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Greatest Female MMA Fighters Of All Time

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Cris Cyborg Grand Slam
[Image via Cris Cyborg - Twitter]

It used to be that Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) was only for the boys. In fact, one could say that many sports that have female leagues today were never meant for women and only men. Right or wrong to you, they have happened and created memorable moments the world has taken notice of. Some of the best female MMA Fighters have taken the world by storm in the last few years alone.

Of course, UFC President Dana White once said he’d never allow women to step foot in a UFC Octagon. He’s even cited saying that he does not want to see a pretty girl get beat up or two pretty girls beat up each other. While he claims that Ronda Rousey changed his mind on this, females in MMA have been pretty common for over a decade.

This truly began overseas in places like Japan. While it is true that Japan does not exactly have male-to-female equality, they have seemingly had this in the world of fighting or martial arts. Therefore when MMA came along, it made sense for women to get involved in it too.

Just as they had been involved in pro-wrestling and other areas within Japan for years, further seeing women in martial arts was kind of a no-brainer. It took the West far longer to do this, however.

Eventually, the Strikeforce promotion truly introduced us to female MMA. Once UFC purchased them, they too brought it into play and it has been a big deal ever since.

This list is all about the greatest female MMA fighters. Some are pioneers in the sport for women while others revolutionized it in some shape or form. Either way, they are amongst the greatest in history. Let’s get started!

 

Michelle Waterson

Michelle Waterson
[Image via UFC]
  • Career Record: 17-8
  • Championships: 1-time Invicta FC Atomweight Champion

Known as the “Karate Hottie,” Michelle Waterson has taken the world by storm ever since she first stepped foot in an MMA ring or octagon. She competed for a short time in Strikeforce before ending up in Invicta FC, where she had 4 fights at Atomweight. This is the smallest weight class recognized in the world of fighting.

Invicta is an all-female MMA promotion and Waterson stood out due to the rare Atomweight division, which combined with her looks allowed her to be noticed by the UFC. While Waterson won Invicta’s Atomweight title, she had to defend it and did so successfully once before dropping it to Hérica Tibúrcio.

She quickly jumped to be part of UFC’s Ultimate Fighter, which was the year they pitted gym vs gym against each other. It was American Top Team vs The Blackzillians, with Waterson being part of the latter. It made sense to use her for the team, where she quickly stood out.

Michelle is a natural Strawweight, which she was working under when she made her MMA debut. Due to her comfort there, Waterson jumped back to this division to be part of The Ultimate Fighter. She won her only fight on the show and was offered a UFC contract.

While she won her first fight, her UFC career has not been the best since she signed in 2016. In spite of this, she has some big wins in her career and a title win on her side. Waterson, a black belt in American Karate and Purple Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is still a major threat as a Strawweight and will likely pad her stats more before she calls it quits.

 

Karolina Kowalkiewicz

Karolina Kowalkiewicz
[Image via MMA Fighting]
  • Career Record: 12-6
  • Championships: 1-time KSW Flyweight Champion

Looking at her record, you may assume she is not as good as she actually is. However, Karolina’s record is quite deceptive at the end of the day. She actually started off her career going 10-0. In fact, she went 3-0 to open her UFC run and even beat Rose Namajunas in that streak of wins. However, she originally made her name in Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki, better known as KSW.

It is a Polish MMA organization where a lot of impressive European MMA Fighters have passed through. Karolina became the organization’s female Flyweight Champion. She also competed in one fight only for Invicta FC where she won Fight of the Night. She jumped to the UFC in 2015, and as mentioned above, went on a 3-fight unbeaten streak.

This earned her a Strawweight Title shot against then-champion Joanna J?drzejczyk, a fellow Polish Fighter. She lost that fight and since this loss, she has had a tough time coming back. She has been 2-6 since but out of all her losses…4 have gone to decision including the last 3.

It is clear that Karolina is as tough as it gets and by no means a pushover in this division. She is a Muay Thai and Krav Maga expert, who could kick or punch your head off. Her strikes are lethal and at one point in time, one could call her one of if not THE best female Strawweight or Flyweight in MMA. In spite her of string of losses, it does not change her impact on the sport.

 

Carla Esparza

Carla Esparza
[Image via MMA Fighting]
  • Record: 16-6
  • Championships: 1-time Invicta FC Strawweight Champion, 1-time UFC Strawweight Champion

Carla Esparza has been one of the most skilled and successful women in the recent world of MMA. While she had a few stints in various MMA companies like Bellator MMA, she eventually ended up in Invicta FC. It was here that she won all three of her fights on her way to capturing the company’s inaugural Strawweight Championship.

This caught the attention of the UFC who added her to Season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter back in 2014. UFC actually introduced the new Strawweight Division here, so Esparaza would not only win the show if she won her last bout, but also the inaugural title. She did exactly that, making history as the only woman to win two inaugural titles in two different major MMA promotions.

