As the Ultimate Fighting Championship is gaining increasing popularity in Australia, the land Down Under is producing more and more exceptional fighters who are regularly competing in UFC. Here we take a look at the best Australian MMA fighters and some of the key moments that brought them here.
On 23 February 2001, during UFC 30, Australia’s own Elvis Sinosic stepped into the Octagon for the first time to face an American fighter named Jeremy Horn at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. The King of Rock n Rumble, as Sinosic was affectionately known, had barely fought competitively, although making his UFC debut at age 30.
The Australian fighter’s opponent, Horn, had recorded 53 competitive fights, yet despite his young age, had experience on his side; The King beat Horn by submission in the first round and became the first Australian fighter in UFC history.
Since then, the number of Aussies in the UFC has continued to grow and to date, there are more than enough of them in the promotion’s current roster to create a Top 10 list.
In this Best Australian UFC Fighters story…
- Alexander Volkanovski
- Robert Whittaker
- Tai Tuivasa
- Jack Della Maddalena
- Casey O’Neill
- Jimmy Crute
- Jake Matthews
- Jamie Mullarkey
- Joshua Culibao
- Tyson Pedro
So without further ado, let’s take a look at the Top 10 Australian Fighters in UFC in 2023.
On top of the list is the current UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski.
Born in Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia, Alexander the Great is also the UFC’s No. 3 ranked pound-for-pound fighter, behind only the GOAT Jon Jones and his UFC 284 opponent Islam Makhachev.
The 35-year-old opened his UFC career with 12 consecutive victories. At UFC 245, Volk dethroned Max Holloway to win the UFC’s 145-pound division. He has since successfully defended the title four times, including two against Holloway. Volkanovski also owns notable UFC wins over Chad Mendes, Jose Aldo, Brian Ortega, and The Korean Zombie. He is 25-2 with 12 knockouts and 3 submission wins.
UFC 284: Islam Makhachev vs Alexander Volkanovski
In February 2023, Alexander Volkanovski took to the Octagon at UFC 284 in Perth, in an audacious bid to become a double champion. After an explosive 25-minute bout in which both Islam Makhachev of Dagestan, Russia and Volkanovski traded blows through the five rounds.
Ultimately, it went to the cards, with Makhachev’s unparalleled grappling countering Volkanovski’s signature striking throughout, but in the end, the man from Dagestan prevailed, defeating the Australian in his own backyard by unanimous decision.
UFC 294: Islam Makhachev vs Alexander Volkanovski
Alexander Volkanovski had just 12 days to prepare for an unexpected lightweight title rematch against the Russian fighter Islam Makhachev at UFC 294 in October 2023.
The current featherweight champion, Volkanovski stepped up after Charles Oliveira withdrew with a facial injury sustained during a training session. The Australian took the headline bout with next to no notice and was undone by a well-prepared and fierce opponent.
Volkanovski fell hard in the first round of the highly-anticipated fight at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. A well-placed Makhachev shin found the top of the Australian’s head early into the bout, sending Volkanovski crashing; he was brutally KO’d.
However, Volkanovski, who was commended for showing up and taking on the title fight, was gracious, even in defeat. “He’s a great champion,” Volkanovski said of his opponent. “I back myself every single time and I still stand by that, always back yourself. Islam is one man who you don’t want to back yourself [against] if you don’t prepare properly because look what he can do to you, he’s that good. Credit to him.”
If this list was written before Volk won the featherweight title, Robert Whittaker would have been on top of this rankings. The Reaper was the first Australian to win a UFC belt when he defeated Yoel Romero at UFC 217 to become the middleweight champion.
The Auckland-born Australian from Sydney won 9 consecutive bouts from June 2014 to June 2018. Bobby Knuckles is 4-2 since then with his two losses coming at the hands of current middleweight champion Israel Adesanya who dethroned him at UFC 243.
Aside from Romero, Whittaker has a resume that includes the likes of Jacare Souza, Uriah Hall, Derek Brunson, Darren Till, Jared Canonier, Kelvin Gastelum, and Marvin Vettori as victims. Whittaker is 24-6 with 9 KO wins and 5 victories by way of submission.
Robert Whittaker Next Fight
There have been some murmurings regarding the former UFC middleweight champion’s return to the Octagon after Whittaker’s last bout saw the Australian fall to the South African fighter Dricus Du Plessis at UFC 290 in Paris.
“Who knows what’s happening,” Whittaker said on the MMArcade Podcast. “I’m looking to fight, I think realistically, February or March next year. Mainly because December, at this point for me… It’s too soon. I like having at least eight weeks (before) a fight.”
“I like having eight weeks’ notice because that’s enough time to make the weight healthily while getting the most out of training.”
