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Who Is The MMA GOAT?

mma goat

After Amanda Nunes dismantled Felicia Spencer at UFC 250, one of the topics that evolved was where she sat in the hypothetical conversation of who is the MMA GOAT, or the greatest of all-time. This an age-old debate that crosses all sports and even non-sports like hip hop music or acting. Hell, the first time I heard the acronym used commercially was when LL Cool J named his album after the acronym. Though, it seems the licensing of the term goes all the way back to 1992 when Lonnie Ali licensed it for her husband Muhammad.

By the way, the first time I heard it was as a nickname for street hoops legend, Earl Manigault, aka the Goat. And sorry LeBron fans, Michael Jordan is the NBA GOAT.

Back to the conversation about where Amanda Nunes fits. I reached out to my Fight Game Podcast Facebook Group to ask them their hypothetical GOAT rankings.

What turned out is what you’d expect. Georges St-Pierre and Jon Jones were one and two on nearly every ballot. And seemingly, with all GOAT debates, it was hard to determine because of era-specific things such as quality of opponents and level above the competition, but most difficultly, where you stood on performance enhancing drug use. If you believe that PED use disqualifies someone from being the GOAT, that favors GSP. But if you don’t, then you have no problem with Jon Jones being atop the list. But what’s even harder to determine if you’re thinking that way is that the PED speculative brush was painted on GSP a lot during his career. There are those who believe he was on when the testing was inadequate, but there are others who believe he wasn’t because of how adamantly he spoke out against them during his prime and post-prime.

So where does Amanda fit?

I didn’t specify how to rank fighters, so we didn’t use any guidelines for our picks. We just picked a top five. And some of this may be recency bias because of how dominant she looked on Saturday night, but she finished fourth in our average rankings.

Here was the top five, with some arguments around the top three:

1. Georges St-Pierre

Achievements

  • One-time UFC middleweight champion
  • Two-time UFC welterweight champion (with a combined nine title defenses)
  • One-time UFC interim welterweight champion
  • Second most wins in UFC title fights
  • Third most consecutive title defenses in UFC history

@JHagholm1: GSP rose to stardom in the UFC after dominating the MMA scene in Quebec. When GSP joined the UFC, he fought a talented fighters at 170 pounds like Karo Paraysian, Jay Heiron and Jason “Mayhem” Miller before getting a shot at the welterweight title against the champion, Matt Hughes. While things didn’t go Georges’ way that night, he refocused and was finally able to win UFC gold by defeating Matt Hughes at UFC 65 becoming just the second Canadian champion in UFC history.

Georges would then be apart of the wrong side of history where he was shockingly KO’d in the 1st round and lost the welterweight championship to Matt Serra. They say how a fighter bounces back from losses shows his true character and GSP went on a run that fighters can only dream of. He won the title back from Matt Serra in his hometown of Montreal at UFC 83. Then, Georges went onto defend his title successfully 9 times (3rd most in UFC history). Georges defeated Jon Fitch, Josh Koschek, Jake Shields, Nick Diaz, Carlos Condit and Johnny Hendricks. GSP’s success was also transitioning into big box office for the UFC as GSP proved he could be a big PPV draw doing almost one million PPV buys as the the headliner twice. The native of Montreal Quebec was beloved in the United States but especially in his home country of Canada where without the success of GSP, MMA may have never taken off in the Great White North. Look no further than the landmark UFC 129 at the Rogers Centre (formally Skydome) in Toronto where 55,724 fight fans attended the first MMA show in the Province of Ontario. The success would continue in Canada where Georges was named Rogers Sportsnet Athlete of the year 3 years in a row (2008, 2009, and 2010).

All that success and the pressure of having to be perfect burned GSP out and he stepped away from MMA after he defended the welterweight title against Johnny Hendricks. GSP returned after 4 years to make history again where he defeated Michael Bisping to win the UFC Middleweight Championship at UFC 217. GSP beat everyone that was put in front of him, proved to be big box office and opened up a sport to his home country.

