30 greatest UFC fighters of all time [UPDATED]

Celebrating 30 years of the UFC, ranking the 30 greatest UFC fighters of all time.
UFC belt
UFC belt / Alex Bierens de Haan/GettyImages
4 of 30

27. BJ Penn

The Hawaiin native BJ Penn, one of the best fighters in the world early in his career, is one of seven multi-division champions in the UFC. Starting his career in the UFC in 2001, Penn went 12-7-2  with five performance bonuses up until his decline in 2012. Dana White credits Penn with bringing mainstream attention to the lower-weight divisions. Penn went 5-5-1 in title fights and is tied for the most lightweight title defenses with three.

Penn claimed his first title in his welterweight debut against Matt Hughes in 2004. After a contract dispute, Penn was stripped of the title and left the organization for a bit. Penn returned to the lightweight division and after a win against former champion Jens Pulver, beat Joe Stevenson for the vacant title in 2008. At the time, Penn broke the record for most lightweight title defenses, against former champion Sean Sherk, Kenny Florian, and Diego Sanchez before losing it to Frankie Edgar. Penn and Edgar had a rivalry over their careers, with Edgar being victorious in all three bouts, the last coming in 2014 for the TUF coach’s fight. In 2015, Penn was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.

Penn returned to welterweight in 2010 and after a title eliminator loss to Nick Diaz, went on a seven-fight skid, even dropping down to featherweight, his last fight coming against Clay Guida at UFC 237 in 2019. Penn continued to fight past his prime, bringing his overall career record to 16-14-2 and plans to run for governor of his state of Hawaii.