She had her first official UFC PPV fight against the eventual longtime UFC Strawweight Champion Joanna J?drzejczyk in 2015. Joanna, of course, defeated Esparza but Carla was not done in the UFC by a longshot. She’s had 9 more fights since then as of this writing. During this time, she has put a respectable record of 6-4 together, defeating names like Michelle Waterson & Alexa Grasso.

Carla is known for her impressive Wrestling & Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, making her a huge threat. She is a tough out that is considered a complete fighter. This is why she has 4 submission wins while also having 3 knockout wins in her career. Yet 9 fight wins have gone to a decision, with 3 doing so in a loss. When it comes down to it, she’ll hang around and keep coming without fading.

This is why we believe she is one of the greatest female MMA fighters ever.

 

Zoila Gurgel

Zoila Gurgel
[Image via MMA Mania]
  • Record: 14-6
  • Championships: 1-time Bellator MMA Strawweight Champion (Bellator’s First Female Champion)

Zolia is another that has kind of a deceptive record when you look at her overall body of work in MMA. She was originally involved in kickboxing where she put together a respectable 4-0 record. While she has a boxing background, she was truly using her talent from Muay Thai & Taekwondo on the kickboxing circuit.

She eventually jumped into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, becoming a black belt in the sport. As a black belt in Taekwondo as well, her complete game made her perfect for MMA. Therefore, she jumped to the sport.

Since jumping, she has fought in 3 different divisions: Strawweight, Flyweight, and Bantamweight.

She floated around when she first began her MMA career. Including one appearance in Strikeforce. Eventually, she made her way to Bellator MMA where she made a huge name for herself. In 2010, she won the 115lbs. Tournament on Season 3 of Bellator MMA. This made her the company’s first female champion of any kind. Officially, she was their first Women’s Strawweight Champion.

She came back to fight in Flyweight and made it all the way to the final in Bellator MMA Season 4 but lost to Jessica Eye. However, Zolia never returned to Bellator MMA after this in spite of her respectable 12-2 record at the time. Instead, she jumped to Invicta FC, RFA, and Combate where she has sadly had a 2-4 record.

However, 3 of her losses came by way of decision. This proves she is a tough out regardless of who she faces. Zolia has not fought since 2019 but who knows if that will change? Either way, she deserves to be mentioned among the best female MMA fighters ever.

 

Tonya Evinger

Tonya Evinger
[Image via Bloody Elbow]
  • Record: 19-8
  • Championships: 1-time Invicta FC Bantamweight Champion

Tonya Evinger has proven herself over the years but sadly many people do not remember her most dominant years in the sport. It is understandable, as recency bias can get to the best of us. While Tonya debuted in 2006, it took some time for her to get adjusted to the system itself.

She has both a boxing and wrestling background, making her transition slightly easier than most but still difficult nonetheless. From her debut in 2006 up to around 2013, she had a string of both wins and losses. She began 5-0 but eventually lost a bit as she bounced around MMA promotions like Elite XC & Raging Wolf. By this point, she had a 12-5 record.

It was enough for the notable Invicta FC to give her an opportunity. She had originally been fighting in multiple different divisions, such as flyweight and even at a catchweight quite often. Invicta wanted her to work at Bantamweight, where Evinger was far more comfortable and truly her best size.

Doing this worked wonders as she went right through Invicta’s Bantamweight division and even captured the title. She then defended it successfully twice with another fight being a no contest. This made her essentially 7-0 for Invicta, which caught the eye of UFC. She was brought in as a Featherweight where she lost to Cris Cyborg in the fight for the inaugural UFC Women’s Featherweight Title.

While Evinger has yet to get a win in UFC and hasn’t fought since June 2019, it is possible we could still see her return to the spot. She has managed to stand out as one of the best female MMA fighters ever, so further seeing her would be terrific.

 

Jéssica Andrade

Jéssica Andrade
[Image via Kevin Jairaj-USA Today Sports]
  • Record: 20-7
  • Championships: 1-time UFC Strawweight Champion

Jéssica Andrade is one of the best Brazilian fighters in the world, male or female. It should not shock anyone to learn that she is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but she has also learned a lot in Boxing & Muay Thai over the years too. She has officially taken part in MMA since 2011 and was hired by the UFC in 2013.

She has a good record outside the UFC at 9-2, so when the company needed to build its Strawweight division it only made sense to bring in Andrade. She’d lose her first official UFC fight but has won far more than she’s lost in the organization. Out of 16 total UFC fights, Andrade is 11-5.

Jéssica has been up against the best the division has to offer and had success against most. She won the Performance of the Night & Fight of the Night 3 times each. While Andrade has taken a lot of her fights to decision….she’s actually tied for the most stoppage wins in the Strawweight division with Rose Namajunas.

However, she has the most knockouts in the division’s history.

Her 16 fights for the UFC are the most for any woman in history, and her 11 wins are also the most in the division’s history as of this writing.