2. Jon Jones

Achievements

  • Two-time UFC light heavyweight champion
  • One-time UFC light heavyweight interim champion
  • Eleven successful title defenses (over two terms)
  • Longest win streak in UFC light heavyweight history (13)
  • Longest unbeaten streak in UFC history (18)
  • Most consecutive light heavyweight title defenses in UFC history (8)
  • Most consecutive light heavyweight title bouts in UFC history (14)
  • Most successful light heavyweight title defenses in UFC history (11)

@PaulAceFontaine: Jon Jones is basically undefeated with his only loss coming by disqualification in a fight against Matt Hamill that should’ve been stopped due to the damage that Jones was inflicting on him prior to landing the illegal 12/6 elbows that ultimately ended the fight. He has beaten current or former champions in Ryan Bader, Shogun Rua, Rampage Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, Vitor Belfort and Daniel Cormier (twice). He’s also gotten past guys that mowed through the competition leading up to their fights with him in Alexander Gustafsson (twice), Anthony Smith, Dominick Reyes and Thiago Santos. It’s only been in recent fights that he’s even started to look vulnerable and that’s as his age is on the wrong side of 30 and he’s been doing this since 2008 and at a UFC championship level since 2011. In fact, his last 15 fights have been main events and he has won every single one of them, although the first win over Cormier was later declared a no contest. Jon “Bones” Jones is the greatest mixed martial artist of all-time and if you are not factoring in the use of PEDs, it’s not particularly close.

Mike Gilbert from The Combat Republic: Jon “Bones” Jones is without a doubt the greatest mixed martial artist that has ever lived. From the moment he walked into the Octagon he was unstoppable, despite not having much experience. In his 2nd fight in the UFC, we was thrown right into the fire at UFC 100 against battle tested Stephan Bonnar and the fight wasn’t even close. Every top fighter and legend they put in his path he has made to look like a marginal fighter.

Jones was only 23 years old when he first won the light heavyweight title. Jones has submitted submission specialists. He outwrestled Olympic wrestlers. He out-struck strikers. He does this all with ease and is only 32 years old. The closest fight of his career was at UFC 165 against Alexander Gustaffson, whom he destroyed in a rematch. The only reason the fight was close was because Jon went up against his biggest opponent; himself. Jones’ party lifestyle and acts of self-destruction took hold in the weeks leading up to that fight and he let Gustaffson get close, but he still won. The only person to ever defeat Bones is Bones. He has been stripped of his title multiple times due to getting in to trouble or failing drug tests but upon every return he came back better than before.

3. Anderson Silva

Achievements

  • One-time UFC middleweight champion
  • Ten successful title defenses
  • Beat Dan Henderson to unify the UFC middleweight and Pride welterweight titles
  • Longest title reign in UFC history (2457 days)
  • Longest win streak in UFC history (16)
  • Most finishes in UFC title fights (9)

GG: When you look back and study Anderson Silva’s career, one thing really stands out, which was that during his prime, the distance between him and his top competition was maybe more so than anyone in UFC history, Jon Jones included. Now, Jones fought at a time where MMA was growing and there were more fighters making it a career and thus, competition was higher. But that’s not Silva’s fault and we can’t ding him for that.

If you look at his first ever fight in the UFC, which was an absolute massacre of Chris Leben, until he lost his middleweight title to Chris Weidman, there’s a 7 year span of him going 16-0 with only two of those fights going to decision. He finished fourteen of those fights. You can find similar runs in both St-Pierre’s and Jones’ career and they were dominant in their own way, but neither stopped fighters like Silva did. In his run, he was untouchable. Amanda Nunes comes closest to the UFC fighters in our top five when it comes to finishing fighters, but she had losses along the way in her path of destruction, including being stopped twice herself.

What works against Silva here is that he’s continued to fight well past his prime and has only won once since 2013.

4. Amanda Nunes

Achievements

  • One-time UFC women’s bantamweight champion
  • One-time UFC women’s featherweight champion
  • First UFC woman to hold titles in two weight classes simultaneously
  • First UFC fighter to successfully defend two titles held simultaneously
  • Most wins in UFC history amongst women (12)
  • Most wins in UFC title fights amongst women (7)
  • Most wins in UFC women’s bantamweight division history

5. Fedor Emelianenko

Achievements

  • One-time PRIDE heavyweight champion (and the last champion)
  • Three successful title defenses
  • PRIDE 2004 Heavyweight World Grand Prix Champion
  • Fighter of the Decade (2000) in just about every publication and website

Participating in the rankings include: Ryan Pike, Carla Duran-Pooser, Jason Hagholm, Ryan Frederick, Mike Gilbert, Paul Fontaine, Cian Greally, Sebastiano Gerace, Nick Mahmood, and myself.

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