Success in mixed martial arts comes down to a number of things. Skill, determination, and stamina are all essential. If Conor McGregor is to be believed, it’s also good to be just a little it obsessed with being the best. Age is also an important factor when it comes to racking up wins in the business, especially if you want to hold some gold in the be all and end all of MMA, the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Over the course of its history, UFC has employed some of the most talented mixed martial artists the world has ever seen, with many of them fighting well past what some would consider retirement age in such a physical sport. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as with age comes experience and with experience comes a greater chance of winning with minimal effort. There have also been competitors at the other end of the spectrum, with some UFC fighters entering the Octagon at a much younger age than one would expect.
In this article, we’re going to be looking at some of the UFC’s most prominent fighters of the past and present who fought long before or long past their prime. Here are 15 UFC fighter ages which may surprise you.
15. Stefan Struve – 28 Years Old
Dutch native Stefan Struve is perhaps the most physically impressive fighter in the history of UFC. Standing at seven feet tall, he is the single tallest fighter on the UFC roster today and is tied for the longest reach on the roster with 84.5 inches, matched only by former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones.
Thanks to a perfect combination of size and skill, Struve has experienced a great deal of success in UFC and mixed martial arts in general. Since his professional debut, Struve has had 35 fights and has been victorious in 27 of them, eight of which were by knockout and 16 of which were by submission. He has also earned a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and a black belt in kickboxing (his kickboxing record is a spotless 4-0).
14. Cris Cyborg – 31 Years Old
Cris Cyborg is a bit of a newcomer to Dana White’s organization. It was announced in March of 2015 that she had signed a deal with the UFC and her debut came two months later when she faced Leslie Smith at UFC 198. She scored a decisive first round victory over Smith and immediately caught the attention of UFC fans, many of whom were not aware of her past.
Cyborg – whose real name is Christiane Justino – certainly cemented herself as one of the sport’s greats after her UFC debut, but she already had an impressive career behind her before that night in May of last year.
Prior to her UFC debut, Cyborg had been in 17 professional fights and had been victorious in all but two. One fight saw her tap out and another fight was ruled a no-contest after she tested positive for stanozolol. She had held the Strikeforce Women’s Featherweight Championship as well as the Invicta FC Featherweight Championship.
13. Mark Hunt – 42 Years Old
Mark Hunt is a bit of an odd case, particularly if you’re not an avid UFC fan. At first glance, Hunt doesn’t look like anything special. With his top off, he looks like some guy from an English council estate whose next fight is planned to take place in the Old Trafford carpark.
Of course, those who are familiar with Hunt’s work know just what he is capable of. While he doesn’t seem to have the greatest record on paper – he comes in with 12 wins out of 24 matches – it is important to look at some of the names Hunt has defeated in his professional career. For example, in his second to most recent fight, he defeated Frank Mir, the man who holds the most victories and submissions in the history of UFC’s Heavyweight division. He also went the distance with former UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar.
Hunt’s ability to go for long periods in the Octagon is no doubt impressive, but it becomes something to marvel at when you take his age into account. Born on the 23rd of March, 1974, Hunt is 42 years of age. That means he has seen some of the biggest fights of his career long after the age many consider appropriate for retirement in MMA.
12. Jeremy Stephens – 30 Years Old
Jeremy Stephens comes in at number seven in the official UFC Featherweight rankings, meaning he is one of the best featherweight fighters in the world right now. That shouldn’t come as any surprise because Stephens has been training for years to get to where he is, and he likely won’t rest until he has held some gold in UFC.
Stephens has been the victor in 25 professional fights and has been on the losing end of 12. That adds up to a total of 37 professional fights so far, 12 more than the previously studied Mark Hunt. Despite this, Stephens is actually 12 years younger than The Super Samoan.
At 30 years of age, Jeremy Stephens has been fighting for more than half his life. His amateur MMA debut came when he was 16 and was followed by his first professional fight two years later. Stephens’ first three fights occurred within one month and he was victorious in all.
11. Dan Lauzon – 28 Years Old
Dan Lauzon is no longer under a UFC contract, which isn’t any great injustice. His career in Dana White’s octagon was pretty underwhelming and didn’t see him pick up a single win. Despite this, Lauzon does have a place in the history books.
