Rule Britannia: 11+ Great British UFC Fighters [With Video]

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British UFC Fighters

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is the largest mixed martial arts organization in the world, attracting some of the best fighters from around the world. There are currently over 945 active fighters competing in the UFC. And some of these include great British UFC fighters.

Great Britain is, after all, a small island with a long history of punching above its weight (and winning).

So today, we’re looking at the eleven best British UFC fighters, past and present, to ever compete in the octagon. 

So, tally ho, let’s get started, dear chaps and lasses!

What do we mean by “British” in this Article?

This article is about UFC fighters from any part of the United Kingdom, including:

  • England
  • Scotland
  • Wales
  • And Northern Ireland

Because of its history as a major world empire, Britain has had significant immigration since World War II, and millions of people have immigrated to Britain from former British colonies across Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia.

So, in this article, we don’t identify “British UFC fighters” by virtue of having British ethnicity or ancestry. Instead, we are talking about UFC fighters who are British citizens – whether from being born in the UK or gaining citizenship through immigration.

So, now that we’ve clarified that, let’s get started. 

Who Are The Best British UFC Fighters?

Here are some notable names from past and present!

Tom Aspinall

Tom Aspinall is the UFC interim heavyweight champion.

He was born on April 11, 1993, in Atherton, England, and began training Jiu Jitsu at age 7 before learning boxing, wrestling, and eventually transitioning into MMA.

Today, he stands at an impressive 6 feet 5 inches tall and competes at around 260 pounds but maintains a unique blend of athleticism (for a heavyweight) and power.

But very interesting (at least to me) is how he hit a growth spurt at age 16 when he went from 5’8 to the 6’5 within one year.

Aspinall’s journey into professional MMA began in 2014 at age 21.

Before joining the UFC, he gained experience and honed his skills in various European promotions, where he built a strong record and reputation for finishing fights.

His UFC debut came in 2020, where he immediately drew attention with his dynamic fighting style and swift victories.

And although his background makes Aspinall a formidable fighter on the ground, he’s developed potent striking skills, making him a well-rounded and dangerous competitor in the heavyweight division.

His fights often showcase his technical proficiency, speed, and agility, which are, again, unusual for a fighter of his size (perhaps a result of growing up average size).

His most recent fight was when he won the title against highly-feared Russian UFC fighter Sergei Pavlovich, where he made quick work on short notice – knocking him out just after one minute.

Michael Bisping

Michael Bisping’s career in the UFC is one for the British history books.

He was the first Brit to win a UFC championship, and he fought some of the promotion’s biggest names during his explosive career.

Born in Cyprus to a military family and raised in Lancashire, Bisping began training jiujitsu at age eight and competing in mixed martial arts competitions from age 15.

Bisping started his professional MMA career in 2004 and quickly gained recognition for his striking ability and relentless fighting style.

His early professional career saw him win titles in different promotions, including Cage Rage, Cage Warriors, and FX3, effectively reigning over the UK’s major MMA federations.

In 2006, he participated in the UFC’s reality show, The Ultimate Fighter 3, and won the competition in the Light Heavyweight division, earning his place in the UFC.

He went on to win his UFC debut against Eric Schafer and followed it up with a controversial split-decision win against Matt Hamill. Then he suffered his first UFC loss against former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans.

After this series of fights at light heavyweight, Bisping dropped down to the middleweight division, where he debuted with a TKO win against Charles McCarthy.

Bisping then coached in The Ultimate Fighter 9 and suffered a highlight reel knockout loss against Dan Henderson at UFC 100.

The following years could be aptly described as challenging, with Bisping suffering injuries and collecting a mixed record.

In particular, his critical loss to Vitor Belfort also resulted in a detached retina, meaning the remainder of his career was fought with vision from only one eye.

After nearly a year off due to eye surgery, Bisping won against Brazilian great Anderson Silva in 2016.

Following this victory, Bisping won his grudge match/title shot against Luke Rockhold, capturing the UFC Middleweight Championship.

Bisping defended his title against tough opponents like fellow-Englishman Dan Henderson before losing it to Canadian UFC fighter Georges St-Pierre in 2018. Bisping retired after the loss. 

Michael Bisping’s legacy extends beyond the octagon. His career has since expanded to include acting, and he regularly serves as a UFC commentator.

