The 10 Biggest Fan Favorites in the UFC Right Now

Tom Taylor@@TomTayMMAContributor IOctober 5, 2022

The 10 Biggest Fan Favorites in the UFC Right Now

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    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 02: (L-R) Alexander Volkanovski of Australia and Max Holloway tough gloves in the UFC featherweight championship fight during the UFC 276 event at T-Mobile Arena on July 02, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
    Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

    There is little room for debate when it comes to the biggest stars in the UFC right now, because the numbers speak for themselves.

    Conor McGregor, despite his recent losses, remains the promotion's biggest attraction, while fighters like Nate Diaz, Jon Jones and Israel Adesanya have also proved they can be pay-per-view hits with the right dance partners, and others like Sean O'Malley and Khamzat Chimaev are well on their way.

    But all of those fighters seem to have as many haters as they do supporters. For every fan who buys a pay-per-view to see one of them win, there's another who does so to see them lose. For that reason, it wouldn't be exactly right to call them fan favorites.

    So who are the biggest fan favorites in the UFC right now? Which fighters are the most widely loved, with the fewest number of haters?

    While every fighter has at least a handful of people rooting against them, here are 10 who seem to have the support of almost everybody.

Jiri Prochazka

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    Czech Republic's Jiri Prochazka looks on while competing against Brazil's Glover Teixeira in their men's light heavyweight title match during the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 275 event in Singapore on June 12, 2022. (Photo by NICHOLAS YEO / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS YEO/AFP via Getty Images)
    NICHOLAS YEO/AFP via Getty Images

    Jiri Prochazka has only had three fights in the UFC, but he is already the promotion's light heavyweight champion and one of its most beloved fighters.

    Prochazka signed with the UFC in 2020 after an entertaining run in Japan's Rizin Fighting Federation, where he was also the light heavyweight champion. By that time, he already had a solid following of hardcore fans, but since debuting in the Octagon, his fanbase has expanded significantly.

    That's not surprising.

    The Czech striker has been wildly entertaining in each of his three UFC fights, first scoring highlight-reel knockouts against former title challengers Volkan Oezdemir and Dominick Reyes, and then swiping the light heavyweight title with a submission of Glover Teixeira in a 2022 Fight of the Year contender.

    Fans have also come to love to Prochazka's personality, from his appreciation of the Bushido code to his unconventional training methods. And with a rematch with Teixeira seemingly in the works, his popularity only stands to grow.

Brandon Moreno

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    DALLAS, TEXAS - JULY 30: Brandon Moreno of Mexico celebrates with the flyweight interim title belt after knocking out Kai Kara France of New Zealand in the third round during UFC 277 at American Airlines Center on July 30, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
    Brandon Moreno wins the UFC's interim flyweight title. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images).

    UFC interim flyweight champion Brandon Moreno is loved for the same reasons Jiri Prochazka is: He has a great personality, and his fights always deliver excitement.

    In terms of personality, Moreno is maybe Prochazka's polar opposite. The Mexican star is a ball of energy who has won over fans everywhere with his positivity and sense of humor. He even won over a fighter who does not typically play well with others: Nate Diaz.

    When it comes to his fighting style, Moreno is even easier to love. He has some of the best striking in his division, and he backs that up with an excellent submission game. He uses both skills to finish his fights, having recently tapped Deiveson Figueiredo and stopped Kai Kara-France with a body shot to win the interim belt.

    Yet Moreno's best quality might be the heart he shows in his fights. He is not always dominant and has more than once found himself in danger in the Octagon, but he is usually able to persevere through whatever comes his way, much to the elation of his adoring fans.

Alexander Volkanovski

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    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 02: Alexander Volkanovski of Australia reacts to his win over Max Holloway in the UFC featherweight championship fight during the UFC 276 event at T-Mobile Arena on July 02, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
    Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

    Alexander Volkanovski has had to work hard to win the adulation of the fans, but he seems to have done it.

    He arrived in the UFC in 2016 and initially seemed to be the kind of fighter most fans could take or leave. Not loved, not hated.

    His stock has endured its share of ups and downs over the years since. Fans liked his gritty stoppage win over Chad Mendes in 2018 but grumbled about his 2019 unanimous-decision defeat of Jose Aldo and his second win over Max Holloway, a split decision in 2020.

