At the time of the UFC inception in 1993, only male fighters were allowed to compete, a rule that would remain for many years after. And in 2011, when asked “When will we see women in the UFC?”, company president Dana White responded with one word: “Never”.
Of course, all that changed when signed Ronda Rousey as the first female UFC fighter, and the inaugural Women’s Bantamweight Champion. Since then, the UFC has signed many women, now boasting over 100 on the UFC roster.
And as tends to happen, several female stars have emerged since then. So this post is dedicated to the fierce and beautiful women who fight their hearts out for us.
This post will rank the female UFC fighters by how well-known they are, and includes present and past female fighters.
Here are the 10 most famous female UFC fighters!
In the #10 spot on our list, we have Michelle “Karate Hottie” Waterson.
Michelle is a contender in the UFC’s strawweight division, although she is actually considered small for the division. But the 5’3 former atomweight doesn’t let that stop her.
Michelle grew up training Karate in her youth, hence the name “Karate Hottie”. She holds a black belt in Karate, and has since added new elements to her fight style, also holding a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Michelle has fought some tough competition while in the UFC, such as against former champions Rose Namajunas and Joanna Jędrzejczyk. Michelle has one daughter, born in 2011, and has often stated that her ambition is to become the first mother to win a UFC championship.
For this reason, she is often dubbed “Mom Champ”. Here’s wishing her good luck in her endeavors!
At #9, we have the former UFC Featherweight champion, Cristiane Justino Venâncio, also known as Cris Cyborg.
Cris Cyborg is a Brazilian MMA fighter who rose to prominence after winning the Strikeforce featherweight championship in 2009. Cyborg is considered one of the best MMA fighters ever, having beat some of the best female fighters out there. Her most notable win was over Holly Holm, in a defense of her featherweight title.
Surprisingly, Cris Cyborg actually lost her first pro MMA fight! After that loss, she went 13 years undefeated, and has since won titles with four major organizations: Strikeforce, Invicta, UFC, and Bellator, the only fighter to ever do so.
Unfortunately, Cyborg lost her belt to Amanda Nunes in late 2018. When her contract ended in 2019, Dana White said that they would not be renewing her contract.
Cyborg later signed with Bellator, and beat Julia Budd to win the Bellator Featherweight Championship.
At #8 on this list is the UFC Strawweight champion, Zhang Weili.
Zhang Weili is an amazing MMA fighter, and is the first Chinese UFC champion. Similarly to Cris Cyborg, she lost her MMA debut. But of course, that didn’t stop her.
Zhang would go on to win 20 straight fights to the UFC Strawweight title, when she defeated Jessica Andrade by knockout just 42 seconds into the first round.
Zhang would make her first title defense against former champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk. The fight was a highly anticipated and definitely delivered, with Zhang winning the brawl via split-decision.
Her fame can be credited to her status as the champ, although there are other factors involved. Her emphatic knockout of Andrade definitely drew a lot of attention to her, as well as the fact that she is the first Chinese champion. Her war of a fight against Joanna only served to increase her popularity.
Former UFC Strawweight champion Rose Namajunas is #7 of our list of famous female fighters.
Rose is a very talented fighter, as noted by her performance in the Octagon. She holds black belts in both Karate and Taekwondo, as well as a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
She started her career in the UFC at just 21, when she was a part of the cast on The Ultimate Fighter season which would crown the inaugural strawweight champ. Rose made it all the way to the final, and fought for a UFC title in just her fourth pro MMA fight.
Unfortunately, she would lose her first title fight to inaugural champion Carla Esparza, by third-round submission.
Of course, Rose continued to win fights, and eventually worked her way back to another title shot. However, this time it was against Joanna Jędrzejczyk, who was the undefeated Strawweight champion, with 5 consecutive title defenses.
Despite being the underdog, Rose defeated Joanna by first-round knockout, launching her to UFC stardom. Despite winning the rematch against Joanna, she would later lose the title to Jessica Andrade.
Former Strawweight queen Joanna Jędrzejczyk is #6 on our list.
