The landscapes in boxing and blended martial arts are maybe essentially the most treacherous in all of sports activities, with fighters not all the time possessing the facility, which is as a substitute usually held within the palms of managers, promoters and broadcasters.
Below, The Independent has taken a take a look at the place the management lies, additionally factoring within the fighters who’ve been in a position to make use of their expertise and recognition to carve out their very own affect. The end result? Rankings of the 50 most influential figures in fight sports activities.
The checklist is in fact subjective, with many honest arguments to be made concerning the placement of every title, and we’ve gone past boxing and MMA in sure circumstances.
On that word, let’s kick off the rankings with…
50. Gordon Ryan
Jiu-jitsu’s reputation worldwide is rising quickly, with the grappling-centric martial artwork that includes closely in MMA contests and now having a younger star in its personal proper: Gordon Ryan. The American is simply 28 – don’t let his dyed gray hair and beard deceive you – and is already thought to be the best no-Gi competitor within the historical past of the game. A multiple-time world champion, Ryan has controversially advocated performance-enhancing medication in fight sports activities, however many jiu-jitsu practitioners look as much as the American anyway.
49. Jon Anik
With time, Joe Rogan has spent much less time on the UFC commentary desk, and Anik has emerged because the true, trendy voice of the promotion. A consummate skilled, the 45-year-old American primarily leads UFC broadcasts in between calling the fights, and he has offered quite a few calls which have outlined a few of the best moments in MMA historical past.
48. Bruce Buffer
The different voice of the UFC. Buffer, the brother of a well-known Michael, has emulated the boxing ring announcer’s success however in MMA. While Michael has his personal legendary catchphrase (extra on that later), Bruce has turn out to be beloved for his emphatic, “It’s time!”, his contageous vitality, and his flashy fits. He is a key a part of what makes a UFC title combat really feel monumental.
47. Conor Benn
Benn, son of British boxing nice Nigel, was forging a strong professional profession in his personal proper till his combat with Chris Eubank Jr – a wierd kind of third half to the Nigel vs Chris Sr rivalry – fell aside in 2022. That bout collapsed after it was revealed that Benn, 27, had failed two drug checks, and he’s nonetheless unable to field in Britain because of this. However, the saga – during which he has maintained his innocence – has bolstered Benn’s profile and made extra followers care about him, even when many are rooting for him to fail. The combat with Eubank Jr, ought to it ever materialise, could be large.
46. Nate Diaz
His back-to-back bouts with Conor McGregor in 2016 made Diaz a crossover star, when he was already a UFC fan favorite. The American, now 38, stays a pay-per-view draw, and he just lately crossed over otherwise, boxing Jake Paul in August. Diaz got here up quick that evening however secured one other main payday, and followers eagerly anticipate his subsequent transfer – with many hoping that it will likely be a long-awaited trilogy combat towards McGregor. Diaz is now not signed to the UFC, nevertheless, which means a brand new deal would should be hashed out.
45. Derrick James
The American boxing coach works with welterweight star Errol Spence Jr and rising light-weight Ryan Garcia, and he even skilled Anthony Joshua for the Briton’s bouts with Jermaine Franklin and Robert Helenius in 2023. Spence Jr and Garcia suffered defeats in high-profile fights final yr – to Terence Crawford and Gervonta Davos respectively – however stays one of the crucial in-demand coaches round.
44. Donn Davis
Davis is the chairman of the Professional Fighters League, which has emerged as the principle rival to the UFC in recent times. The 61-year-old American has overseen the PFL’s buy of Bellator – the UFC’s former chief competitor – and offers with Jake Paul and Francis Ngannou. Having these names on the PFL’s roster ought to make for an intriguing 2024.
43. Leon Edwards
Britain’s second UFC champion ever, Edwards is a good ambassador for MMA in his dwelling nation and for the game on the whole. The welterweight title holder has a outstanding life story, having escaped lethal situations in Jamaica – his nation of beginning – along with his mom and youthful brother, earlier than starting the journey that might lead him to UFC gold. To win the welterweight title in 2022, Edwards produced one of many best knockouts in UFC historical past.
