Over the years, the UFC has brought in some of the top fighters on the planet to compete on its roster. From Eddie Alvarez, Ben Askren, Cris Cyborg, and Michael Chandler, several stars from other promotions have made their way over to the Dana White-led company.
However, there are still a handful of fighters who have never competed inside the octagon.
Whether due to contract disputes, personal preference, or other reasons, several big names have not called the UFC their home. One of those names includes Fedor Emelianenko. The 46-year-old will be competing in what should be the final bout of his career on February 4. At Bellator 290, Fedor faces Ryan Bader in a rematch for the Bellator heavyweight title. Fedor will look to end his legendary career on a high note.
Over the years, there were rumors that Fedor and the UFC would come to an agreement. That never came to fruition. It has left many fans wondering what life would have been like with Fedor in the UFC. A true holdout, Fedor’s career will stand the test of time, even without time in the UFC.
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Outside of Fedor, fighters have managed to impress without signing with White or the UFC. Here are some of the top MMA competitors to have never joined the promotion.
Honorable mentions: Murilo Rua, Gina Carano, Douglas Lima, Megumi Fujii, Joe Warren, Patricio Freire, Bibiano Fernandes
“The Last Emperor” is the most intimidating fighter of all time. He is also one of the most successful.
From 2001 to 2009, Fedor (40-6, one no-contest) had a 28-fight unbeaten streak, beating the likes of Semmy Schilt, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, Miro Cro Cop, Mark Hunt, and Andrei Arlovski. The 46-year-old is a RINGS 2001 Absolute Class Tournament winner and a PRIDE heavyweight champion.
Fedor’s stoic nature is as scary as his knockout power, taking out 16 fighters via the power punch. If he hasn’t knocked someone out, Fedor has impressed with his swift ground game, resulting in 15 submission wins.
A master in both sambo and judo, there is only one Fedor Emelianenko. With his retirement coming soon, it can be safe to say Russian can be called the one that got away.
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While he only competed in eleven fights in his pro-MMA career, Rickson Gracie (11-0) is considered one of the top fighters to never join the UFC. “The Last Samurai” has been called the best fighter of the Gracie family. Considering the history of the family, that is high praise.
All of his fights ended via submission. Outside of MMA, Gracie has won over 400 martial arts competitions, from jiu-jitsu tournaments to beyond that (reported street fights). His career highlights include winning back-to-back one-night tournaments for Vale Tudo Japan and a stint with PRIDE.
There have been various members of the Gracie clan that have taken over the sport, from Royce to Rorion. However, Rickson is the one everyone looks back on when thinking “what could have been” with the UFC.
At 39, it is unknown if the UFC is interested in Shinya Aoki (47-11, one no-contest). However, at one point, the idea of the multi-time champion competing in the octagon enticed fans (some are still enticed).
One of the best ground-based fighters in the history of the sport, Aoki has over 31 wins via submission. A black belt in judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Aoki has beaten the likes of Eddie Alvarez, Joachim Hansen, Caol Uno, Kazushi Sakuraba, Vitor Ribeiro, and Eduard Folayang.
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Competing for DREAM, DEEP, and Professional Shooto Japan, and currently with ONE, Aoki is a former Shooto lightweight champion and a a DREAM and ONE lightweight champion. Not only that, but he has dabbled in pro wrestling, competing for DDT Pro Wrestling. One of the last remaining holdouts, Aoki has had a Hall of Fame-like career outside of the UFC.
Igor Vovchanchyn (55-10, one no-contest) could have joined the UFC if his career didn’t end in 2005, not long before the UFC purchased PRIDE. Regardless, the Ukrainian’s dominant career puts him on this list.
A former kickboxer with over 60 wins, Vovchanchyn transitioned to MMA in 1995. He competed in tournaments that saw him fight multiple times a night. He became a staple with PRIDE, winning the second most fights (18) in company history and competing in the second most bouts (27).
With over 41 wins via knockout, he had a streak where he knocked out the best grapplers in MMA. Injuries forced him to retire, but the 5-8 warrior proved that nobody could stop him.
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While he is in his 40s, there is still a chance the UFC could sign Sergei Kharitonov. Until then, the “Paratrooper” will be known as one of the top fighters to have never joined Dana White’s company.
Considered one of the best heavyweight boxers in PRIDE, Kharitonov’s career began in 2000. Kharitonov has earned wins over Murilo Rua, Semmy Schlit, Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem, Joey Beltran, and Roy Nelson. He has made it deep in Strikeforce and PRIDE tournaments, though he never won one.
Kharitonov has also fought for M-1 and Bellator. 4-1 in his last five fights, it does not seem like the Russian will be calling it quits just yet.