He began training for a career in mixed martial arts when he was 14 years old and made his UFC debut at UFC 64: Unstoppable just four years later. At 18 years, seven months, and 14 days old, Lauzon became the second-youngest fighter to compete under a UFC contract, and many expected great things from the new signee. However, those expectations quickly evaporated as he was defeated by Spencer Fisher in the first round.
According to some UFC sources, Lauzon’s trainers at the time of his UFC run were not confident in his abilities inside the Octagon and felt he was not taking his training seriously. This is one of the major disadvantages of success at a young age; you’re not ready for it. Lauzon got too caught up in the money and the fame and it ultimately ruined his chances of being the best. He is currently 28 years old.
10. CM Punk – 37 Years Old
CM Punk made his UFC debut this past September 10th in an infamously one-sided bout which saw him handily defeated by Mickey Gall in the first round.
The result of the fight did not come as a surprise to MMA experts, as Punk had so many things working against him heading into his debut. For a start, Punk had spent half of his life in the world of professional wrestling and had zero legitimate fight experience. He was also operating with damaged machinery, as he had suffered numerous injuries during his wrestling career, one of which Punk claims would have killed him had he not consulted a doctor outside of WWE.
Perhaps the greatest obstacle in Punk’s way was his age. At the time of his signing with UFC, CM Punk was 35 years old, which is generally seen as beyond prime fighting age. He then took two years to prepare for the fight, during which he suffered a back injury and had to take time off to recover. By the time he was finally ready to fight, the former WWE World Champion was 37 years old and just couldn’t keep up with his much younger opponent.
9. Mickey Gall – 24 Years Old
As long as we’re discussing CM Punk’s disastrous UFC debut, let’s talk about the man who nearly killed him: Mickey Gall. Like CM Punk, Gall is way off the average age of a UFC fighter, though he is on the other end of the spectrum.
Gall is more than ten years younger than CM Punk and was born on January 22nd, 1992, which makes him just 24 years old. Because he is so young, Gall’s professional record is not too extensive, but it is spotless. After three professional fights, Gall boasts three victories, all of which came by submission.
There were a few doubters who didn’t take Gall seriously when he first came on the scene, and he was was the butt of many jokes concerning his appearance. However, he managed to win over most of those people with his victory against CM Punk and the general consensus nowadays is that Gall is headed for great things in UFC.
8. José Aldo – 30 Years Old
José Aldo has had one of the greatest careers in the history of UFC. He has participated in 28 professional fights and has lost just two of them, with his most recent defeat coming at the hands of “The Notorious” Conor McGregor.
Aldo’s loss to McGregor ended an almost ten-year undefeated streak which began when he claimed a victory over Thiago Meller in May of 2006. Aldo joined UFC in 2010 and became the inaugural UFC Featherweight Champion, which he held until his encounter with Conor McGregor in 2015.
Aldo got back to winning ways at UFC 200 when he defeated Frankie Edgar to capture the interim UFC Featherweight Championship. With this victory, he proved that at just 30 years of age, he still has a lot left in the tank and could conceivably go another decade without being defeated.
7. Michael McDonald – 25 Years Old
Michael McDonald was among the batch of World Extreme Cagefighting fighters who were transferred to UFC after the companies merged in 2010. At the time of the merger, McDonald was 19 years old.
Despite the fact he was still technically a teenager, there was a lot of buzz about McDonald and his UFC debut was hotly anticipated. When he finally stepped into the Octagon to take on Edwin Figueroa at a UFC Fight Night event, he did not disappoint and won the match via unanimous decision.
McDonald has continued to impress since he UFC debut, losing just three matches and leaving his professional record at 17 wins and four losses. At 25 years old, he is still a young man and has a bright future ahead of him, as can by seen by his ranking as number seven in the official UFC Bantamweight rankings.
6. Amanda Nunes – 28 Years Old
Though she is just 28 years old, Amanda Nunes has already made history in UFC and will likely continue to do so throughout her career. Why has she been such a key figure in the company? Well, there are a number of reasons.
For a start, there is Nunes’ professional record, which is pretty impressive. After competing in a number of professional bouts, Nunes boasts 13 wins and four losses. Since her UFC debut in August of 2013, she has tasted defeated just a single time.