Although Tai Tuivasa has been knocked out in back-to-back fights, the 30-year-old Sydney native is still the No. 6 ranked heavyweight in the UFC. Tuivasa played professional rugby for the Sydney Roosters of the National Rugby League for two years before transitioning to MMA in 2012.
Born to a Wiradjuri mother and Samoan father, this Sydney native opened his UFC career with a modest 3-3 mark. He then won five consecutive bouts, all via knockout, and took home three Performance of the Night bonuses during that span. Overall Tuivasa has an impressive record with 14 wins and only five losses. All but one of his wins were by knockout.
At UFC 271, Tuivasa scored his biggest win inside the Octagon when he knocked out Derrick Lewis inside two rounds.
UFC 293: Tai Tuivasa vs. Alexander Volkov
Tai Tuivasa returned to the Octagon at UFC 293 at the Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, Australia, marking the first time that Bam Bam has competed on home soil since UFC 243 in 2019.
The Australian fighter took on Alexander Volkov in the co-main event of UFC 293, and we witnessed a big contest between two of the best heavyweights in the world, with a lot to lose. Tuivasa lost to Volkov by submission in the second round.
It also marked the second time that Tuivasa will be co-headlining an event that was bannered by Israel Adesanya after Bam Bam fought Derrick Lewis in the co-main event of UFC 271 in 2019.
Tai Tuivasa Next Fight
After Tai Tuivasa suffered a bad defeat at the hands of Alexander Volkov at UFC 293, the Australian fighter notched an unwanted three consecutive defeats in his last three fights; it’s the second time in his career.
It’s unclear where he goes from here, but the only way is up for Bam Bam.
Jack Della Maddalena
Jack Della Maddalena is a former Eternal Welterweight champion with four successful title defences to his name. The 26-year-old from Perth is the No. 11 ranked fighter in the UFC’s welterweight division. He was a product of the UFC’s Contender Series 39 where he beat Ange Loosa to earn a UFC contract.
Della Maddalena is the hottest Aussie prospect right now. He is 8-0 with eight first-round finishes inside the Octagon, whilst his last two wins have seen him down his opponents in the third round by split decision. The three wins before that have earned him a Performance of the Night bonus and he has not lost since dropping his first two professional bouts at the Eternal MMA promotion.
Overall, he can boast a fierce record of 16-2-0 with 11 knockouts and 2 submission wins.
The first and only woman on our list is the UFC’s No. 13 ranked female flyweight, Casey O’Neill.
Originally from Irvine, Scotland, the 25-year-old grew up in Gold Coast, Australia.
O’Neill is a former Eternal MMA women’s lightweight champion with one successful title defence. She opened her UFC career with impressive wins over Shana Dobson, Laura Procopio, Antonina Shevchenko, and Roxanne Modafferi.
However, O’Neill lost via unanimous decision to Jennifer Maia in her most recent appearance at UFC 286 last Mach 18th, her first career loss. O’Neill is 9-1 with 3 wins by knockout and 2 by submission.
Casey O’Neil Next Fight
O’Neil’s next professional bout will come against Ariane Lipski booked for UFC 296 on 16 December 2023 (local time) in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Jimmy Crute began his pro-MMA career at Australia’s Hex Fighting Series where he was the light heavyweight champion. After going 7-0 in that promotion, he got an invitation to fight at the Dana White Contender Series 14 show where he knocked out Chis Birchler to earn a UFC contract.
Born in Singleton, New South Wales, “The Brute” made his presence felt early when he opened his UFC career with three wins in his first four Octagon assignments. That included back-to-back Performance of the Night bonuses for submitting Michal Oleksiejczyk and knocking out Modestas Bukauskas.
Crute then suffered consecutive first-round KO losses to former title challenger Anthony Smith and current UFC light heavyweight champion Jamahal Hill. Crute is 12-3 with 5 knockouts and 4 submission wins.
Jake Matthews opened his pro-MMA career in Australia, where he amassed a 7-0 record. That caught the UFC’s eye as the promotion cast him as one of the fighters in The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs Australia in 2013. Although he was ousted during his first bout in the tournament, the 28-year-old from Melbourne got the call from the UFC in 2014.
Matthews had mixed results early in his UFC tenure but since moving up to welterweight, he has won seven out of his last 10 fights and is close to entering the rankings for the first time. Known as the Celtic Kid, Matthews has victories over notable fighters such as Li Jingliang and the original Ultimate Fighter Diego Sanchez. Overall, he has a record of 18-6 with 5 knockouts and 7 submission wins.