She even won the UFC Strawweight Championship in May 2019, defeating her stoppage rival Rose Namajunas to accomplish this.

It is clear that, while other women are clearly going to get written about or make the most headlines, Andrade should not be overlooked. In our book, she has quietly been putting together a UFC Hall of Fame career. Obviously, that helps make her one of the best female MMA Fighters ever.

 

Megumi Fujii

Megumi Fujii
[Image via Pinterest]
  • Record: 26-3
  • Championships: 2005 & 2007 ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship Gold Medalist

Megumi Fujii would normally be much higher on a list like this, but she is not quite there because she came along in some of the earlier days of Women’s MMA. As a result, she did not always face the best competition. However, she certainly faced some impressive fighters at the time like Carla Esparza, Lisa Ellis, & Mei Yamaguchi.

Yet as a Japanese competitor, she often fought women who were newer to the sport of MMA, and therefore her record is slightly tainted in that regard. This is not her fault as she just beat the women put in front of her.

She began training in martial arts at the age of 3, as her father pushed her to learn Judo. Megumi left Judo behind after her schooling was complete but became interested in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. She eventually earned a black belt in the art form.

Fujii also loved the world of Sambo and eventually became 1st-Razryad International Master in Sambo, one of the few Japanese females to do so. She even has four 2nd place finishes at the World Sambo Championships.

Of course, she also was great in BJJ and became a gold medalist twice at the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championships. Megumi is also the 2004 & 2006 BJJ Pan-Am Champion.

In MMA, was mostly known for her work in the Japanese promotions Smackgirl, Shooto, and Jewel.

Bellator MMA then invited her over to America to take part in their tournament to crown their first women’s champion. She lost in the final after going 22-0 to start her MMA career, yet remained a top contender in MMA until her retirement.

Out of all her 26 victories, 19 wins were by submission!

 

Miesha Tate

Miesha Tate
[Image via LetsEngage.com]
  • Record: 18-7
  • Championships: 1-time Strikeforce Bantamweight Champion, 1-time UFC Bantamweight Champion

Called “Cupcake” most of her MMA career, Miesha Tate was one heck of an MMA Fighter. She came along in a rising period of Women’s MMA. She was in the Strikeforce MMA promotion after it began getting hot in the world of Mixed Martial Arts. Since they were unique in America for having women’s fights, Tate came along at the perfect time as eyeballs were centered on them.

While she had a few fights in the promotion initially, she was a huge part of the promotion when they began a tournament to crown a Women’s Bantamweight Champion. Tate actually won the Tournament, giving her the inaugural title. Of course, she lost it the following fight to Ronda Rousey.

When Strikeforce was absorbed by UFC upon their purchase by Zuffa, LLC., Tate joined the new Women’s Bantamweight Division in the promotion. After losing to Cat Zingano and Ronda, once more, Tate eventually went on a 3-fight unbeaten streak. This resulted in big wins over the likes of Liz Carmouche & Jessica Eye. This earned her a UFC Bantamweight Title shot against then-champ Holly Holm.

Tate defeated Holm to capture the title but then lost it in her following fight to Amanda Nunes. After her next fight, she called it a career and retired from the sport in 2016. However, her impact on it cannot be forgotten. She was a terrific wrestler who also happened to be skilled in groundwork due to BJJ training.

Tate was a threat every time she fought someone, making her one of the best female MMA fighters ever.

It seems ONE Championship felt similar, so they hired Meisha as a Vice President for the promotion where she serves to this day.

 

Rose Namajunas

Rose Namajunas
[Image via Fox Sports]
  • Record: 8-4
  • Championships: 1-time UFC Strawweight Champion

Rose Namajunas is still so very young, not even at 30 yet, it is hard to say that she won’t rise up in our list at some point. The one they call “Thug” is clearly a great fighter. She can strike with the best of them, resulting in her knockout power. Rose is a complete fighter, however, as she can make you tap out just as easily.

Rose training in Taekwondo at an early age. She earned a black belt in that very martial art, then went on to earn another black belt in American Karate.

While in high school, she trained in boxing and kickboxing, as well as overall mixed martial arts with Duke Roufus at Roufusport. All of this happened while she wrestled for her high school in her senior year and even trained in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. She now has a brown belt in BJJ.

Her unbeaten Amateur MMA run caught the eye of Invicta FC who invited her to compete for them. Out of 3 fights for the promotion, she ended up with a 2-1 record. UFC took notice and invited her to compete on Season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter. They had her fight for the inaugural Strawweight Title in the finale.

Sadly, she lost. However, she was not done in the UFC. We then saw her run roughshod on the Strawweight Division.

Rose nearly went undefeated with a lone loss to Karolina Kowalkiewicz from 2015 to 2018. Even then, it was a loss by decision, which won Fight of the Night. She earned a UFC Strawweight Title shot against the then-dominant champion, Joanna J?drzejczyk who she beat by a first-round TKO. She then beat Joanna in a rematch that went to a 5-round decision win.

