Brazil’s Alex Pereira, right, fights Nigeria’s Israel Adesanya during the third round of a middleweight bout title bout in the UFC 281 mixed martial arts event, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022, in New York.InternationalIndiaAfricaMuhammad Nooh OsmanWriter/EditorLongreadThis weekend, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 283 event is set to take place on the night of January 21 at the Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with the main card of the event featuring a fight between former UFC light heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira and the division’s number seven Jamahal Hill for the vacant title.The UFC is set to hold its first event of the year, where Brazilian Glover Teixeira and American Jamahal Hill are going to compete in the main card.Since it was first established in November 1993, fighters in the UFC have represented various parts of the globe, but in its early years, the promotion only worked with fighters from a handful of countries.In recent years, fighters with roots in some regions, such as the Caucasus in southern Russia, have dominated in the UFC. One such glaring example is Russian UFC fighter Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov, the promotion’s greatest champ ever, who has won 29 victories in mixed martial arts, of which 13 were in the UFC without a single defeat.Although represented by a rather small number of fighters, the African continent has also proved its presence in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.In mid-November 2022, as part of the promotion’s plans to continue expanding globally into new markets, UFC President Dana White revealed that the UFC was planning to bring its octagon to the African continent. White said that the promotion was targeting Nigeria to hold the UFC’s first event in Africa.Sputnik has gathered a list of the top professional mixed martial artists from the African continent competing in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, including active and former fighters.
1. Francis Ngannou
Francis Ngannou, aka “The Predator”, is a Cameroonian MMA fighter who was the reigning UFC Heavyweight Champion before leaving the promotion on January 14, 2023.The 36-year-old Cameroon-born athlete won the UFC Heavyweight division title in March 2021 at the UFC 260 event held in Las Vegas, United States, after defeating the American Stipe Miocic.In recent months, Ngannou suffered many health issues, including a knee injury, and had differences of opinion with the administration of the UFC. On January 14, the Ultimate Fighting Championship officially announced that it was releasing Ngannou, stripping him of the heavyweight title.© AP Photo / Gregory PayanFrancis Ngannou is shown during a heavyweight championship mixed martial arts bout against Stipe Miocic at UFC 220, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018, in Boston.Francis Ngannou is shown during a heavyweight championship mixed martial arts bout against Stipe Miocic at UFC 220, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018, in Boston.
2. Kamaru Usman
Nicknamed the “Nigerian Nightmare”, Usman is a former UFC Welterweight Champion and the winner of the Ultimate Fighter 21 tournament. As of January 17, 2023, the Nigerian fighter ranks 1st in the UFC men’s welterweight, and 4th in the UFC men’s pound-for-pound list.As of today, Usman’s name is topping the UFC ranking of the welterweight division.In December 2021, Usman was named the ”best MMA fighter of the year” after successfully managing to defend his UFC Welterweight title five times. The 31-year-old Nigerian maintained the title for 1,267 days, before he gave it up to English fighter Leon Edwards on August 20, 2022.© AP Photo / Corey SipkinKamaru Usman reacts against Colby Covington during a welterweight mixed martial arts championship bout at UFC 268, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, in New YorkKamaru Usman reacts against Colby Covington during a welterweight mixed martial arts championship bout at UFC 268, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, in New York
3. Israel Adesanya
Adesanya, unlike his fellow Nigerian Usman, is a two-time winner of UFC Middleweight Champion titles. He also defended his title five times, and has lost it in November 2022 after getting defeated by Brazilian UFC star Alex Pereira.Adesanya is considered one of the UFC’s top winners of championship and/or interim championship title bouts. He’s won 7 out of 8 title bouts.During his UFC career, Adesanya has been defeated only two times out of the 23 fights he took part in. He is the first in the UFC Middleweight division and the fifth in the men’s pound-for-pound rankings.Born in Nigeria’s most populous city Lagos, the 33-year-old is a former champion of other fighting disciplines besides MMA, including boxing and kickboxing.© AP Photo / John LocherIsrael Adesanya prepares to fight Jared Cannonier in a middleweight title bout during the UFC 276 mixed martial arts event Saturday, July 2, 2022, in Las Vegas.Israel Adesanya prepares to fight Jared Cannonier in a middleweight title bout during the UFC 276 mixed martial arts event Saturday, July 2, 2022, in Las Vegas.
4. Dricus Du Plessis
Du Plessis is a South African MMA fighter competing in the Middleweight division of the UFC. Having played 18 matches at the UFC events since joining the company in October 2020 with only two defeats, Du Plessis’s name ranks the 10th in the UFC’s middleweight division as of today.In addition, the “Stillknocks” is also a former Middleweight and Welterweight Champion at Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC), a South African MMA promotion company.© AP Photo / John LocherDricus Du Plessis celebrates after defeating Darren Till during a UFC 282 mixed martial arts middleweight bout Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022, in Las Vegas.Dricus Du Plessis celebrates after defeating Darren Till during a UFC 282 mixed martial arts middleweight bout Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022, in Las Vegas.
