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Africans in MMA: The best to ever step in the octagon

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Africans in MMA
Africans in MMA: The best to ever step in the octagon. Photo/ Premium Times Nigeria.
  • Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) may be relatively new in Africa but that hasn’t stopped Africans in MMA from shinning
  • On Sunday (January 20), Dricus Du Plessis defeated Sean Strickland to become the first UFC Middleweight Champion from South Africa
  • Francis Ngannou, who switched to boxing last year, is one of the most influential African fighters in MMA history

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) may be relatively new in Africa but that hasn’t stopped Africans in MMA from shinning. In fact, the list of the best MMA fighters in recent years is dominated by fighters with roots in Africa.

On Sunday (January 20), Dricus Du Plessis defeated Sean Strickland to become the first UFC Middleweight Champion from South Africa. With the global fame and success achieved by winning a title in promotions such as the UFC, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see more and more Africans join MMA in the years to come.

Dricus Du Plessis

Dricus Du Plessis. Photo/ SuperSport.

Below is a list of African fighters who have already left their marks in mixed martial arts working with top promotions such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

Francis Ngannou

Francis Ngannou may have switched from MMA to boxing but his influence in UFC still earns him the top spot when talking about Africans in MMA. Nicknamed The Predator, Ngannou is regarded as one of the strongest punchers in UFC history.

Out of Ngannou’s 20 fights as a pro, he won 17 , including 12 via knockout. He competed in the heavyweight division where he reigned as champion until his departure in 2023. Ngannou is from Cameroon and illegally moved to Europe at the age of 26 to follow his dreams of becoming a fighter. From there, the rest is history as they say.

Francis Ngannou

Francis Ngannou. Photo/ Marca.

Israel Adesanya 

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Israel Adesanya is a name that often pops up when the discussion is about Africans in MMA. The 34-year-old is a kickboxing specialist plying his trade in the UFC where he competes in the middleweight division.

Adesanya went undefeated from 2012 when he made his MMA debut to 2021 when he lost via unanimous decision to Jan Blachowicz. His pro record is currently 27-4 and the Nigerian-New Zealander boasts holding the UFC Middleweight Championship two times over the course of his career.

Africans in MMA

Israel Adesanya. Photo/ Premium Times Nigeria.

Kamaru Usman

Another Nigerian on our list of the best Africans in MMA, Kamaru Usman is signed to the UFC. Nicknamed ‘The Nigerian Nightmare”, he has been in the game for some time now and has even held the UFC Welterweight Championship. Usman has lost just four times and boasts wins over prominent fighters such as Leon Edwards, Demian Maia and Rafael dos Anjos.

Dricus Du Plessis

Following his victory over Sean Strickland, Dricus Du Plessis will soon start getting the attention he deserves as one of the best Africans in MMA. The current UFC Middleweight Champion is from Hatfield, Pretoria and fell in love with combat sports at a very young age. He was just five years old when he started training in judo, followed by wrestling at twelve and kickboxing at fourteen. He decided to venture into MMA in pursuit of financial success, which he realized was not in Kickboxing.

Sodiq Yusuff

Ranked 12th in the UFC featherweight rankings, Sodiq Yusuff is one of the top Africans in MMA right now. The 29-year-old was born in Lagos, Nigeria, but migrated with his family to the United States. He developed interest in MMA after watching anime. He made his debut at Shogun Fights 14 and later joined the UFC where he currently performs. In his last fight, he lost via unanimous decision to Edson Barboza at UFC Fight Night 230.

Sodiq Yusuff

Sodiq Yusuff. Photo/ YouTube.

Abu Azaitar 

Abu Azaitar is one of those fighters you don’t want to meet in the octagon. The Moroccan competes in the Middleweight division and has knocked down some of UFC’s best fighters. Prior to joining the UFC, he performed at several promotions, including KSW, SFC, WSOF and RFC.

Abdul Razak Alhassan 

A professional since 2013, Abdul Razak is another prominent African fighter competing in the Welterweight division of the UFC. Over the course of his career, which also includes spells at Legacy Fighting Championship and Bellator, Razak has fought 18 times, winning 12. It took him just 25 seconds to win his first MMA fight via TKO. The 38-year-old was born in Accra, Ghana.

Abraham Odhiambo is an avid sports fan who loves to write about football, boxing and wrestling. He's a big supporter of Manchester United. He's pursuing a bachelor's degree in Communication and Media at Egerton University.

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