42. Ryan Garcia
Although he’s a proficient younger light-weight, Garcia doesn’t appear to be on the extent of a few of his fellow American stars within the division. However, he’s a talented commodity – seemingly a geuine pay-per-view draw – and will observe his 2023 loss to Gervonta Davis with fights towards Devin Haney and Teofimo Lopez.
41. Manny Pacquiao
An all-time nice within the boxing ring, the 45-year-old is the game’s solely eight-division world champion. His conflict with Floyd Mayweather in 2015 – a number of years too late, admittedly – stays the highest-grossing pay-per-view in boxing historical past. That document seems more likely to stand for a few years to come back. The Filipino additionally served as a senator in his dwelling nation from 2016 till 2022, however he fought professionally as just lately as 2021.
40. Naoya Inoue
Some see Terence Crawford as boxing’s pound-for-pound No 1, however Indy Sport is amongst these to award that honour to Inoue, the four-weight world champion from Japan. The fittingly-nicknamed “Monster” just lately turned undisputed in a second division, as the one man aside from Crawford to realize that feat, and his stoppage price is much more spectacular than the American’s. Speed, energy, creativeness – the 30-year-old has all of it.
39. Charles Oliveira
A breakout MMA star in 2021, along with his profile solely rising within the two years since, the Brazilian has loved such success comparatively later in his profession. Oliveira, now 34, was 31 when he gained the UFC light-weight title and was already 39 fights into his professional profession. “Do Bronx” has since misplaced the belt however remains to be on a formidable run total, and he may but regain the gold in 2024…
38. Deontay Wilder
The American is likely one of the hardest-hitting punchers in boxing historical past, with that asset aiding him in his lengthy reign as WBC heavyweight champion. Wilder, 38, was lastly overwhelmed in 2020, when Tyson Fury stopped the “Bronze Bomber” – earlier than repeating the trick in 2021 – and now seems to be previous his peak. Wilder was comprehensively outboxed and outpointed in December, as Joseph Parker dealt the American a dangerous blow and probably price him a long-awaited conflict with Anthony Joshua.
37. Mike Tyson
One of heavyweight boxing’s true icons, Tyson has discovered new relevancy in recent times along with his Hotboxin’ podcast. It has allowed the American, 57, to indicate off a distinct, extra relaxed facet to himself. It is a facet that individuals appear to like.
36. Claressa Shields
There are a few names afterward this checklist who vie for the title of ‘the greatest ever’ in girls’s boxing, however one of the best proper now? Surely Shields, though her ‘GWOAT’ nickname tells you all you have to learn about how extremely the American charges herself. Shields, nonetheless simply 28, has already turn out to be undisputed in two weight lessons and unified champion in one other. So, she has earnt the appropriate to price herself so extremely.
35. Alexander Volkanovski
One of the best featherweights in MMA historical past, and the consensus pound-for-pound No 1 till just lately. The Australian has been dominant at 145lbs, the place he’s UFC champion, and his solely defeats during the last decade each got here in 2023 – with the 35-year-old dropping a slender determination to light-weight champion Islam Makhachev in February, earlier than struggling a knockout towards the Russian in October. Even within the latter occasion, although, “Alexander The Great” rightly acquired credit score for stepping up on quick discover.
34. Ariel Helwani
The most well-known MMA journalist on the planet, Helwani is extra simply recognisable than many fighters, the truth is. The Canadian was an insider lengthy earlier than his stint at ESPN, and he has continued to thrive even since leaving the community. Indeed, Helwani has thrived regardless of being banned from reside occasions by the UFC, with many fighters determined to look on his YouTube present, The MMA Hour, because of the immense publicity that it ensures. Helwani has additionally dipped his toe into NBA and boxing protection.
33. Lou DiBella
The US promoter, 63, counts world champion Amanda Serrano amongst his fighters, in addition to ex-champions George Kambosos Jr and Regis Prograis. DiBella might not be as nicely referred to as a few of the promoters that you just’ll discover afterward this checklist, however his affect remains to be important.
32. Sean O’Malley
One of MMA’s few, real crossover stars since McGregor hit and handed his peak. Many followers doubted whether or not “Sugar Sean” may match his reputation with in-ring success, feeling that the sniper striker is likely to be let down by holes elsewhere in his recreation. Those doubts had been undermined, nevertheless, when O’Malley knocked out wrestling specialist Aljamain Sterling in spherical two in August, changing into the UFC males’s bantamweight champion within the course of.