What Nunes will perhaps best be remembered for is her victory at UFC 200. At the event, she defeated Miesha Tate via submission in the first round and was awarded the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship. This was an impressive victory for the 28-year-old which was made all the more historic by the fact it made her the first ever openly gay champion in UFC history.
5. Nick Diaz – 33 Years Old
Recently Nick Diaz has been a tad overshadowed by his younger brother. Nate Diaz achieved the greatest moment of his career earlier this year when he became the first UFC fighter to defeat Conor McGregor, in a fight which he dominated despite being thrown in as a last-minute replacement.
Nick Diaz, however, has had an impressive career in his own right. After fighting 37 professional matches, he boasts 26 victories and even came out victorious in his one and only professional boxing bout.
Diaz began fighting professionally shortly after his 18th birthday and made it clear that he was one to look out for, whether you were facing him in the ring or writing about his matches. He made his UFC debut just two years after this. His debut for the organization saw him defeat Jeremy Jackson, claiming his first UFC victory at just 20 years of age.
4. Ken Shamrock – 52 Years Old
Ken Shamrock is a legend in the world of mixed martial arts. He is also a legend in the world of professional wrestling and is one of only a few competitors to have a successful and memorable career in both sports. He is a former UFC Heavyweight Champion and a member of the UFC Hall of Fame.
Despite his status as a bonafide MMA legend, Shamrock has drawn much criticism from MMA fans and journalists for fighting past his prime.
Shamrock left UFC in 2007, when he was in his forties, but continued to fight professionally despite his age. Many feel that his refusal to step away from the spotlight has tarnished his legacy, particularly with his most recent defeat. In February of this year, Shamrock was handily defeated in the second minute of the first round by Royce Gracie, just eight days after his 52nd birthday.
3. Sage Northcutt – 20 Years Old
Sage Northcutt has drawn the ire of many UFC fans by being the quintessential arrogant millennial. The musclebound, annoyingly handsome fighter frequently takes to Instagram and other social media platforms to share pictures of himself topless, posing next to models and sports cars. But what else is a 20-year-old with plenty of money supposed to do?
That’s right, Sage Northcutt is just 20 years old, which makes him the youngest fighter on the UFC roster. Born in March of 1996 and fighting out of Katy, Texas, Northcutt seems bound for great things in UFC, having competed in various weight classes within the company.
2. Brock Lesnar – 39 Years Old
Brock Lesnar is not like anybody else in the world. His stamina, his ability to hit and be hit, and his sheer love of beating people up are pretty much unrivaled and he has the UFC record to prove it.
When he arrived in UFC, many expected Lesnar to be a resounding failure, but it became clear from the get-go that he was there to make an impact. He wound up capturing the UFC Heavyweight Championship and became the biggest draw in the history of the company. When Lesnar retired from MMA after suffering a defeat at the hands of Alistair Overeem, a lot of pundits speculated that would be the end of his sporting career, with age and injury catching up to him. However, Lesnar went on to return to WWE, where he had the most memorable run of his career, ending The Undertaker’s WrestleMania winning streak and winning the WWE World Championship for the fourth time.
At UFC 200, Brock Lesnar became the only man to ever compete in UFC while under a WWE contract when he returned to the Octagon to face Mark Hunt. The assumption was that Lesnar’s age and the fact he was out of practice would result in him being defeated, but he picked up a win via unanimous decision and celebrated his 39th birthday three days later.
1. Ronda Rousey – 29 Years Old
Prior to McGregormania sweeping the MMA community, Ronda Rousey was the face of the UFC, the first female fighter to really capture the hearts and minds of the UFC audience. In fact, there was a period during whichRousey was arguably not just the most famous fighter in UFC, but the most famous person on the face of the Earth.
Rousey disappeared from public view in 2015 after she was defeated by Holly Holm for the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship and many wrote her off as a has-been. As far as the media was concerned, Rousey, having been defeated, was old news and no longer in her prime.
Because Ronda has already achieved so much during her time in mixed martial arts, it can be easy to forget that she is still just 29 years old. Yet to celebrate her 30th birthday, there is a lot for Rousey still to do. She would no doubt like to get back to winning ways in UFC and it has long been believed that she will at some point make the transition from UFC to WWE.