Following his outstanding 3rd place finish at the Division 1 NCAA wrestling championships in March, two-time All-American Sebastian Rivera published an article titled, “Which Fighting Styles Generate the Most UFC/MMA Champions?” for Vividseats.com. A lifelong wrestler with MMA aspirations of his own, it’s natural for Rivera to approach the subject with bias, but the numbers don’t lie.
By Rivera’s estimation, based on data pulled from ESPN, 28 UFC champions have come from the sport of wrestling, making it the most prevalent base for UFC gold.
To build on that premise, and Rivera’s aesthetic graph-work, I will focus specifically on undisputed UFC championships won by wrestlers with folkstyle wrestling backgrounds.
It should be noted that fighters like Dominick Cruz and Benson Henderson were credited to other disciplines in the aforementioned graph, but they are, in fact, folkstyle wrestlers. Fighters like Randy Couture went on to have outstanding careers in other styles of wrestling and even striking combat sports before transitioning, but that doesn’t change the fact that folkstyle was their base martial art. After eliminating the wrestlers from the list who have not competed in folk, and adding fighters like Cruz who should be considered, I have arrived at a new total.