Jamie Mullarkey grew up in the Central Coast area of New South Wales and was a decorated fighter in Australia’s regional MMA scene. He was a former BRACE featherweight champion, Super Fight MMA lightweight champion, and Urban Fight Night champion.
Mullarkey made his UFC debut against New Zealand’s Brad Riddell at UFC 243 and the pair engaged in a crazy fight. Although Riddell won, the bout earned Fight of the Night honours. Mullarkey is just 4-4 in the UFC but he owns big wins over Khama Worthy and Michael Johnson. He has a professional MMA record of 16-6 with 10 knockouts and 3 submission victories.
Jamie Mullarkey’s Next Fight
Lightweight Jamie Mullarkey is scheduled to face John Makdessi in the second prelims bout of UFC 293 on September 10, 2023, at the Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. This will be the third time that Mullarkey will be fighting in front of his countrymen. The first time was during his UFC debut when he lost to Brad Riddell at UFC 243 in Melbourne in 2019. Two fights ago, Mullarkey defeated Francisco Prado via unanimous decision at UFC 284 in Perth.
The 29-year-old from Central Coast, New South Wales, Australia is coming off a loss to Muhamman Naimov at UFC on ESPN 46 last June 3 in Las Vegas but overall, he has won four out of his last six bouts with two of his wins earning him a performance bonus.
A win over Makdessi should put Mullarkey closer to the Top 15.
Jamie Mullarkey John Makdessi
The Jamie Mullarkey – John Makdessi showdown is a fight between a young fighter trying to climb the ranks and a veteran opponent who is trying to extend his career. In this matchup, Makdessi is nine years older than Mullarkey but has half fewer fights than his younger opponent since 2021.
Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, Makdessi has been fighting in the UFC since 2010 when he made his debut at UFC 124. Like Mullarkey, he has won four out of his last six UFC assignments. However, Madkessi has fought just once a year since 2017 and only twice since the Pandemic halted the UFC’s operations in March 2020.
On the other hand, Mullarkey has been a workhorse during that span as he’s fought seven times since action resumed after the pandemic shutdown. With both fighters looking to get back on the winning track and a combined 19 knockouts in 34 wins, this should be an explosive bout.
Joshua Culibao is one of the newest Australians in the UFC. This 29-year-old from Sydney entered the UFC in 2020 as an unbeaten 8-0 prospect who won featherweight titles at Hex Fight Series, Diamondback FC, and Super Fight MMA in Australia.
Known as “Kuya” ( a Filipino term for elder brother ), this Fil-Aussie fighter has won his last three UFC assignments after getting knocked out by Jalin Turner and figuring in a draw with Charles Jourdain in his first two UFC bouts. Culibao is 11-1 with five knockouts and one submission win.
Tyson Pedro is the son of John Pedro who owned the King of the Cage promotion in Australia. The 31-year-old from Penrith only had a four-bout professional MMA experience when he personally called UFC President Dana White to put him on the UFC Fight Night 101 fight card which was held in Melbourne should any fighter get hurt. His gamble paid off when Luke Rockhold got hurt and he got his UFC ticket.
Pedro has a modest 5-4 record under the UFC but he owns stoppage wins over Khalil Rountree and Paul Craig. Also, three of his UFC losses have come against battle-tested veterans in Ilir Latifi, Ovince Saint Preux, and the legendary Shogun Rua.
Tyson Pedro Next Fight
Tyson Pedro returns to action at UFC 293 on September 10, 2023, at the Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. It will mark the second straight bout where Pedro has fought in a UFC event in Australia. He has fought in four out of the previous six UFC events held in Australia.
The 31-year-old from Penrith, New South Wales, Australia suffered a unanimous decision loss to Modestas Bukauskas in the main prelims bout of UFC 284, held at Perth’s RAC Arena last February 12th.
At UFC 293, Pedro will take on Swedish light heavyweight Anton Turkalj in the curtain-raiser bout of the main card.
Tyson Pedro Anton Turkalj
Tyson Pedro has struggled inside the Octagon as of late. He has lost three out of his last five bouts, with two of those losses coming by stoppage. However, the UFC has given him a good opportunity to get back on track as he faces an opponent who is new to the promotion.
While Pedro has 14 UFC bouts under his belt, Anton Turkalj has fought just thrice inside the UFC Octagon. The 27-year-old from Gothenburg, Sweden was a perfect 7-0 with seven stoppages when he travelled to the United States to try his luck in the UFC.
In Week 1 of the Contender Series 2022 edition, Turkalj picked up a unanimous decision win over Acacio dos Santos that earned him a UFC contract. In his UFC debut, Turkalj was submitted by Jailton Almeida at UFC 279. The Swedish fighter then dropped his second UFC assignment to Vitor Petrino via unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night 221.