Bisping can always be counted on to entertain fans with his exciting fights, charismatic personality, and great sense of humor.

Leon Edwards

Leon Edwards is an other example of British UFC fighters winning championship belts in the UFC.

Born on August 25, 1991, in Kingston, Jamaica, he moved with his family to Birmingham, England, at age nine.

Following the murder of his father when he was 13, Edwards experienced a troubled youth before finding the structure and discipline he needed through MMA training.

Leon began his professional fight career in 2010 in British promotions UK MMA and BAMMA.

In BAMMA, Edwards became the Welterweight Champion and defended his title once before accepting an offer to join the UFC in 2014.

Despite losing his UFC debut against Claudio Sylva by split decision, his second fight resulted in an 8-second KO of veteran fighter Seth Baczynski. 

Edwards then suffered a loss to future champion and African UFC fighter Kamaru Usman but went on to defeat fighters like Albert Tumenov and Donald Cerrone. 

The Covid pandemic impacted both Edwards’ health and UFC career, and repeated efforts to arrange a fight with rising Russian UFC fighter Khamzat Chimaev kept falling through due to both fighters contracting the virus.

Edwards went on to rack up an impressive 8-win streak before getting a no-contest due to an accidental eye poke of Belal Muhammad.

Edwards then fought Nate Diaz, winning by unanimous decision despite a strong final round by Diaz. All three judges scored the bout 49–46 in his favor.

In August 2022, Leon faced Kamaru Usman in a rematch and won the Welterweight title in a stunning knockout.

Many consider it one of the best comebacks in combat sports history.

And to prove the doubters wrong, Edwards then defended his title against Usman again in March 2023, winning by majority decision, proving that his first win was no fluke.

Joanne Wood (aka Joanne Calderwood)

Joanne Wood is Scotland’s first female MMA fighter to compete in the UFC and has faced off with some of the best female fighters in the world.

Born Joanne Calderwood in Irvine, Scotland in 1985, she began training in Muay Thai at the age of 13.

By the time she made the move to MMA in 2012, she had earned a Muay Thai and kickboxing record of 19-2 with multiple championships in different federations.

Wood’s MMA debut in 2012 resulted in a TKO win in the first round. She then went on to win her next seven fights by stoppage and to capture the Invicta FC flyweight title.

In 2014, Wood joined the UFC as part of the cast of The Ultimate Fighter 20, which featured the inaugural strawweight tournament.

She made her official UFC debut in December 2014, defeating Seo Hee Ham by unanimous decision.

Wood fought six more times at strawweight, winning four and losing two, and earning Fight of the Night bonuses against Cortney Casey and Jessica Andrade.

In 2019, she returned to flyweight, winning her first three fights, beating Kalindra Faria, Ariane Lipski, and Andrea Lee.

Wood then took a short-notice fight against Jennifer Maia in August 2020, losing by armbar in the first round. She bounced back with a unanimous decision win over Jessica Eye in January 2021, earning her third Fight of the Night bonus.

This was followed by a contentious loss by a split decision to Lauren Murphy in June 2021.

Wood returned with decisive wins against Taila Santos via guillotine choke in the first round and a submission win over Alexa Grasso in 2022, locking up an arm-triangle choke.

Her most recent victory was against Priscila Cachoeira in March 2023 by a split decision in a close and competitive fight.

Apart from being the first Scottish female MMA fighter, Wood is currently ranked #3 in the UFC women’s flyweight rankings, making her an outstanding example of the growing potential of British UFC fighters.

Darren Till

Darren Till is a fighter who has left a mark in the UFC by fighting some of the promotion’s biggest names and contending for the Welterweight title.

Darren Till was born in Liverpool in 1992. Overcoming a troubled childhood, Till took up Muay Thai and pursued the sport full-time, dropping out of school at age 14. 

He switched his focus to MMA at 17, and at 20 years old, he moved to Brazil to further his training and to compete in South America. All told he fought 14 professional fights in Brazil and Argentina before joining the UFC in 2015.

His UFC debut started with a bang when he knocked out Wendell de Oliveira in the second round. 

Till’s next fight was a draw against Nicolas Dalby, earning them both ‘Fight of the Night’ bonuses.