 

Sarah Kaufman

Sarah Kaufman
[Image via The Photography Elf – Flickr]
  • Record: 21-5-1
  • Championships: 1-time Strikeforce Bantamweight Champion, 1-time Invicta FC Bantamweight Champion

Sarah Kaufman is one of the best female MMA fighters ever for a few different reasons. She has beaten some women that became top-tier talents or champions while also fighting women who were already impressive. At one point in time, for a few years actually, many felt that Kaufman was nearly untouchable. To be fair, to start her career…she did go on a 12-0 winning streak.

This actually led to her getting signed to Strikeforce where she became their inaugural Women’s Bantamweight Champion.

The buzzsaw known as Marloes Coenen ended her unbeaten run but Sarah was not done after this. She went on to have a relatively good ending run to her Strikeforce career going 2-1. This came to a close when UFC bought Strikeforce but Kaufman was brought in by the UFC to be part of the Bantamweight Division. Her UFC career, sadly, just did not go well.

Although she competed once for Invicta FC years prior, they invited her back to fight. She even won the promotion’s vacant Bantamweight Title! She sadly vacated it shortly after winning it to join the PFL or Professional Fighters League, where she fights today as of this writing.

Her fighting style is slightly mixed as it has altered over the years. She has a black belt in BJJ, so her style often uses this. However, she has also improved heavily in her overall wrestling too. Not to mention, she has a good striking game. Her work on the ground truly helps her win fights, as she has won fights by submission twice but by knockout 10 times.

Yet in these knockouts, all but two are TKO finishes.

 

Gina Carano

Gina Carano
[Image via Esther Lin – Showtime Sports]
  • Record: 7-1 (MMA) 12-1-1 (Muay Thai)
  • Championships: None

While Gina Carano likely does deserve to be higher on most lists like this, we could not put her higher than Top 15. The reason is not so much a lack of respect for Carano at all but rather, how long she took part in the sport of MMA.

After competing as Crush in the 2008 version of American Gladiators, she only grew more popular. This caught the attention of Hollywood.

Noted writer/director Steven Soderbergh wrote for movie Haywire directly for Carano. Though it did not break box office numbers, it managed to earn her opportunities. This included a role in Fast & Furious 6, Deadpool, and now Disney+ show, The Mandalorian.

Yet Carano still had a good fighting career. She originally began in Muay Thai where she trained she earned a 12-1-1 record. This got her noticed by the world of MMA, in particular World Extreme Fighting. She competed in the first women’s MMA bout ever sanctioned by the state of Nevada, which she won.

Strikeforce then signed her, and Gina made people take notice. However, she then went on to take part in EliteXC where most of her major wins came from. She became “The Face of Women’s MMA” at this point. Strikeforce then brought her back to take on Cris Cyborg for the inaugural Featherweight Championship in 2009. Sadly, Carano lost and then left the sport.

This gave her an 8-fight run where she went 7-1. She was close to jumping to UFC in 2014 to face Ronda Rousey but nothing ever came of it. Funny enough, she’s still “technically” under contract with UFC, as they absorbed her Strikeforce contract when they purchased the promotion. Her contract has four fights left on it.

 

Yuka Tsuji

Yuka Tsuji
[Image via CJ’s Report]
  • Record: 24-3
  • Championships: 1-time Smackgirl Lightweight Champion, 1-time Valkyrie Featherweight Champion

Yuka Tsuji is one of the best Japanese MMA fighters ever, so she certainly fits on the list of the best female MMA fighters. Similar to some on this list, she started in a timeframe when women’s MMA was not exactly mainstream. She had her first fight in December of 2001 and retired after her last fight in September 2012.

During her time, she was nearly untouchable. She started off her career 8-0 before experiencing her first loss in 2003. She would not lose again until 2009, as she went on a 14-fight win streak. Yuka was able to win the Smackgirl Lightweight Championship during this period, where Tsuji spent most of her MMA career.

She had 5 successful title defenses as their Lightweight Champion. She eventually joined the Valkyrie organization, which was newer at that period. Yuka became their inaugural Featherweight Champion but lost it in her next fight. Her career was nearing its end after this, sadly.

She fought a bit for Jewels and Deep Impact but went 2-2 in her last few bouts. Yet her last fight was a win.

Out of all her 24 wins, an astonishing 16 came by way of submission. 10 of those submissions were armbars. It is clear she was impressive in her time, so why did we keep her out of the top 10? It’s pretty simple, she never fought outside Japan and never fought any notable Non-Asian female.

Most of the top women in the sport have fought all over the world or at least fought people from other places. Therefore, in spite of her success, we could not rank her much higher.

