4 MMA fighters who should be champion in 2024

Who are the next kings and queens of MMA?
Merab Dvalishvili
Merab Dvalishvili / Alex Goodlett/GettyImages
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It is just the first quarter of 2024, and already there have been new titleholders.

Between January and February, the UFC crowned three new champions in just five weeks. It began at UFC 297 when Dricus du Plessis outslugged Sean Strickland to win the middleweight title. Meanwhile, Raquel Pennington ushered in a new era at women's bantamweight by dominating the then-streaking Mayra Bueno Silva to become its new queen.

Then, at UFC 298, Ilia Topuria shockingly knocked out Alexander Volkanovski to become the new featherweight champion.

And the best part: It is not just in the UFC. Bellator and PFL are also entering a new era, as the two promotions begin their first year under the same ownership group. That means there are plenty of fighters across all three major promotions who would like to hold a title, but these four are the likeliest.

Taila Santos (PFL)

Taila Santos enters the 2024 PFL season with a massive chip on her shoulder.

Long regarded as one of the top women's prospects before entering the UFC via Dana White's Contender Series, she surprisingly lost her Octagon debut, conceding a split decision to Mara Romero Borella. But after that, she simply could not be stopped.

Four straight wins led her to a date with Valentina Shevchenko. And she gave the dominant then-women's flyweight champion her sternest test to date, becoming the first at 125 pounds to win a scorecard against her.

Seven months later, the division received a massive shakeup when Alexa Grasso dethroned Shevchenko. Santos was suddenly in prime position to make another title run; but after a close loss to Erin Blanchfield, she was shockingly released.

2024 marks a new chapter in Santos' career. She is now in the PFL, comprising a 10-strong cast that also includes reigning Bellator champion Liz Carmouche and fast-rising undefeated prospect Dakota Ditcheva; and she will look to prove that White gravely erred by casting her aside.