    Yet Volkanovski seems to have finally won the hearts of fans for good.

    Maybe it's his endearing personality outside the cage—he seems like the kind of guy you could have a few beers with. Maybe it's his recent performances inside it, from his entertaining battle with Brian Ortega to his beatdown of "The Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung to his latest masterpiece: a third decision win over Max Holloway. Or maybe it's because, since Kamaru Usman lost to Leon Edwards this summer, there's really no refuting that Volkanovski is the best fighter in the world right now. Even if you've found a reason to dislike him, you've got to appreciate that.

Stephen Thompson

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    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 01: Stephen 'Wonderboy' Thompson greets fans during UFC X 2022 at the Las Vegas Convention Center on July 01, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Richie Banks/Zuffa LLC)
    Stephen Thompson meets some fans. Richie Banks/Zuffa LLC

    Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson embodies the notion that fighters don't need to be champions to be popular with the fans.

    The karate specialist fought twice for the welterweight title, both times against Tyron Woodley, but failed to capture it, first battling his fellow American to a draw and then losing a decision.

    Still, Thompson has throngs of loyal supporters and very few naysayers.

    That's due in part to his fighting technique. He's one of the few true karate practitioners in the UFC, and his style has translated to some pretty impressive knockouts over the years. Then again, Thompson has at times caught flack for his conservative game plans, like the ones he used against Woodley and Darren Till.

    The biggest contributor to his popularity is clearly his personality. The welterweight is chipper and well-mannered, to the point that fans jokingly awarded him an unofficial "NMF" belt. The N stands for "nicest." You can take a guess about the M and the F.

Derrick Lewis

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    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - FEBRUARY 20: Derrick Lewis prepares to fight Curtis Blaydes in a heavyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 20, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
    Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

    Derrick Lewis is another great example of a fighter achieving major popularity without ever winning a title.

    He challenged Daniel Cormier for the heavyweight title in 2018 but lost by submission and has never come that close again. Still, he is almost universally loved among fight fans.

    His willingness to stand in there and bang is a big part of it. He is arguably the hardest puncher in the UFC and holds the record for the most knockout wins in the promotion's history, with 13.

    But like every other fighter on this list, Lewis is also embraced for his personality. The Houstonian has been responsible for some of the most memorable lines in UFC history and really never disappoints when there's a microphone in front of him.

    He's lost his last two fights, both by knockout, but all the losses in the world aren't going to change the way fans feel about him.

Charles Oliveira

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    PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 7: Charles Oliveira celebrates his victory over Justin Gaethje in their Lightweight bout during the UFC 274 event at Footprint Center on May 7, 2022, in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Charles Oliveira celebrates a win over Justin Gaethje. (Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

    Charles Oliveira wasn't always loved by fans.

    In fact, at several points during his long and turbulent UFC career, he's been the target of some pretty significant ire and has even been accused of giving up in his fights.

    But things have definitely turned a corner for the Brazilian.

    Today, Oliveira holds the record for the most finishes in UFC history, with 19. He is on a ridiculous 11-fight winning streak and is considered the best lightweight in the world. Highlights of his recent run include a knockout win over Michael Chandler, which earned him the vacant title, a submission win over Dustin Poirier, which counted as his first successful defense, and a submission win over Justin Gaethje, which would have been another title defense had he not been stripped of the belt for missing weight. All three victories required him to weather some significant early adversity.

    Oliveira's recent wins have cemented him as the sport's top lightweight and most prolific finisher but, more importantly, erased any questions about his heart and toughness, which is seemingly what it took for fans to finally start supporting him en masse.

    He'll be back in action against Islam Makhachev at UFC 280 on October 22 with the vacant lightweight title on the line, and his popularity could explode with a win.

Rose Namajunas

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    Mixed Martial Arts: UFC 268 Women's Strawweight: Rose Namajunas (R) in action vs Zhang Weili at Madison Square Garden. New York ,NY 11/6/2021 CREDIT: Erick W. Rasco (Erick W. Rasco/Sports Illustrrated/Getty Images) (Set Number: X163858 TK2)
    Set Number: X163858 TK2

    Rose Namajunas caught a lot of flack after her forgettable split-decision loss to Carla Esparza earlier this year, which marked the end of her strawweight title reign. It was an objectively awful fight, and Namajunas' measured game plan was a big reason why. But she is still the most popular female fighter in the UFC today.