 

Holly Holm

Holly Holm
[Image via The New York Times]
  • Record: 13-5
  • Championships: 1-time Female WBC, IBA, GBU, WIBA, IFBA Light Welterweight Champion, 1-time WBA Female Welterweight Champion, 1-time IBA Light Welterweight Champion, 1-time UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion

Holly Holm hit the MMA world by storm as she entered the UFC. However, before her time in UFC, she was one of the best female boxers on the planet. This is why we felt she needed to be given a bit more respect on our list. Her switch to MMA was tough yet she succeeded anyway. In fact, she went 10-0 to start her career, including 3-0 in her initial UFC run.

Her boxing career lasted from 2002 to 2013, with 38 fights at a record of 33-2-3. In her time, she accomplished more than most women in boxing.

In fact, she became the inaugural female IBA Light Welterweight & WBA Welterweight Champions. She also became IFBA Light Middleweight Champion. Yet a super fight was created where Holm defeated Ann Saccurato to become the Female WBC, IBA, GBU, WIBA, and IFBA Welterweight Champions while also retaining the WBA Female Welterweight Title.

She’s also the lone loss to female boxing great, Mary Jo Sanders.

Holly was 6-0 in MMA while still boxing at a high level, but she finally left the sport in 2013 right before joining the UFC in 2014.

In only her third fight for UFC, she knocked out Ronda Rousey to become the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion. Though she lost it in her next fight, she has been a top contender for it ever since.

She fought for the new UFC Women’s Featherweight Title but lost both times she competed for it. In spite of this, she has been a top fighter for two UFC women’s divisions!

 

Julia Budd

Julia Budd
[Image via Imgur]
  • Record: 13-3
  • Championships: 1-time Bellator Women’s Featherweight Champion

Julia Budd hasn’t had a massive MMA career yet but she has already proven herself as a top female MMA fighter.

Some may wonder how someone with 16 fights could make it so high on our list. To us, it is not so much about the number of fights but rather the success she’s had and the impact she’s made. On top of this, before MMA, Budd was also a relatively good Muay Thai/Kickboxer.

Being involved in Kickboxing and Muay Thai, it makes sense to believe that Budd could knock anyone out that stepped in her way. In fact, during her run in this area, she was the only person to defeat Gina Carano in Muay Thai. Budd left the sport for MMA in 2008, however.

It was perfect timing as Strikeforce was looking to make women’s MMA a big deal. Budd already had a name in martial arts so she was an easy pick. She had a modest 2-2 record, even losing to eventual UFC Champs Ronda Rousey and Amanda Nunes. Julia left after the buyout and went to Invicta FC where she went 4-0.

This included a win over a former kickboxing world champion in Charmaine Tweet. From there, she jumped to Bellator MMA.

There, she continued her winning and eventually won the inaugural Bellator Women’s Featherweight Title. She managed to defend it three times with wins over the likes of Arlene Blencowe & Marloes Coenen. However, she ran into Cris Cyborg in early 2020 where she lost the title.

As of this writing, Julia has the most wins in Bellator’s Women’s Featherweight Division with seven. This is obviously impressive, and she’s not even done yet!

 

Xiong Jingnan

Xiong Jingnan
[Image via Shanghai Daily]
  • Record: 14-2
  • Championships: 1-time ONE Women’s Strawweight Champion

Xiong Jingnan is a history maker who destroys in the world of MMA, making her one of the better female MMA fighters on the planet today. Her accomplishments with such a small record and the impact she made are immense. She mostly competes today in ONE Championship, a newer MMA promotion.

Before that, she made her name in China with the Kunlun Fight promotion. She had a pretty good record with the company, managing a 9-1 record before departing for ONE.

She won the ONE Women’s Strawweight Championship in 2018 and has never looked back. Jingnan has had 3 successful title defenses as of this writing and even competed for the ONE Atomweight Championship too. The way she earned it was by beating Angela Lee who came up to Strawweight the fight prior to facing Xiong for her title.

Due to the win, ONE felt it was only right to create a big fight for the Atomweight Title and thus a major rematch. Though Xiong lost, it was by a 5th-round submission and one of the best women’s fights of the year.

Xiong is a Chinese woman who, by winning her title in ONE, was the first woman from China to ever win MMA gold.

Although considered a BJJ expert, most of her wins have come as a result of a knockout with 10 wins due to it. Most tend to be TKO endings via ground punch. It’s clear that Xiong is impressive and might be one of the best to ever do it by the time she’s done.

 

Marloes Coenen

Marloes Coenen
[Image via Bloody Elbow]
  • Record: 23-8
  • Championships: 2000 ReMix World Cup Champion, 2007 Gold Medalist at ADCC European Championships, 1-time Strikeforce Bantamweight Champion

Marloes Coenen was always known as one of the best female MMA fighters during her time. She was originally one of the best Non-Japanese fighters competing in various Japanese MMA promotions. In fact, she competed for places like Smackgirl, Shooto, K-Grace, and ReMix.

She put together a record of 13-2 in Japan before competing in her homeland of the Netherlands as well as Switzerland.

