As we turn the page into 2020, FIGHT SPORTS has compiled the top ten fighters of the decade across Mixed Martial Arts, Boxing, and Kickboxing, it takes note of their impact on their sport and their track record inside the ring, cage, Octagon.
10. Rico Verhoeven
The only kickboxer on our list has defined GLORY’s roster for years and has remained undefeated inside their ring since 2012, and reigning as their heavyweight champion since 2013.
In his six-year reign as king of kickboxing’s heavyweights, Verhoeven has retained the title nine-times with wins over Badr Hari, Jamal Ben Saddik, Benjamin Adegbuyi, and a non-title victory over kickboxing legend and Verhoeven’s idol, Peter Aerts.
Becoming a hero in his native Netherlands, Verhoeven has released a diet & fitness guide/autobiography, has become and actor and a crossover sensation that has helped the promotion become a mainstay in Europe.
9. Deontay Wilder
The Alabama native walked into this decade hoping to become an NFL star, but walked out of it with an Olympic medal, an undefeated record and the WBC world heavyweight championship.
With explosive power and explosive promotion skills, Wilder has become one of the cornerstones of a heavyweight resurgence that includes knocking out all but one opponent throughout his run as a pro. The lone opponent to not kiss the canvas is his rival and former unified world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, who missed the cut on this list due to his inactivity towards the back end of the decade.
Their 2018 showdown inside Staples Center was an instant classic and their February 22nd brawl ensures to be the same, as they both look to unify the WBC title against the fighter ranked eight on our list.
8. Anthony Joshua
Two Olympic gold medals, two reigns as world heavyweight champion, and rehabbing the heavyweight division and boxing mark Joshua’s resume as we close the books on this decade.
The UK based fighter has become the cornerstone of Matchroom Boxing’s takeover of the boxing world, a top-line fighter for DAZN’s streaming service, and the man responsible for selling out a litany of stadiums throughout the United Kingdom and now Saudi Arabia.
Joshua’s relatively short reign is why he is towards the bottom of our list, but we feel that by the end of the next decade he is aiming at the top of the list in his quest to become the first undisputed world heavyweight champion in over twenty years.
7. Georges St. Pierre
The first mixed martial artist on our list is also one of the most dominant in the sport’s 26-year history.
While he was silent from 2014-2017, GSP loomed over the UFC like a boogieman, going 7-0 in the decade all of which were title fights including his return/retirement fight against Michael Bisping for the UFC middleweight title.
GSP is rumored to be facing a fighter that barely missed our list in Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2020, and if the French Canadian defeats Khabib, he would add to a resume that includes Bisping, Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Jake Shields, Nick Diaz, and others.
6. Daniel Cormier
One of the most polarizing fighters of the 2010’s Daniel Cormier has become one of the most beloved fighters in the world due to his style, his personality, and his competitive spirit.
Cormier’s coming out party came when he stepped in as a last-minute replacement for the 2012 Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix and running the table to become the last Strikeforce heavyweight champion before the company was absorbed into the UFC in 2012.
From there Cormier dropped to light heavyweight in-order to not fight against training partner and friend Cain Velasquez, who held the UFC heavyweight championship. The move to 205 proved to be successful for Cormier until his decision loss to Jon Jones in their first meeting in 2015.
Following his loss to Jones and Jones’ subsequent suspension for a myriad of personal issues, Cormier ascended to the top of the light heavyweight division, only losing his title to Jones in 2017 which would be overturned into a no-contest due to Jones testing positive for turinibol.
In 2018 Cormier leveled up to the heavyweight division, knocking out reigning heavyweight king Stipe Miocic and emphatic retention against Derrick Lewis at UFC 230 inside Madison Square Garden, before losing to Miocic in 2019 due to a well-placed body punch.
Cormier was set to retire following the Miocic fight, but is preparing for their trilogy fight early next year, which is the last time we may see Cormier step inside the Octagon
5. Amanda Nunes
The second double-division champion on our list, Amanda Nunes has been the dominant force inside the UFC since her arrival in 2013.
Suffering only one loss since joining the promotion, Nunes has dropped some of the biggest names in the sport, from Valentina Shevchenko twice, beating Miesha Tate to become UFC bantamweight champion, ending Ronda Rousey’s MMA career after that, along with handing Cris Cyborg her first loss in over a decade and beating Holly Holm and Germaine De Randamie after that.
Taking the featherweight belt from Cyborg made her the third fighter and first female fighter to hold two separate titles in the company and assert herself as the greatest female fighter of all time.
4. Jon Jones
If it weren’t for the two incidents featured in our Daniel Cormier section, many could argue that Jon Jones was in-fact the fighter of the decade.
Dominating at 205-pounds from the moment he walked into the UFC in 2008, Jones won his first world title in 2012 in an emphatic TKO win over Shogun Rua, then stoppage wins over Rampage Jackson and Lyoto Machida. Then Jones retained against Rashad Evans and stopped both Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen to build one of the most impressive resumes in recent UFC memory.
Following that, Jones racked up decision wins against opponents that included Daniel Cormier, but following the Cormier win, Jones’ issues with drugs and alcohol took a turn for the worst when legal issues began to pile up including an incident where Jones committed a hit and run on a pregnant woman.
Jones ended up returning to the Octagon winning the interim light heavyweight title, and then being suspended by the UFC for testing positive for a banned substance.
Then the fighter returned in 2017 knocking Cormier out emphatically before being stripped of the title again two weeks after due to testing positive for another PED, which turned into a gigantic circus and Jones’ return in late 2018 where he regained the light heavyweight title against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 231.
Now Jones once again sits on top of the UFC light heavyweight throne and looks to become a heavyweight in 2020.
3. Canelo Alvarez
In this decade, Canelo won multiple world titles in multiple weight classes, developed a classic rivalry with Gennadiy Golovkin, and signed one of if not the richest contract in sports history with DAZN.
That coupled with wins over Austin Trout, Shane Mosely, Erislandy Lara, Miguel Cotto, Amir Khan, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, and Daniel Jacobs, plus a solid effort against Floyd Mayweather has given Alvarez the clout needed to be a top star in the sport.
With a rock solid following in the Mexican community that makes each fight feel like a larger than life event, and his standing with streaming partner DAZN, Alvarez has become the face of boxing in 2019 and may lead the new decade the same way he did in the last.
2. Floyd Mayweather
The richest athlete of the decade takes the second spot not just for that alone, but for his continued domination inside the ring on the road to a historic 50-wins inside the squared circle.
Having the “fight of the century” against Manny Pacquiao, along with wins over Canelo Alvarez, Marcos Maidana, and an initial retirement win over Andre Berto, Mayweather cruised towards the top of our list before facing off against the man in our number one spot in one of the biggest spectacles in combat sports history.
1. Conor McGregor
Millions of buys on Pay-Per-View, the best talker in the industry, the biggest draw in Mixed Martial Arts, and somehow talked his way into a fight with Floyd Mayweather that has him set for life, Conor McGregor tops our list because of these reasons, as well as being the first double-champion in UFC history by taking the featherweight and lightweight belts within the same year.
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