5. Sodiq Yusuff
Ranking 12th in the UFC featherweight rankings, Sodiq Yusuff, aka the “Super”, was also born in Lagos. The 29-year-old Nigerian MMA star joined the UFC in late 2018.Yusuff won 11 matches out of an overall of 13 matches played in the UFC. In his most recent UFC clash, at UFC Fight Night 211, the Nigerian submitted Don Shainis via guillotine choke 30 seconds into the first round of the bout, securing his 11th win at the event.© AP Photo / Gregory PayanSodiq Yusuff in action against Sheymon Moraes during their mixed martial arts bout at UFC Fight Night, Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Philadelphia. Yusuff won via decision.Sodiq Yusuff in action against Sheymon Moraes during their mixed martial arts bout at UFC Fight Night, Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Philadelphia. Yusuff won via decision.
6. Abu Azaitar
Abu Azaitar, the elder of two Moroccan brothers fighting in the UFC, joined the promotion company in July 2018. During his UFC career, Azaitar suffered only three losses out of the 14 bouts he played in the UFC middleweight division.Nicknamed “Captain Morocco”, Azaitar is one of the most respected and promising African fighters at the UFC, despite the fact that he has not yet won a title. The elder brother of UFC lightweight fighter Othman Azaitar, aka the “Bulldozer”, has not lost a match since 2012.
7. Dalcha Lungiambula
Lungiambula, aka the “Champion”, is a former UFC middleweight fighter from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who is known for his takedown accuracy.A former holder of the Extreme Fighting Championship lightweight title, the Congolese fighter joined the UFC in June 2019. However, his journey to the championship was not very long, as he was released from the UFC in December 2022 following his fourth consequent loss at UFC 282 against US fighter Edmen Shahbazyan.© AP Photo / Gregory PayanPunahele Soriano absorbs a kick against Dalcha Lungiambula during their mixed martial arts bout at UFC on ABC 3, Saturday, July 16, 2022, in Elmont, NY. Soriano won via 2nd round stoppage.Punahele Soriano absorbs a kick against Dalcha Lungiambula during their mixed martial arts bout at UFC on ABC 3, Saturday, July 16, 2022, in Elmont, NY. Soriano won via 2nd round stoppage.
8. Manel Kape
Manuel Pedro Gomes better known as Manel Kape, a mixed martial artist fighter of Angolan descent, is one of the most fresh African UFC fighters. While he only joined the promotion in early 2021, Kape has already taken part in 24 UFC matches, of which he won 18 matches, including 11 wins by knockouts.Dubbed “Star Boy” for his unique fighting style, the Angolan ranks 9th in the UFC flyweight ranking. Kape kicked off his professional career as an MMA fighter in 2012. Before joining UFC, he was a former Rizin Bantamweight Champion and the former Knock Out Championship Bantamweight champion. During his career, he also competed for Cage Fighters in the United Kindom.© AP Photo / Michael WykeManel Kape, left, punches Ode Osbourne, middle, after taking him down for a technical knockout in front of referee Jeff Rexroad, right, during their flyweight mixed martial arts bout at UFC 265 on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021, in Houston. Manel Kape, left, punches Ode Osbourne, middle, after taking him down for a technical knockout in front of referee Jeff Rexroad, right, during their flyweight mixed martial arts bout at UFC 265 on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021, in Houston.
9. Abdul Razak Alhassan
Alhassan is one of the Best Ghanaian MMA fighters. He has competed in the UFC Welterweight division since late 2016. Known for his striking accuracy, Alhassan secured his 12th win at the championship after defeating Claudio Ribeiro on January 15, 2023.At the beginning of his professional career, the Ghanaian mixed martial artist fought in the Bellator and Legacy Fighting Championship.© AP Photo / Jeffrey McWhorterAbdul Razak Alhassan exults after knocking out Niko Price in their welterweight mixed martial arts bout at UFC 228 on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, in Dallas. Abdul Razak Alhassan exults after knocking out Niko Price in their welterweight mixed martial arts bout at UFC 228 on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, in Dallas.
10. Mounir Lazzez
Lazzez, a Tunisian MMA fighter, is also one of the promising African UFC fighters. In his 14-match career at the championship, the “Sniper” was defeated in only two matches. Praised for both his striking and takedown accuracy, Lazzez joined the UFC in July 2020, and Lazaz achieved 11 victories in his career, including eight by knockouts, while suffering only two losses.