31. Michael Buffer
The voice of boxing. For many years, the 79-year-old has stood out as the game’s most well-known ring announcer, largely on account of his catchphrase, “Leeeeeeeeet’s get ready to ruuuuuuumble!” which he correctly trademarked in 1992 – a transfer that has reportedly earned the American $400m…
30. Logan Paul
Like his brother Jake (sure, we’ll get to him), the American began off as a YouTuber earlier than venturing into fight sports activities. The older Paul brother, 28, started boxing in 2018 and later signed with WWE, the place he has prospered since 2022. Outside of varied rings, Paul has additionally seen success along with his vitality drink Prime and along with his Impaulsive podcast.
29. Mick Maynard
The UFC’s Vice-President of Talent Relations, Maynard is a chief matchmaker within the organisation. For all of the UFC’s faults, its potential to provide fan-favourite match-ups is unrivalled, and it deserves credit score for that – which means Maynard does, too.
28. Jon Jones
MMA’s best fighter ever, within the eyes of many followers. Others maintain the American’s a number of failed drug checks towards his legacy, in addition to incidents like a hit-and-run in 2015. Jones, 36, took a three-year break from MMA between 2020 and 2023, returning in March to simply win the UFC heavyweight title after spending the remainder of his profession as a light-heavyweight – and as a multiple-time champion in that division, no much less.
27. Gervonta Davis
“Tank” is likely one of the most fearsome punchers in boxing, however that asset has sarcastically seen some top-level fights elude the American. He lastly received his first big-name opponent in April, when he stopped Ryan Garcia emphatically, however now he should press on in securing bouts with the likes of Devin Haney and Teofimo Lopez.
26. Israel Adesanya
An extended-reigning middleweight champion within the UFC, and one of many first superstars to emerge in MMA after McGregor’s peak. The Nigerian-born New Zealander, 34, just lately noticed his second UFC title reign come to an finish and is taking a quick break from the game. Whenever he returns, nevertheless, his subsequent bout will seemingly be one of the crucial watched of 2024 or 2025, courtesy of the curiosity he has generated via his enthralling hanging.
25. Egis Klimas
The supervisor of Ukrainian icons Oleksandr Usyk and Vasiliy Lomachenko, Klimas has been a key participant on this era of boxing, just lately and notably taking part in his half in arranging Usyk’s upcoming conflict with Tyson Fury – which is about to be the largest combat in many years.
24. Amanda Serrano
A pioneer of girls’s boxing. In the largest girls’s combat of all time – and certainly one of boxing’s greatest ever, full cease – the Puerto Rican was unfortunate to lose a choice towards Katie Taylor in 2022. The 35-year-old must be remembered for rather more than that bout, nevertheless, when all is claimed and finished; the unified featherweight champion is the one girl to have held world titles in additional than 4 divisions.
23. Tommy Fury
Nowhere close to the boxer that his half-brother Tyson is, however Tommy has performed a wise recreation. The 24-year-old Briton endeared himself to viewers of the fact tv present Love Island earlier than returning to boxing, the place he has correctly chosen to combat YouTubers as a substitute of authentic professionals. That shouldn’t be meant as a slight; Fury is best matched in that sphere and is making rather more cash than he in any other case would.
22. Hunter Campbell
The UFC’s chief enterprise officer and, in keeping with many, the actual mastermind on the UFC – not Dana White. The former lawyer has been tipped to succeed White as UFC president, however that position would require rather more interplay with the media and public than Campbell at the moment engages in.
21. Devin Haney
Perhaps the following face of boxing. At simply 25 years outdated, Haney has additionally reigned as undisputed light-weight champion and moved as much as acquire one other world title at super-lightweight. The American has insisted, nevertheless, that he has little curiosity in changing into undisputed once more; the “Dream” is eager on super-fights, seemingly suggesting that he could be content material to make as a lot cash as doable earlier than retiring younger.
20. Todd duBoef
DuBoef is the stepson of Bob Arum (extra on him later) and the president of the 91-year-old’s promotion, Top Rank Boxing. As such, DuBoef is Arum’s likeliest successor, which means his energy within the boxing sphere ought to solely develop in years to come back.