Till’s star continued to rise as he embarked on a four-fight winning spree, including a first-round knockout of Donald Cerrone in October 2017. 

In May 2018, Till beat Stephen Thompson in Liverpool in front of a home audience. 

His challenge against Tyron Woodley for the UFC welterweight title in September 2018 resulted in his first professional loss. The disappointment was further intensified due to Till missing weight for the fight, a recurring issue for him at welterweight.

In November 2019, Till moved up to the middleweight division, defeating former title challenger Kelvin Gastelum by split decision.

However, this would be his only win in his last six fights, as he suffered consecutive losses to Robert Whittaker, Derek Brunson, and Jack Hermansson.

Adding to his career challenges, Till has been fighting against physical injuries that have forced him to withdraw from several scheduled fights. He disclosed that he has a torn ACL in his right knee and a torn MCL in his left knee, among other health issues. 

In March 2023, Till requested to be released from the UFC to heal from his injuries and focus on his family.

While he has asked to step aside, he continues to train regularly with his close friend, Chechen-born fighter Khamzat Chimaev. 

And whether he ever returns to the UFC, one thing is certain: Darren Till has earned his spot among the top British UFC fighters to ever fight.

Brad Pickett

Known for his unique entrance wearing a trilby hat (a tribute to his bare-knuckle fighter grandfather), Brad Pickett was an early ambassador of British MMA in the UFC.

Pickett was born in London on September 24, 1978, and got into MMA after a youth focused on football and boxing.

Early in his career, he gained fame in the Cage Rage league. He debuted in 2004, and by 2005, he was already the British Featherweight Champion.

In 2009, he signed a multi-fight deal with World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC). Pickett had a strong start, winning his first fight against Kyle Dietz and even getting Submission of the Night honors.

He then won against future superstar Demetrious Johnson but lost to experienced fighters like Scott Jorgensen.

His big break came when WEC merged with the UFC.

Although he lost his first fight, he came back strong, winning against fighters like Damacio Page and Yves Jabouin and receiving multiple Fight of the Night bonuses.

Pickett then tried dropping to Flyweight in 2014 but couldn’t keep the winning streak going.

He returned to Bantamweight, where he continued to fight tough opponents but faced more losses than wins. In 2017, after losing to Marlon Vera, Brad decided to retire from MMA.

He briefly came out of retirement in 2018 to sign with Absolute Championship Berkut but the event was canceled. Although he’s no longer active, his thrilling fights in the UFC make him one of the favorites in the sport’s history.

Dan Hardy

Dan Hardy is another household name in the UFC, famous for having fought some of the biggest competitors in the Welterweight division during his career.

Born in Nottingham in 1982, he began martial arts training at age 5, learning taekwondo before exploring other styles such as karate and judo.

At 20, he switched to mixed martial arts (MMA). In 2008, Hardy made his big splash in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). His first win was against Akihiro Gono, followed by a knockout of Rory Markham.

He enjoyed a four-fight win streak in the UFC before losing his challenge for the UFC Welterweight title in 2010 to Georges St-Pierre.

After his title shot, Hardy faced a tough time, including a knockout loss to Carlos Condit, followed by back-to-back losses to Anthony Johnson and Chris Lytle in 2011.

But by 2012, he was back, beating Duane Ludwig. A heart condition called Wolff–Parkinson–White syndrome paused his career in 2013.

He got the green light to fight again in 2018, but by then, he had shifted his focus to commentary and analysis for UFC events.

What Happened to Dan Hardy?

Hardy’s nickname is “Outlaw,” and he lived up to his reputation inside and outside the octagon. In fact, he was released as a UFC commentator following his vocal criticism of UFC ref Herb Dean.

But although he no longer fights or commentates on UFC fights, his reputation as one of the greatest British UFC fighters is undeniable.

Danny Roberts

Danny Roberts was born in Croydon, London on July 14, 1987. Raised by his mother and surrounded by ten siblings, he lived in underprivileged areas and is another example of a fighter who had a troubled upbringing.

After having been expelled from seven different schools by the time he was 16, Roberts found a new direction in life when he took up boxing.

Roberts didn’t stop at boxing. In 2010, he made his debut in mixed martial arts (MMA) after going 1–1 as an amateur.

