People who don’t have experience with fighting often see someone in good shape and automatically assume they can fight. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Someone’s physique has little to no impact on whether or not they can fight. They could be in phenomenal condition and not know how to punch or be an MMA world champion. The point is that physiques don’t really make sense in fighting.
Regardless of functionality and all else, below we’ve compiled a list of fighters that could be considered as having the best physique in MMA. This isn’t a reflection of their ability as a fighter, just how big and lean these people are, who happen to partake in Mixed Martial Arts.
This list is all about aesthetics and muscle so below we have ranked the best physiques we’ve seen throughout MMA history using bodybuilding critique:
|Alias||Soldier of God|
Yoel Romero looks like he has an enhanced physique. This combined with the fact the man doesn’t seem to age means that a lot of people speculate that Yoel is on PEDs. But USADA testing suggests otherwise. According to Jorge Masvidal, Yoel is just a genetic freak and barely lifts weights, his physique was allegedly achieved through bodyweight training and being gifted genetically.
Yoel has developed all around from a bodybuilding perspective and has serious size on his shoulders, arms, chest, and notably, his neck. His neck was fused in Cuba resulting in its stiffness but perhaps has also allowed him to have a better resistance to strikes. Overall, he’s big and lean, but still proportioned. He doesn’t have the typical MMA fighter build but rather a foundational physique for bodybuilding.
Northcutt is an athlete who has made an effort with this physique. The majority of fighters simply train hard and eat well. The physique they obtain after is simply a by-product of training camp and a drastic weight cut. Northcutt, however, looks very much like an impressive natural bodybuilder physique.
He isn’t massive but you can tell he’s spent time in the gym working on specific things to improve his physique. What really makes the difference is how lean he is. Northcutt is a big lightweight and once he steps on the scales, he’s probably quite dehydrated and already has a very low body fat percentage. This coupled with the fact he has good muscle insertions means his physique is often a topic of discussion in the MMA community during fight weeks.
Costa is another fighter in the UFC that is renowned for his seemingly “natural physique”. Paulo is rigorously tested for substances and is one of the most tested fighters within the organization. However, he often jokes about being on “secret juice”.
Paulo has a very similar physique to Yoel. He’s got big a chest and arms along with very developed legs and shoulders. It does look like he emphasized his physique in the gym through plenty of weight-lifting. He’s quite a big guy and probably walks around well over 200lbs but cuts down to 185lbs when he fights and looks extremely lean and dehydrated when he steps on the scales.
He probably has a little too much mass from a fighting perspective and would definitely benefit in the cardiovascular department by losing some of his muscles. During his bout with the seemingly skinny Isreal Adesanya, Paulo was outstruck by someone much smaller albeit quicker.
Edwards has quite a skinny frame, especially for his weight division. Like Jon Jones his tall athletic physique gives a lot of range advantage in the 170lb division. Ian Garry and Khamzat Chimaev are probably the only other two fighters in this range that are comparable physically to Edwards.
However, the main discussion around Leon’s physique stems from influencers like Mario Rios, who’s put out a plethora of satirical content explaining why Leon Edwards has the perfect physique for fighting and every other metric conceivable. From a bodybuilding perspective, Edwards really isn’t impressive due to his lack of size. However, he does have a strong natural and functional physique. As an MMA fighter, you don’t want an ounce of fat or muscle that isn’t functional so for Leon to add extra muscle to his frame makes no sense.
Luke Rockhold has the ideal fighting frame for his weight division. He fights in the middleweight division and when it comes to MMA, has a much more conventional athletic/MMA physique compared to the likes of Yoel Romero and Paulo Costa who have notably more mass around their arms, chest, and shoulders.
This is reflected in his fighting style as well. During his prime Luke was fast, agile, and explosive. Often preferring to use creative striking with plenty of kicks. While he looked gassed in his retirement fight against Paulo Costa, he still looked to be in good condition physically and undoubtedly retired as one of the best middleweights of all time.
|Alias||The Demolition Man|
In his prime, to put it politely, when drug testing wasn’t quite so rigorous, Overeem was huge and incredibly lean for a heavyweight. He literally looked like an off-season bodybuilder. His physique stirred plenty of discussion in the MMA community and there’s even a well-known joke surrounding Overeem’s physique and how he obtained it through eating horse meat.
His upper body is massively impressive for someone who isn’t a bodybuilder. The amount of muscle on his shoulders, arms, and chest is immense and it does look like he’s spent a considerable amount of time focusing on actually building muscle. While his stature is astonishing, it is still believable for some heavyweights, but the fact he was so lean during this match on top of the size, made even the most naive fans conclude that he was enhanced, allegedly.
As heavyweights, Francis and Overeem share quite a similar body type and frame. However, Nnganou competed during USUDA and therefore had to pass random drug testing which makes his physique arguably more impressive.
Francis naturally has quite a big blocky waist which isn’t desirable from an aesthetic or bodybuilding perspective but he has extremely well-developed shoulders and arms. His chest is also very impressive and he is quite lean for a heavyweight. The above photograph was taken during the weigh-ins before his second fight with Stipe Miocic. Francis looked to be in top condition for this bout and he certainly delivered with another one of his emphatic knockouts.
The former bantamweight champion was renowned for his weight cuts. Sterling typically walks around at 170lbs but cuts down all the way to 135lbs for a fight. He’s been talking about moving up in weight for some time and after his shock loss to Sean O’Malley, it may be worth the switch.
Being a bantamweight, Aljamain isn’t exactly huge but size really isn’t the highlight of his physique but rather his leanness. During his weigh-ins, Aljamain looks incredibly dry with a very low body fat. A lot of fans speculate that the cut to 135lbs is becoming increasingly difficult for the former champion and perhaps he would fare better in the featherweight division at this stage in his career. Regardless, Aljamain’s leanness accentuates his physique and highlights his strong muscle insertions. He definitely doesn’t have a bodybuilding physique but he absolutely has the typical athletic frame that is ideal for fighting.
Micheal Chandler has a very stocky frame for a lightweight. He’s got big arms and shoulders along with a well-developed chest but he also has quite a blocky waist and isn’t the tallest lightweight. This means that he looks huge, even at 155lbs.
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, muscles don’t equal fighting performance or explosiveness. However, Micheal is a rare case of physique matching the output. He is undoubtedly one of the most explosive fighters in the UFC and definitely one of the most athletic. Physically, he has every tool to become a dominant champion. However, sometimes he values the spirit of a fight rather than the outcome resulting in a rather tarnished UFC record.
|Alias||The Nigerian Nightmare|
The dominant feature of Kamaru’s physique is definitely his chest. He has excellent chest insertions and it is incredibly well developed and full. Very similar to that of bodybuilders. The rest of his upper body is strong as well with big arms and shoulders, Kamaru has a great frame for fighting in the 170lb division. Despite the muscle mass, Kamaru is yet to have shown any serious signs of fatigue in the octagon and has been an incredibly dominant champion before being dethroned by Leon Edwards in 2022.
Kamaru’s ab-insertions aren’t the best but he’s so lean that they almost aren’t even relevant to his physique. However, they are still very visible during weigh-ins and outside of training camp.