By this time, Strikeforce was finding some of the best women they could to compete in their women’s divisions. She came in and lost to Cris Cyborg right away but managed to defeat Sarah Kaufman to win the Strikeforce Bantamweight Title. Coenen defeated Liz Carmouche to defend the title but then lost to Meisha Tate.

She left Strikeforce after this and ended up competing in places like Bellator MMA, Invicta FC, and Dream. She managed a relatively good record here. However, Marloes called it a career in 2017 after losing to Julia Budd in their fight for the inaugural Bellator Women’s Featherweight Championship.

Her retirement from the sport surprised many but the Dutch fighter proved enough to the world. She is one of the greatest female MMA fighters ever and has the resume to prove it.

 

Valentina Shevchenko

valentina shevchenko
[Image via Reddit]
  • Record: 19-3 (MMA) 56-2 (Kickboxing/Muay Thai)
  • Championships: 8-time Gold Medalist at I.F.M.A. World Championships, 2-time Gold Medalist at World Combat Games, 1-time Kunlun Fight Women’s Lightweight Champion, 2-time World K-1 Champion, 1-time UFC Flyweight Champion

When you talk about the greatest female MMA fighters ever, you cannot leave out Valentina Shevchenko if you want to be taken seriously. The “Bullet” has proven herself as an all-time great!

Before jumping to MMA, Valentina was a noted Kickboxer and Muay Thai practitioner. In fact, from 2003 to 2014, Shevchenko won the Gold Medal at the I.F.M.A. World Championships 8 freaking times!! She also won the silver the one time she didn’t win. Valentina did this in either the 57kg, 60 kg, or 63.5kg weight classes.

She also won the gold medal twice at the World Combat Games in 2010 and 2013, both at 60kg.

In Kickboxing, she won the Kunlun Fight Women’s Lightweight Championship once, World K-1 Champion WKC in both Peru & Mexico, and the 2004 WAKO World Kickboxing Championship (at 60kg). During all of this, she was also fighting a bit in MMA in places like Kazakhstan, Peru, South Korea, Russia, and her homeland of Kyrgyzstani.

However, she left her other world behind when UFC called her up to join them. With the exception of her two bouts with Amanda Nunes, Valentina has not lost a fight in the UFC, creating a solid 8-2 record.

She’s not just being nobodies in the sport either. She has defeated Sarah Kaufman, Liz Carmouche, Jessica Eye, Holly Holm, and Joanna J?drzejczyk. This has resulted in an impressive run with the UFC Women’s Flyweight Championship. As of this writing, she has 3 successful title defenses and the most wins in UFC Women’s Flyweight history.

 

Tara LaRosa

Tara LaRosa
[Image via MMA Mania]
  • Record: 22-5
  • Championships: 1-time Locked in a Cage Flyweight Champion, 1-time BoDogFight Bantamweight Champion, 1-time UCW Women’s Champion, 3-time FILA Gold Medalist, 3-time NAGA Gold Medalist, 2-time ADCC Silver Medalist 

It’s hard to find a woman as decorated in the sport of MMA as Tara LaRosa that has yet to compete in the UFC. However, that is the case for the notable Flyweight. Naturally, this makes her stand out to us heavily. She’s an easy pick for our greatest female MMA Fighters list due to her great success.

As of this writing, she has had 27 fights, resulting in a 22-5 record. She has won 3 by knockout but has 12 submission ends, the rest are by decision. In all but 1 of her 5 losses, the fight went to a decision. Therefore, when you talk about one of the most impossible women to beat in the sport of MMA, LaRose better land on your list.

Most of her career has been spent as a journeywoman, where she competed for several MMA promotions. Although the two that stand out the most for her are HOOKnSHOOT, BoDogFight, and Extreme Challenge.

In those promotions, she has won the Locked in a Cage Women’s Flyweight Championship & the BoDogFight Women’s Bantamweight Championship. She also has titles in other promotions such as Ultimate Cage Wars, where she captured the UCW Women’s Bantamweight Championship.

A lot of LaRosa’s early fame came from her run in the world of grappling in tournaments like NAGA, FILA, and ADCC.

She has 3 gold medal finishes in FILA and NAGA each. This also includes 3 silver and 2 bronze in FILA with 1 silver in NAGA. She also has 2 silver medals from ADCC. This makes her one of the most decorated grapplers in tournament history.

 

Ilima-Lei Macfarlane

Ilima-Lei Macfarlane
[Image via KHON2.com]
  • Record: 11-0
  • Championships: 1-time Bellator MMA Women’s Flyweight Champion

IIlima-Lei Macfarlane is one of the best female MMA fighters in the world today, and she has proven it time and time again. As of this writing, she has yet to experience even one loss in her MMA career. While one could be possible, she has put down everyone in front of her on the way to being 11-0.

All but one of her fights has been in Bellator MMA. She first fought for the promotion back in 2015 and 5 years later, she has remained unbeaten as one of the company’s premier Flyweights. Macfarlane actually won Bellator’s inaugural Women’s Flyweight Championship in 2017 and, thus far, she has successfully defended it 4 times.