He fought for various regional promotions across Great Britain, including Cage Warriors, and by 2015, he had a fight record of 11 – 1, earning himself a UFC contract.

His UFC debut was scheduled for December 10, 2015, against Michael Graves. However, Graves was injured and replaced by Nathan Coy. Roberts won this bout via technical submission in the first round.

Roberts then defeated Dominique Steele at UFC 197 on April 23, 2016, in a hard-fought match that earned both fighters a “Fight of the Night” bonus.

Roberts suffered his first UFC loss in 2016 against Mike Perry via third-round knockout but bounced back by defeating Bobby Nash in 2017 via a second-round knockout.

Roberts’ next wins came against Oliver Enkamp and David Zawada.

This victory earned him another “Fight of the Night” award. Despite the upward trend, Roberts was submitted via an armbar by Cláudio Silva on March 16, 2019, and knocked out by Michel Pereira on May 18, 2019.

But showing a warrior’s spirit, he came back with a knockout win against Zelim Imadaev in 2019.

Following injuries and the upheaval of the Covid pandemic, Roberts returned to the octagon on October 16, 2021, scraping out a controversial split decision against Ramazan Emeev.

In these three subsequent fights across 2022 and 2023, he lost but still was awarded his third “Fight of the Night” bonus, highlighting his ability to entertain the audience even in defeat.

Through the highs and lows, Danny Roberts is a great British UFC fighter in the UFC Welterweight division, known for his resilience and tenacity.

John Hathaway

John Hathaway is a welterweight fighter from Brighton. 

Hathaway started his MMA career in 2006 in the local British fight circuit and joined the UFC in 2009. 

Hathaway’s UFC debut was a big win over Tom Egan, defeating him in the first round with elbows. He then beat Rick Story and Paul Taylor, both by unanimous decision.

Hathaway’s major break came against Diego Sanchez. He knocked Sanchez down with a knee and dominated the fight, winning by unanimous decision. But Hathaway tasted his first loss against Mike Pyle, a heavy underdog after Dong Hyun Kim withdrew due to an injury.

In a close match with Kris McCray, Hathaway won by split decision. He was scheduled to fight Pascal Krauss, but both ended up pulling out because of injuries. When they finally clashed, Hathaway won by unanimous decision. He also beat John Maguire in the same way.

A match against Erick Silva fell through, and Hathaway was replaced by Jason High. After a long break, he faced Dong Hyun Kim but lost by a third-round knockout.

He was set to fight Gunnar Nelson but had to withdraw due to injury, and Brandon Thatch took his place.

Apart from his grit in the octagon, Hathaway’s resilience as a fighter battling through serious health issues is also notable. In fact, Hathaway was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2011 but continued to fight despite the condition.

The illness required him to undergo several surgeries and treatments to manage his symptoms, and while his health issue affected his UFC career, he has maintained a determination to continue fighting professionally. Today, he fights in the Czech-based fight promotion Oktagon. 

Jimi Manuwa

Although born in California in 1980 and partially raised in Nigeria, Jimi Manuwa’s family ultimately settled in London, England. His youth was troubled, and he spent some time in prison before he began training in MMA in 2007. 

Manuwa started his professional fighting career in UK fight promotion UCMMA. He quickly became light heavyweight champion and defended his title five times before taking a four-fight contract with the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts (BAMMA).

It’s worth mentioning that during his early career, Manuwa twice declined offers to join the UFC as he did not feel ready at the time. But in 2012, however, he decided the time was right to move to the UFC.

He won his debut against Kyle Kingsbury due to a doctor stoppage after Kingsbury’s eye swelled shut. His second win came when Cyrille Diabaté had to bow out after injuring a calf muscle. Manuwa later beat Ryan Jimmo, who also suffered a leg injury during their fight.

However, Manuwa lost to Alexander Gustafsson, though both fighters won a “Fight of the Night” bonus.

After a year-long hiatus, he returned to beat Jan Błachowicz by unanimous decision. Manuwa then lost to Anthony Johnson but won against Ovince Saint Preux, earning a Performance of the Night bonus.

A planned fight with Glover Teixeira fell through, but Manuwa later knocked out Corey Anderson. 

Despite further wins and losses, including a knockout by Volkan Oezdemir, Manuwa struggled with injuries and opponent changes. He was slated to fight Glover Teixeira again but had to withdraw due to a hamstring tear.

