights with Colby Covington below:

While he might have lost his latest fight against Leon Edwards, the fight was lopsided in his favor until the well-timed head kick by the British fighter.

Check out some highlights from Usman’s shocking loss to Leon Edwards below.

Regardless of that loss, we certainly have not seen the last of the Nigerian Nightmare.

Dricus du Plessis (South Africa)

Hailing from Hatfield, Pretoria, Dricus du Plessis was born into the Afrikaner community in 1994.

At the tender age of five, he began his journey in martial arts with judo, eventually drifting into kickboxing at the age of 14.

By the time he transitioned to MMA, du Plessis had already achieved a notable milestone by becoming a WAKO World Champion in K-1 style kickboxing.

His decision to switch to MMA was influenced by the limited financial prospects in kickboxing.

His MMA Career

Du Plessis quickly made a name for himself in the Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC), where he captured both the Middleweight and Welterweight titles.

And his du Plessis’ debut into the UFC in October 2020, resulted in a first round knockout of his opponent Markus Perez.

He then had planned fights with Trevin Giles, but visa issues led to changes. Later, he defeated Giles with a knockout punch.

He had a series of matches, but injuries and last-minute changes shuffled his opponents.

One of his major wins was against Brad Tavares, followed by an impressive victory against Darren Till. His success continued with triumphs over Derek Brunson and former champion Robert Whittaker.

Although he was set to face the formidable Israel Adesanya for the UFC Middleweight Championship, an unforeseen injury led him to step back.

With his growing legacy and dedication to the sport, there’s no doubt that Dricus du Plessis will continue to be a significant figure in the world of mixed martial arts.

Abdul Razak Alhassan (Ghana)

Going by the nickname “Judo Thunder,” Abdul Razak Alhassan fights in UFC’s Welterweight division. As his nickname suggests, his background is primarily in Judo, but his striking game comes from Muay Thai.

Razak Alhassan holds a pro-MMA record of 11 victories (all knockouts in the first round) and 5 defeats (4 by decision, 1 by knockout). Of his UFC fights, his record stands at 5 wins and 5 losses.

Judo Thunder had his first MMA bout in 2013 and raked up six wins across a range of fight promotions, including Bellator and Legacy FC.

His UFC Career

In 2016, Razak Alhassan made his UFC debut on the fight card for UFC Fight Night: Gustafsson vs. Glover Teixeira. His first UFC fight was against Charlie Ward, which he won convincingly via knockout in the first round.

This first win was followed by a loss to Russian UFC fighter Omari Akhmedov, but he rebounded from this loss with a three-fight win streak between 2017 and 2018, culminating with a win over Niko Price.

You can see Razak Alhassan’s explosive victory over Niko Price below:

While he was off to a strong start, Razak Alhassan had to overcome adversity outside the ring, which disrupted his career. In 2018, he was accused of rape by two women in Texas. Although Razak Alhassan was eventually found not guilty, the accusations took him out of competitive fighting and training for two years until the charges were cleared.

Razak Alhassan’s return to the UFC Octagon was rough after the two-year absence. He struggled to make weight and also showed a decline in power. As a result, he lost three consecutive fights, including a bout against Khaos Williams on the fight card of UFC Fight Night: Felder vs dos Anjos.

The losing streak was finally broken with a win over Italian fighter Alessio Di Chirico in one of UFC’s fastest-ever head kick knockouts just 17 seconds into the fight. You can see it below.

And while that knockout is in the same ballpark as Conor McGregor’s famous knockout of Jose Aldo in terms of speed, Razak Alhassan has a journey ahead of him to regain his momentum and get back on track.

Nonetheless, he has shared that his family is his biggest motivation and that he intends to fight to make them proud.

Dalcha Lungiambula (Congo)

Hailing from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lungiambula was born in 1987 and first developed an interest in martial arts through Judo which remains his dominant style when fighting.

In fact, before becoming an MMA fighter, Lungiambula was a member of the Congo’s National Judo Team.

