During an episode of The Schmozone podcast on June 16, UFC president Dana White was asked a question by the show’s host, Dave Schmulenson, that Schmulenson claimed he regularly asks anyone in the MMA community that he speaks with: Who’s on your Mt. Rushmore of greatest MMA fighters of all-time?
White’s answer: Royce Gracie, Amanda Nunes, Jon Jones, and Chuck Liddell.
White was quick to raddle off Gracie and Nunes’ names, which makes sense given that the former is part of a legendary mixed martial arts family and the winner of three of the first four UFC events and the latter is without a doubt the best female fighter of all-time and recently became the first fighter ever, regardless of gender, to defend belts in two different weight divisions.
White said Gracie was a “no-brainer” and Nunes has to be on the list because she’s “the greatest female fighter ever.” But he added that “the other two are tough.”
After saying that, White quickly added Jones to the hypothetical stone sculpture stating, “The guy’s never been beat.” That sparked a quick sidebar conversation about the lack of validity behind the one DQ loss (illegal elbows) on Jones’ record, which ended with White saying, “Jones should have a zero after his name.”
Hard to argue with White’s first three picks. But the fourth one took some pondering.
White ultimately landed on Chuck Liddell, the former UFC light heavyweight champion who played an integral role in growing the sport and taking it to the next level.
“At the time, he was as big of a star as ever,” White said.
For much of the same reasons, including impact on the UFC’s growth, White said he also considered Forrest Griffin for the final spot on his Mt. Rushmore. Griffin was the winner of the promotion’s first installment of its reality show, The Ultimate Fighter. Coached by Liddell during the show, Griffin put on one of the sport’s most memorable performances in his finals matchup against Stephan Bonnar. It’s a fight that, to this day, is credited for bringing UFC into the mainstream.
There will certainly be those who agree with White’s Mt. Rushmore and those who don’t. The Schmozone’s hosts were quick to point out two omissions that many would have on their list: George St. Pierre and Anderson Silva.
GSP and Silva both dominated the sport in their respective divisions for years. They are both former champions and two of the most notable names in UFC history. White even mentions their impact on the global growth of MMA by pointing to how they’ve influenced Brazilians and Canadians because of their historic careers.
A strong case can certainly be made for other fighters who did not make White’s cut.
Along with Nunes, Daniel Cormier, Henry Cejudo, and Conor McGregor are the only fighters to hold two UFC titles at one time. There are those who believe Cormier is the best heavyweight fighter of all-time and many think Cejudo is the best bantamweight ever — or at least was on his way to becoming that before his recent retirement. McGregor is as much bark as he is bite, but there’s no arguing what he has done for the UFC from a monetary standpoint. His fight in 2018 with Khabib Nurmagomedov still holds the record for most PPV buys for an MMA event.
Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, BJ Penn, Jose Aldo, Cain Velasquez, and Dominick Cruz are all current or former UFC fighters that looked unbeatable at points in their respective careers. Heck, Khabib looks pretty unbeatable these days. Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture, and Matt Hughes helped grow the sport simultaneously with Liddell. And fighters like Dan Henderson and Frankie Edgar have always been fan favorites.
Any of the aforementioned fighters — give or take a few — could be in the conversation for a UFC Mt. Rushmore. They’re all Hall of Famers, without a doubt, and helped write the history books of MMA.
It’s never easy to narrow down a sport’s best to just four people. But how do you think White did? Who would be on your UFC Mt. Rushmore?
Pat Donohue has been covering sports for more than 10 years. He is a former Washington Redskins beat reporter and has been covering the University of Maryland football and basketball recruiting and daily beats for Rivals.com since 2013. Pat graduated from Maryland with his master’s degree in journalism and has received bylines in publications such as USA TODAY Sports, The Philadelphia Inquirer, SB Nation, and Yahoo! Sports. As a wrestler for 13 years in Pennsylvania, Pat has a deep appreciation for MMA and a keen understanding of the sport.