19. Ari Emanuel
The 62-year-old is the founder and CEO of Endeavor, the dad or mum firm of the UFC and now additionally WWE, following a seismic enterprise deal in 2023. It might be intriguing to see how that deal impacts the panorama of MMA and professional wrestling transferring ahead. In any case, Emanuel might be wanting over that very panorama, and he’s additionally stated to have important affect in Hollywood.
18. Floyd Mayweather
The greatest ever within the boxing ring? According to many, sure. Having retired unbeaten as a professional in 2017, the 46-year-old American has since been on a chronic victory lap, beating boxers, MMA fighters and YouTubers in numerous exhibition bouts.
17. Francis Ngannou
One of the standout names from this era of blended martial artists, the Cameroonian has repeatedly gambled on himself and gained massive. After leaving the UFC in January 2023, giving up the corporate’s heavyweight title within the course of, the 37-year-old was criticised for ‘fumbling the bag’. Far from it. Ngannou signed a contract with the PFL, the place he’ll make considerably extra money than he did within the UFC. The “Predator” additionally made his boxing debut in October, dropping and arguably doing sufficient to beat Tyson Fury – solely to come back up quick on factors – in one of the crucial stupefying moments in combat-sports historical past.
16. Katie Taylor
If not the best girls’s boxer of all time, a very powerful. The Irishwoman initiated the motion that allowed feminine fighters to compete on the Olympics, the place she gained gold in 2012. She has since turned a two-weight undisputed champion, gathering the second set of belts just lately. The 37-year-old beat Chantelle Cameron in a contemporary traditional in November, avenging the one lack of her professional profession in the identical Dublin venue the place she was overwhelmed in May.
15. Oleksandr Usyk
The best cruiserweight of this era, Usyk is the one man to have been undisputed champion in that division within the four-belt period. Now, he’s on the verge of certainly one of boxing’s most outstanding feats ever, as he prepares to face Tyson Fury and probably turn out to be undisputed at heavyweight. The southpaw, 36, is as difficult as they arrive, as he demonstrated in back-to-back factors wins over Anthony Joshua.
14. Terence Crawford
Yes, to see his title (and some of the above entries) earlier than the following man’s could also be jolting. Arguably boxing’s pound-for-pound No 1, the unbeaten American stopped Errol Spence Jr in an all-time nice efficiency final summer season to turn out to be undisputed welterweight champion. The 36-year-old has since been stripped of certainly one of his titles, however he gained’t thoughts, having settled certainly one of trendy boxing’s greatest debates by beating the beforehand undefeated Spence Jr in a combat years within the making. His win over Spence Jr additionally made him the primary male boxer to turn out to be undisputed in two divisions within the four-belt period.
Like Jake Paul, KSI has made a transition from YouTube into boxing, and whereas he lacks the dedication and relative talent of his American counterpart, the Briton nonetheless attracts an enormous viewership and has a wildly devoted legion of followers. His bout with Tommy Fury, like Paul’s, was one of many most-watched fights of 2023. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, it went the identical means as Paul’s, too.
12. Joe Rogan
The jiu-jitsu black belt and former TV presenter shouldn’t be as concerned on UFC commentary as he was, however his Joe Rogan Experience podcast is likely one of the most profitable in all of sport – in all of podcasting, the truth is. And since signing a significant take care of Spotify, the 56-year-old has much more cash than affect – which is quite a bit, particularly with males between the ages of 18 and 34 in America.
11. Bob Arum
Ninety-one years outdated however nonetheless concerned on the high finish of boxing. Arum’s Top Rank is likely one of the sport’s greatest gamers, particularly on account of its broadcast take care of ESPN. In latest years, Arum’s best success might need been securing Tyson Fury’s signature to make Top Rank the Briton’s US promoter.
10. Al Haymon
The American promoter seemingly suffered a blow when US broadcaster Showtime pulled out of boxing just lately, however Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) has since signed with Amazon Prime. The 68-year-old beforehand managed Floyd Mayweather, and PBC counts Terence Crawford, Deontay Wilder, Errol Spence Jr and Manny Pacquaio amongst its fighters.