Joanna is a Polish UFC fighter known for her expertise as a kickboxer. Her proficiency as a striker led her to a UFC title in her ninth MMA fight, when she defeated inaugural champ Carla Esparza by knockout in the second round.
Joanna would continue her reign as the undefeated champ, making five successful defenses of her Strawweight title. During her time as champion, she was regarded as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
Even after losing her title to Namajunas at UFC 217, Joanna continues to prove she is one of the best fighters at 115 pounds. With wins over top contenders Tecia Torres and Michelle Waterson, Joanna again challenged for the title at UFC 248, against Zhang Weili.
Despite not getting the victory, her part in one of the greatest fights in women’s MMA history brought both her increased popularity and appreciation from the fans.
At #5 we have the fierce Flyweight champion, Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko.
Valentina is a fighter out of Kyrgyzstan, who compiled a record of 11-1 before joining the UFC. Valentina initially fought at Bantamweight, and lost her second UFC fight to Amanda Nunes. Shevchenko would later fight Nunes again for the bantamweight championship, losing by controversial split decision.
Nevertheless, Valentina decided to venture into the UFC’s new Flyweight division, and has gone unbeaten since. After former champion Nicco Montaño was stripped of the belt, Shevchenko faced Joanna Jędrzejczyk for the vacant title, winning by unanimous decision.
Shevchenko has become noteworthy for her dominant performances at Flyweight, and currently had three title defenses to her name.
At #4 we have the first female Champ Champ, Amanda Nunes.
Amanda Nunes was one of the early female fighters in the UFC, having her first fight in 2013. Although Nunes was in the UFC during the Ronda Rousey era, Nunes never got the opportunity to face her while she was champion.
However, after her win over Valentina Shevchenko in 2016, she was given a shot for the belt against then-champion Miesha Tate, which Nunes won by submission.
Since then, Nunes has made several defenses of her title, and even challenged Cris Cyborg for the featherweight title. Nunes won by quick first-round knockout, becoming the first female “champ champ”.
She has beaten every former champion in her weight divison, and is currently one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
Although her wins and accolades have brought her much fame, it is still less than that of the other bantamweight champions.
Former bantamweight champion Miesha Tate is #3 on our list of famous female UFC fighters.
Miesha Tate has been a UFC fighter since 2007, and was one of the best during her era. Unfortunately, she always came up short against Ronda Rousey, losing against her for the Strikeforce championship, and then again in their rematch for the UFC Championship.
With Ronda remaining as the dominant champion, it seemed unlikely that Miesha would get another shot at the title. However, all that changed when Holly Holm defeated Rousey in 2015.
With Miesha on a four-fight win streak, and Rousey on an indefinite hiatus, Miesha challenged Holly for the bantamweight title, which she won by fifth-round submission. Her rivalry with Rousey as well as her win over Holly are what made her most famous.
However, due to her short reign as champion (she retired the same year she won the belt) she is not ranked higher on the list.
At #2 on our list, is decorated kickboxer Holly Holm.
Holly Holm initially started her career as a boxer, winning several welterweight titles, and often regarded as one of the best female boxers ever. When she transitioned into MMA, her career took off, and challenged Ronda Rousey for the title in only her third UFC fight.
Despite being the underdog against Ronda, Holly dominated the fight, which she accentuated with a second-round head kick knockout to win the title. The win automatically catapulted Holly to fame, as she was the first woman to defeat Ronda and the second female champion in UFC history.
Despite losing her title to Miesha in her first defense, she is still the more well-known fighter due to still being active in the UFC.
And of course, at #1, we have the one and only Ronda Rousey.
So I’ve talked a lot about Ronda up to this point, so even if you didn’t know her story before finding this post, you probably do now.
Ronda was the first female ever signed to the UFC, and was promptly named the inaugural UFC champion, due to being the last bantamweight champion in the Strikeforce promotion, before it was bought by the UFC.
She was considered the best female fighter on the planet during her reign as champion, with a record of 12-0 and six successful title defenses before her loss to Holly Holm.
Even after leaving the UFC, she has continued to grow in popularity pursuing a career in professional wrestling in the WWE.
And those are the most famous female UFC fighters. Thanks for reading!