Fans of mixed martial arts (MMA) have long argued which fighting style is most dominant.
The primary fighting styles found in the UFC include wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), kickboxing, boxing, Muay Thai, Taekwondo, and Karate.
While each discipline can be highly effective—and top fighters often blend multiple styles—which primary fighting background is most successful in MMA lacks a definitive answer.
Vivid Seats explored this question by researching the main fighting styles of every champion in the history of UFC. Check out the interactive graphic below to explore which fighting disciplines translate to titles in the UFC.
Wrestling has reigned supreme in the UFC. NCAA wrestlers combined with Olympians who mastered the craft of wrestling have produced more UFC champions than any other fighting discipline. The dominance of wrestling champions has been relatively steady since the UFC began awarding titles in the late-’90s.
One theory for the comparative dominance of wrestling is the advantage wrestlers have in close combat. Fighters with striking backgrounds can find it hard to defend themselves from wrestling takedowns. Additionally, while wrestling may lend itself to dramatic knockouts as much as other disciplines, wrestling might be less exciting but more effective, as wrestlers can outlast opponents and gain an advantage on the canvas.
BJJ is the second most dominant style among UFC champions. In the chart, BJJ does not have any champions for the first couple years, until a surge beginning in 2002. Like wrestling, BJJ fighters can be effective off their back. Being effective from your back and being able to attack the neck, arms, and legs from anywhere is very valuable in MMA.
Other disciplines represented on the graph include boxing, kickboxing, Taekwondo, Karate and Muay Thai. These backgrounds are not well-represented when counting fighters’ primary fighting style, but many wrestling and BJJ champions incorporate elements of these techniques.
Methodology: we explored all-time and current men's UFC champions through ESPN.com records and primary fighting style information. Each champion was only counted once, even if that fighter won multiple titles.