Ranking the Best Fighting Families in MMA History

Tom Taylor@@TomTayMMAContributor IMarch 26, 2021

Ranking the Best Fighting Families in MMA History

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    MMA is an individual sport. For a number of fighters, however, it's a family affair.

    Over the course of MMA history, many families have produced multiple professional fighters. In rarer cases, a single family has given us multiple world-class pros—even multiple world champions.

    Without further ado, here is B/R's definitive list of the five best fighting families in MMA history.

    Honorable mentions: The Emelianenko family, the Pettis family, the Couture family, the Overeem family, the Rua family, the Miller family, the Lauzon family, the Assuncao family.

5. The Lee Family

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    The Lee family has produced not one, not two but three professional fighters—all three of whom have spent their entire careers competing for ONE Championship.

    The first to go pro was the eldest Lee sibling, Angela. Not long after her professional debut, she captured the ONE atomweight title. She's since defended the belt against Jenny Huang, Istela Nunes, Mei Yamaguchi and Xiong Jingnan, and while she's currently on maternity leave, she still owns it.

    Not long after Angela went pro with ONE, her brother, Christian, followed in her footsteps. Just like his big sister, he captured ONE gold, defeating Shinya Aoki to capture the promotion's lightweight title.

    Since winning the lightweight title, Christian has defended it once, defeating Iuri Lapicus via first-round TKO. He'll attempt his second defense at ONE on TNT II on April 14, when he takes on fearsome Russian knockout artist Timofey Nastyukhin.

    As if a single family producing two ONE Championship titleholders weren't impressive enough, a third member of the Lee clan recently made her pro debut with the promotion and seems to be destined for big things. In February, the 16-year-old Victoria made a splash in her first mixed martial arts bout, defeating the amply more experienced Sunisa Srisen by second-round submission.

4. The Diaz Family

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    The Diaz family has only given us two professional fighters, but they are two of the most successful—and most popular—in MMA history.

    Nick, the eldest of the two Diaz brothers, is the former Strikeforce welterweight champion. While he never won gold in the UFC, he challenged Carlos Condit for the promotion's interim welterweight title and, later, Georges St-Pierre for the undisputed welterweight strap. Outside of those accomplishments, he's beaten the likes of Chris Lytle, Robbie Lawler, Frank Shamrock, Hayato Sakurai, Paul Daley and BJ Penn.

    Nick's younger brother, Nate, is no less successful.

    While Nate came up short in his lone bid for the UFC lightweight title, losing a decision to Benson Henderson, he's beaten a long list of elite foes, including Melvin Guillard, Takanori Gomi, Jim Miller, Gray Maynard, Michael Johnson, Conor McGregor and Anthony Pettis.

    Despite their recent stretches of inactivity, the brothers remain two of the highest-profile fighters in the sport.

3. The Nogueira Family

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    Like the Diaz family, the Nogueira family has given us two world-class fighters: Antonio Rodrigo and Antonio Rogerio—better known as Big Nog and Lil Nog.

    Big Nog has a long list of amazing accomplishments. Most notably, he was the first Pride heavyweight champion. For a brief period, he was the UFC interim heavyweight champion. Other highlights of his legendary career include wins over Gary Goodridge, Mark Coleman, Heath Herring, Enson Inoue, Dan Henderson, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, Sergei Kharitonov, Fabricio Werdum, Josh Barnett, Tim Sylvia and Randy Couture.

    Lil Nog, meanwhile, never captured titles in Pride or the UFC, but has bested a long list of noteworthy foes, such as Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, Guy Mezger, Kazushi Sakuraba, Alistair Overeem, Dan Henderson, Vladimir Matyushenko, Tito Ortiz and Rashad Evans.

2. The Nurmagomedov Family

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    At this stage, every fight fan is familiar with former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov—the unbeaten pride of Russia's Republic of Dagestan. While Khabib recently retired, however, we haven't heard the last of his surname in MMA.

    The Nurmagomedov family, helmed by late patriarch Abdulmanap, has produced a number of high-level fighters, several of whom are just entering the MMA limelight.

    Khabib's cousin Usman (11-0), for example, recently signed with Bellator and is slated to make his promotional debut against Mike Hamel at Bellator 255. Khabib's other cousin Umar (13-0), meanwhile, recently made a successful UFC debut with a submission win over Sergey Morozov. Abubakar Nurmagomedov (15-3-1), another cousin of the former UFC lightweight champ, is set to return to the Octagon at UFC 260 on Saturday to take on Jared Gooden.

    Suffice it to say that while Khabib has already put the Nurmagomedov family on the map, their work in the sport is far from over.

1. The Gracies

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    You had to know this family would top our list.

    The Gracies, who helped found Brazilian jiu jitsu, are effectively MMA's royal family.

    Scan any of the Gracie family trees available online, and you will see dozens of names you recognize. Rorion Gracie, for example, was one of the founders of the UFC. His younger brother Royce, meanwhile, was among the promotion's earliest and most successful competitors. Their brothers Rickson, Relson and Royler are also tremendously accomplished across BJJ and MMA.

    Skip ahead a generation or two, and you will spot more familiar names such as Renzo, a former UFC and Pride star; Rolles Jr. who has competed in the UFC and One; and Kron, a current UFC featherweight who has fought in the Rizin Fighting Federation.

    Amazingly, that's only scratching the surface. The Gracie family is jam-packed with world-class competitors in both MMA and BJJ, and without them, neither sport would be where it is today.