In his last fights, Manuwa was knocked out by Thiago Santos and Aleksandar Rakić. Following these defeats, he announced his retirement in June 2019.

Manuwa earned a record of 6 wins and six losses in the UFC, with all of his wins coming by knockout or TKO, four Performance of the Night bonuses, and one Fight of the Night bonus.

And he reached the number two spot in the UFC light heavyweight rankings in 2017.

Manuwa retired from MMA in 2019, but his achievements cement him as one of the best Brits to fight in the UFC.

Arnold Allen

Arnold Allen fights in the featherweight division of the UFC and has a total MMA fight record of 19 wins and 2 losses (both of which come from decision losses).

Born in Suffolk in 1994, Allen took an early interest in mixed martial arts and began training as a teenager before making his professional debut in 2012 which he won by knockout.

Allen quickly established a name for himself in the Featherweight division of the regional promotions across Great Britain, including Cage Warriors, where he compiled a record of 9–1 in his first three years of professional fighting.

Allen’s UFC career began in 2015 after his impressive TKO stoppage of Paul Cook in November 2014 caught the attention of UFC scouts.

His debut match came as a short notice replacement against Alan Omer at UFC Fight Night 69, where despite potentially losing the first two rounds, he managed to win via a submission in the third round.

This victory not only marked the beginning of his promising career in UFC but also earned him a Performance of the Night bonus.

Until only recently, he enjoyed a nine-fight win streak in the UFC against opponents including the likes of Gilbert Melendez, Jordan Rinaldi, and Dan Hooker.

While his win-streak was ended following a decision loss against Max Holloway in April 2023, his career in the UFC is far from over.

At 29, Allen stands out as a strong contender in the featherweight division and certainly a British UFC fighter who has a very bright future ahead of him.

Paddy Pimblett

Born on January 3, 1995, Paddy Pimblett grew up in Huyton, Merseyside, England. He fell in love with mixed martial arts at 15 after watching a UFC fight. He quickly decided this was what he wanted to do for a living and began training at Next Generation MMA.

Pimblett made his professional debut in the sport at age 17 in 2012 and signed up with Cage Warriors a year later.

In 2016, he became the Cage Warriors Featherweight Champion. After defending his title once, he lost it in 2017 and moved to a heavier class. Pimblett had even turned down two UFC contracts because he was getting better deals at Cage Warriors.

Paddy finally entered the UFC in September 2021, fighting Luigi Vendramini. He knocked him out in the first round and earned a “Performance of the Night” bonus.

Pimblett continued his winning streak by defeating Rodrigo Vargas in March 2022 and then Jordan Leavitt in July 2022. Both wins earned him additional “Performance of the Night” bonuses.

His 2022 fight was very evenly matched up against Jared Gordon, which divided many fight fans on the result. Nonetheless, the fight ended in a unanimous decision, according to the score cards.

Outside the ring, Pimblett has garnered a lot of attention and is seen as a strong prospect in the UFC, which is one of the reasons he is on this list despite a limited fight record in the promotion.

After just four fights in the UFC, Pimblett’s talent and exciting fans in the UK and overseas have earned him a million-dollar endorsement deal with Barstool Sports and the praise of UFC president Dana White.

In just a few years, Paddy Pimblett has made a big name for himself inside and outside the UFC ring. Whether you love him or debate his wins, he’s a potential star you can’t ignore.

How Many British UFC Fighters are there?

As of September 2023, the UFC lists 71 fighters from the UK among their catalog of fighters – both current and retired.

Of that total number of 71, 18 are listed as active, 51 are listed as not currently fighting, and two Brits have retired.

And of the total number of 71 Brits linked to the UFC, just four female British UFC fighters are listed.

British UFC Fighters in Closing

So there you have it. British UFC fighters are a force to be reckoned with. From Michael Bisping’s legendary career to Paddy Pimblett’s rising star status, these athletes put the “Great” in Britain’s impact in the octagon.

Across weight classes, British fighters are proving that they have what it takes to compete on the world stage and reign on it. And we can certainly expect to see more talent to come.

So watch for these fighters because they’re not done making waves in the UFC.

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We're a team of fight fans and martial arts practitioners. Many of us have been involved in martial arts our entire lives.