How his MMA Career has been going

He began competing in MMA at the light heavyweight class in 2014, fighting in the Extreme Fighting Championship promotion in South Africa, where he accumulated a 9-win and one-loss fight record.

Between 2016 and 2018, Lungiambula held and defended the Light Heavyweight championship in the EFC before moving to Heavyweight, where he also won the championship.

In 2019, Lungiambula made his UFC debut, fighting in the Light Heavyweight class, resulting in a win over Dequan Townsend. His next fight occurred later that year but ended in a loss via knockout to Russian fighter Magomed Ankalaev in Moscow.

Lungiambula’s next fight was his final win in the UFC, which took place in 2021 against Markus Perez.

His next four fights were losses against opponents Marc-André Barriault, Cody Brundage, Punahele Soriano, and Edmen Shahbazyan.

Check out an example of Lungiambula’s Judo-infused MMA style in this highlight video showing off his skills:

He was released from the UFC in 2022, but commands respect for being one of Africa’s pioneers in the UFC and in MMA.

Sodiq Olamide Yusuff (Nigeria)

Sodiq Yusuff is a Nigerian-born fighter in the UFC, currently ranked #12 in the featherweight division. He currently holds 13 wins and 2 losses in his professional MMA fight record.

Born in 1993 in Lagos, Sodiq Yusuff was one of 16 children in his family and immigrated to the United States in 2002 with his mother.

Like his compatriot Israel Adesanya, Yusuff attributes his passion for MMA to his childhood love of anime. But his greatest motivation for becoming a professional fighter was to be able to send money back to his family still in Nigeria, including most of his siblings.

His MMA Background

After achieving a professional MMA record of 6 wins and 1 loss, he got a big break by appearing on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2018,. His unanimous decision win against Mike Davis earned him a contract with the UFC.

He received his US citizenship just before his UFC debut in 2012, but tragically also lost his brother, making his debut victory particularly emotional.

Abu Azaitar (Morocco)

Abu Azaitar fights in the middleweight division of UFC and has an overall MMA fight record of 14 wins and 3 losses.

Despite having been born in Germany, Abu Azaitar has strong North African roots with both of his parents hailing from Morocco. The fighter goes by the nickname “Captain Morocco,” has a close personal friendship with the king of Morocco, and resides in Rabat, Morocco.

Azaitar in the UFC

Abu Azaitar has been fighting in the Middleweight division of UFC since 2018 and has a balanced record of one win and one loss since joining the division.

Azaitar’s first victory in the UFC so far came from a win against Vitor Miranda.

Azaitar then withdrew from two of his scheduled UFC fights in 2020 and in 2021, was suspended for seven months by the USADA for testing positive for banned substances multiple times. His sentence was reduced as he had a doctor’s prescription for the violating substance.

Despite his slow start in the UFC, his fight record is strong, and he has only been knocked out twice in his 17-fight career.

For many, Azaitar is a divisive athlete, and his numerous convictions include theft, extortion, fraud, physical violence, criminal conspiracy, drug trafficking, assault, and even involvement with Islamic fundamentalists. Fortunately, these all occurred before him focusing his energy on MMA, which has put him on a more positive trajectory.

Who is the best African UFC fighter?

This is a very subjective question. But certainly, the top three most prolific fighters are Ngannou, Adesanya, and Usman.

Until 2022, all three of these fighters held champion belts simultaneously, making the African continent the number one source of champions in the UFC – more than any other continent. This is amazing when you think about how few African fighters there are in the UFC.

Unfortunately, today, both Usman and Adesanya have lost their belts (at least temporarily), and only Ngannou retains his title (in theory, as he left the UFC still a champion without losing his title).

In any case, these fighters have certainly inspired the African continent, and we can expect to see many more fighters emerging in the near future as MMA gains in popularity.

African UFC Fighters in Closing

So there you have it.

We’ve curated a list of current and recent African UFC fighters you’ll definitely want to keep an eye on.

And there’s no doubt that this list will get much longer in the years to come!

If you’re interested in learning what other great African MMA fighters like Alain Ngalani are working with outside of the UFC, don’t miss our breakdown of UFC and One Championship here!

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