    Fans definitely appreciate her personality. She isn't much of a trash-talker and spends her time outside the cage doing things like gardening and meditating under waterfalls. She provides some sorely needed zen in a sport that usually oozes intensity.

    But Namajunas is probably most adored for the way she fights. She's one of the strawweight division's best finishers, with a slick submission game and more firepower than just about any of her rivals. Her stopping power was on full display in her spectacular knockout wins over Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Zhang Weili, and it may yet carry her back to the strawweight division's throne.

Dustin Poirier

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    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 10: (L-R) Opponents Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor of Ireland face off prior to their welterweight fight during the UFC 264 event at T-Mobile Arena on July 10, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
    Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor square off. (Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

    You had to know Dustin Poirier would be on this list.

    The Diamond is one of the best lightweights in the world and one of the most consistently exciting fighters in the game.

    That latter point has always been true of Poirier. He's always been entertaining, from the early days of his UFC career when he was beating the likes of Max Holloway, Jonathan Brookins and Diego Brandao at featherweight to his more recent chapters in the lightweight division, where he has stopped the likes of Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez and Conor McGregor.

    Poirier counterbalances his brutality in the Octagon by being a standup guy outside it. He is a dedicated family man and the driving force behind The Good Fight Foundation, which has made a huge positive impact in communities all over the world. And hey, people seem to like his hot sauce, too.

    Poirier will be back in action against Michael Chandler at UFC 281 in November, and all signs point to another thriller.

Robert Whittaker

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    PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 03: (L-R) Robert Whittaker of New Zealand kicks Marvin Vettori of Italy in a middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at The Accor Arena on September 03, 2022 in Paris, France. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
    Robert Whittaker kicks Marvin Vettori. (Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC).

    You will be hard-pressed to find anybody who doesn't like Robert Whittaker.

    The Australian, who is riding a decision win over Marvin Vettori, is the former UFC middleweight champion and, at this point, one of the greatest fighters in the division's history. In fact, were it not for the existence of Israel Adesanya, whom he has lost to twice, he would most likely still have the middleweight belt.

    Whittaker is not just good, but entertaining. While his last few victories have been decisions, he has made them pretty exciting, and he has shown plenty of finishing ability in previous wins over the likes of Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and Derek Brunson.

    The Aussie, a dedicated father, is also the picture of class inside and outside the Octagon. He offers respect to his opponents and is great at staying connected with his dedicated fanbase via his popular Twitch streams.

Max Holloway

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    ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JANUARY 17: (R-L) Max Holloway taunts Calvin Kattar in a featherweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 17, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

    It's hard to say whether Max Holloway is more loved for his personality or his work inside the cage.

    When he's not fighting, the former featherweight champ is nothing but good vibes, and it's easy to understand why. If his Instagram is any indication, his life in Hawaii is little more than training and hanging out at the beach with his family and friends. Yet even when the pressure is on, Holloway stays totally laid back.

    "It is what it is," he famously said after accepting a fight with the great Khabib Nurmagomedov on just six days' notice in 2018.

    There is nothing laid back about Holloway when he sets foot in the Octagon. The Hawaiian, who is known for talking to his foes and even the cage-side commentators mid-fight, is one of the best strikers in MMA history, making up for a bit of a deficit in the power department with suffocating volume. Record-setting volume, to be exact: He has landed more significant strikes than anybody else in UFC history (2,975), and it's not even close. Frankie Edgar ranks second with 1,799.

    Holloway isn't just about offense, either. While he tends to absorb quite a bit of punishment in his fights, he has flaunted one of the best chins in all of MMA and has never been seriously hurt by strikes inside the Octagon. Not even greats like Alexander Volkanovski, Jose Aldo or Conor McGregor could put him down.

    Holloway's standing among MMA's greatest fighters isn't quite set in stone, but he is easily one of the most universally revered fighters we've seen in the sport.

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