She is nearly untouchable and has only let a fight reach the decision stage 3 times in her 11-fight run. She has 2 knockout victories along with 6 wins by submission.

IIima-Lei was trained by Eddie Bravo and his hybrid version of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which he calls 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu. This was actually even the first BJJ school system that avoided the use of the traditional Gi gear. Macfarlane happens to be a Brown Belt in this style. It is clear Bravo’s teaching helped IIima-Lei become such a threat.

Macfarlane has the most wins in Bellator Flyweight history, both men and women, with 10. This is also the most wins for any woman in Bellator’s history too.

We’ll also likely see her for a long time in Bellator, as she signed an extension in February of 2020 that will include 10 more fights for the promotion! At the end of the day, we’ll likely see her continue to prove herself as one of the best in the sport.

 

Joanna J?drzejczyk

Joanna J?drzejczyk
[Image via Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC]
  • Record: 16-4
  • Championships: 1-time UFC Strawweight Champion

At one point, most would have called Joanna J?drzejczyk the best women’s fighter on the planet. Yet in spite of being “one” of the best female MMA fighters ever, a string of losses has pushed her down a bit. Yet her greatness is still present and she did do more than enough to be ranked among the best, even today.

She essentially began her major fight career as a Kickboxer and Muay Thai practitioner. She was among the best in the world in this sector. As a Kickboxer, she was 27-3-1 and held World Championships in World Kickboxing Network, World Kickboxing Federation, and World Budokai Federation.

In Muay Thai, she won nearly every time she competed at the IFMA World Championships. From 2008 to 2013, competing in the -57kg weight class, Joanna won the Gold Medal 5 times as well as 1 Silver Medal.

By the time of the UFC call to have her sign for them, Joanna was 6-0 in her MMA run. Upon arrival, Joanna went on a dominant run. From 2014 to 2017, few women were better. She went unbeaten for 8 fights, capturing the UFC Women’s Strawweight Title along the way.

She even managed to successfully defend it 5 times before finally losing to Rose Namajunas by a shocking KO in their first bout. Though it went to a decision in the rematch, Rose still won. She has sadly only won 2 of her last 4 fights since losing to Rose but her accomplishments should not be overlooked.

She has the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th highest significant strike differential in a UFC title fight. Joanna also has the most wins in Women’s Strawweight history and the most title fights of any female in UFC history.

 

Satoko Shinashi

Satoko Shinashi
[Image via MMAPLANET]
  • Record: 34-2-2
  • Championships: 1-time Smackgirl Lightweight Champion, 1-time Deep Flyweight Champion

If you’re looking for likely the best Japanese female MMA fighter ever, you better start your search with Satoko Shinashi. She began her career back in 2001 and was quickly picked up by the Smackgirl promotion. She’d fight for them in most of her fights but Satoko also spent time in Deep Impact too.

Throughout her time in MMA, she was nearly unbeatable. From 2001 to 2015, she ended up with a record of 34-2-2. During that period, she won the Smackgirl Lightweight Championship as well as the Deep Women’s Flyweight Championship. In all her victories, she managed to put most away by submission.

A massive 26 opponents fell due to submission while 2 ended by knockout. In her losses, only one came as a result of a KO while the other came by way of decision.

In 2008, Satoko called it a career, and most assumed we’d never see her again. She found out she was pregnant that same year and had her first child in 2009, making her feel she had to retire. However, she was not done. Satoko decided to come back to the sport in 2014.

She had 5 fights, mostly for Deep, and won them all, ending on a 5-fight unbeaten run that made her go down in history. Shinashi will always be one of the greatest female MMA fighters ever due to her impressive career.

 

Ronda Rousey

Ronda Rousey UFC Presser
[Image via MMA Fighting]
  • Record: 11-2
  • Championships: 1-time Strikeforce Bantamweight Champion, 1-time UFC Bantamweight Champion, Olympic Bronze Medalist

Ronda Rousey might be the most controversial add-on to our list, yet her impact on the sport has been massive. Plus, in spite of only 13 fights in her career, she did a hell of a lot in the sport.

What also gets overlooked is that Ronda beat a lot of impressive fighters, some of which held titles before and after she left the sport.

Therefore, Ronda is clearly one of the best female MMA fighters ever.

She first began her martial arts career in Judo, where she is a 6th dan black belt. She even went to the Olympics where she was the first American woman to win a bronze medal.

Before this, Rousey won a Gold Medal at the Pan-American Games in 2007 as well as 2 Gold Medals from the Pan-American Championships in 2004 & 2005. This is not including the silver and bronze she won.

After doing well in Judo, she went into MMA. By her third fight, she made it to Strikeforce. Here she was able to defeat the likes of Meisha Tate, Julia Budd, and Sarah Kaufman while also capturing the Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Title. When UFC bought up Strikeforce, they simply made her the same champion for their promotion.

Rousey managed to have 7 successful title defenses, with 6 of them occurring in the UFC.