9. Eddie Hearn
“If you asked someone on the street to name three people in UK boxing, they’d probably go: ‘Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, Eddie Hearn.’” Those had been the phrases of… nicely, Hearn, in our unique interview in 2023 – and the remainder of this checklist is considerably in step with that sentiment. Hearn is omnipresent in boxing, popping up on YouTube a number of instances per week for interview after interview. As he has stated greater than as soon as, he is aware of “how to sell”.
8. Frank Warren
Just as Hearn prizes Anthony Joshua, the promoter’s chief rival Warren counts Tyson Fury as his best asset. Warren, 71, has been round quite a few blocks quite a few instances, and his latest progress with key gamers in Saudi Arabia marks an enormous success in a significant second in boxing historical past. That progress additionally sees him edge forward of Hearn right here.
7. Jake Paul
Eyebrows would possibly increase over this entry, however Paul’s is one other title that has huge crossover capabilities. Again, many will watch merely in hopes that the American, 26, will lose, however the YouTuber’s boxing profession survived his first defeat – towards Tommy Fury in February – and he’s planning to enterprise into MMA subsequent. He has additionally been an advocate for larger fighter pay, to his credit score, and holds boxing wins over MMA stars like Nate Diaz, Anderson Silva and Tyron Woodley.
6. Conor McGregor
Even two-and-a-half years on from his final combat – and 4 years on from his final win – the previous UFC champion instructions consideration like few others. When the Irishman competes, the combating world stops, and even the common particular person on the road tends to remember. Adulation for McGregor, 35, has worn off in his dwelling nation in recent times after his collection of run-ins with the legislation, however he has by no means wanted like to thrive; maybe the hate is simply as efficient.
5. Anthony Joshua
There was a concerted effort to make Joshua the heavyweight of this era, earlier than Fury naturally eclipsed his compatriot for numerous causes, together with Joshua’s trio of losses during the last 4 years. Even so, a lot of the British public nonetheless harbours nice respect for the 34-year-old, who gained Olympic gold in London and went on to supply followers with many enjoyable nights courtesy of his knockouts throughout his come-up. “AJ” is likely one of the greatest ‘brands’ in sports activities, and he isn’t finished but within the ring.
4. Tyson Fury
For some time, arguments raged over whether or not the unbeaten Briton is likely to be the best heavyweight ever. While that standing appears to have eluded him, given his lack of big-name opponents compared to champions passed by, the consensus is that the 35-year-old is one of the best heavyweight of his era. Before changing into WBC champion, Fury held the opposite belts directly, and he’ll bid to regain them and turn out to be undisputed champion – the primary in 24 years – when he faces Oleksandr Usyk in February. The “Gypsy King” demonstrated his affect by delaying that combat till he may have it nearly completely on his phrases.
3. Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez
While the Mexican is now not boxing’s pound-for-pound No 1, he’s nonetheless an elite fighter, a uncommon pay-per-view draw, an idol in his dwelling nation, and the face of boxing worldwide – and he’s nonetheless simply 33 years outdated. He has flitted between weight lessons whereas taking up all comers, and he continues to reign as undisputed super-middleweight champion.
2. Dana White
Mixed martial arts is likely one of the fastest-growing sports activities on the planet, and the UFC is MMA’s undisputed chief. UFC president Dana White could not the truth is be the undisputed chief of the promotion (as earlier entries on this checklist have hinted), however he’s its figurehead and is extra well-known than many UFC fighters. The outspoken American, 54, has a outstanding sway over followers’ opinions and a agency management over fighters’ careers.
1. Turki Al-Sheikh
If you don’t recognise Al-Sheikh’s title (typically written Alalshikh) directly, the phrases “His Excellency” could ring a bell, as that’s how all of boxing’s kingmakers seek advice from the Saudi adviser, who might need usurped these very kingmakers at lightning pace in a matter of months. Al-Sheikh, who can be Chairman of General Authority for Entertainment within the Gulf state, is the determine behind the miraculous matchmaking in boxing just lately – together with Tyson Fury vs Francis Ngannou and the Day of Reckoning occasion that includes Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder. Right now, even the largest promoters within the sport appear to be bowing to the 42-year-old’s calls for; Saudi Arabia’s immense funds are enabling all of this spectacular matchmaking, however Al-Sheikh is the thoughts that’s directing the cash.