Ronda is still the only person in MMA history within Pride, Strikeforce, WEC, and UFC to finish 9 fights by armbar submission. She’s also the only one to have 8 consecutive fights end this way. Her career did not end on a high note, but we cannot deny her impact on MMA for women.

 

Cris Cyborg

Cris Cyborg
[Image via The Telegraph]
  • Record: 22-2
  • Championships: 1-time Strikeforce, Invicta FC, UFC, & Bellator Featherweight Champion

Normally on a list like this, Cris Cyborg would be near or right at the top. Her accomplishments are endless but she could not reach our top two spots because she cheated the sport. Still, though, Cyborg is an impressive athlete who managed to do more than any other woman in MMA history. This easily makes her one of the best female MMA fighters ever.

Cyborg first caught the world’s attention when she beat Gina Carano for the inaugural Strikeforce Women’s Featherweight Title. She managed to defend it successfully twice before entering a fight with Hiroko Yamanaka.

In spite of putting Yamanaka away quickly, Strikeforce would strip Cris of the title. This was due to testing positive for Stanozolol, a clear anabolic steroid. Cyborg left Strikeforce soon after to work for Invicta FC. There, she won the inaugural Invicta Women’s Featherweight Title. She’d successfully defend it 3 times before jumping to the UFC.

In UFC, she was in a few catchweight fights initially but eventually was given a shot to win the vacant UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship, which she did. She successfully defended it twice before officially losing her first fight since the start of her career. That was due to running into Amanda Nunes.

Cyborg then decided to hop promotions again. Currently, she works for Bellator MMA. In her last fight, as of this writing, she won the inaugural Bellator Women’s Featherweight Championship after defeating the skilled Julia Budd.

Her record and success speak for itself. Out of all 22 wins, she ended 18 of them via knockout. If not for her connection to PEDs, Cyborg would be first or second on this list.

 

Zhang Weili

Zhang Weili
[Image via UFC]
  • Record: 21-1
  • Championships: 1-time KLF Strawweight Champion, 1-time UFC Strawweight Champion

Zhang Weili may not be a massive name currently in MMA, but the world is finally starting to take notice. She likely has a long career still ahead of her, but she has already done enough to be worthy of being called one of the best female MMA fighters ever. Zhang happens to be the first and currently, the only Chinese person of any kind to hold a title in the UFC.

We do not mean someone of Chinese connection, but someone born and raised there.

Of course, Zhang spent most of her career in Asia with one of the continent’s top MMA promotions, Kunlun Fight. Many believe she is one of the best female MMA fighters to ever work in the promotion, possibly THE best. This was proven somewhat when she won the KLF Strawweight Championship in 2017.

She’d defend it successfully twice before eventually vacating it and heading to the UFC in 2018. With the UFC, she went through the Strawweight Division with ease. She took down the likes of Jessica Aguilar, Danielle Taylor, and Tecia Torres right away. This earned her a title fight with then-UFC Strawweight Champ, Jéssica Andrade.

Zhang ended the title fight in the first round, in under a minute by TKO. Some could call that win a fluke, but Weili followed it up with a defense against the impressive Joanna J?drzejczyk. She’d defeat Joanna by split decision, making some assume we’ll see the two fight again later in 2020. However, that is her last fight as of this writing.

She is currently 21-1, with her lone loss happening in her very first fight. That’s right, she’s on a 21-fight win streak!

 

Amanda Nunes

Amanda Nunes
[Image via Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today]
  • Record: 20-4
  • Championships: 1-time UFC Bantamweight Champion, 1-time UFC Featherweight Champion

Amanda Nunes has been a skilled fighter for a long time. She started her career bouncing around different MMA companies like Strikeforce and Invicta FC. Nunes was not exactly bad but she was not the major fighter we know her to be today back then. She was still very young when working with them as well as others.

Finally, UFC brought her in. Her initial UFC run looked promising as she captured a few key wins before losing to Cat Zingano.

After this loss, Nunes has yet to lose.

She ripped through Sara McMann and Shayna Baszler, then put down Valentina Shevchenko. This earned her a Bantamweight Title fight with Meisha Tate. Nunes defeated Tate in the first round to capture the title, then successfully defended it against Ronda Rousey whom she beat in another first-round victory.

Three title defenses later, UFC set up a huge fight with Nunes and Cris Cyborg for the UFC Featherweight Title. Should Nunes win, she’d be the first woman to be a two-division champion at the same time.

Nunes knocked Cyborg out in the first round to capture the title. Since then, she has successfully defended the Bantamweight title twice and the Featherweight Title once. This makes her the only person in UFC history to successfully defend two titles in two different divisions while holding both simultaneously.

Due to cleaning out essentially two divisions and defeating some of the greatest female MMA fighters ever, it’s hard to say someone else is better than Nunes. She has the most wins for a woman in UFC history at 12, and her 11-fight win streak is the most among women too.

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