10 of the Greatest French Fighters Of All Time

10 of the Greatest French Fighters Of All Time

Jack MacCool|
September 03, 2022|

After legalizing mixed martial arts in 2020, the world’s premier fighting promotion will make its debut on French soil for the very first time as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) touches down in Paris on September 3, 2022. The event is set to be headlined by a Heavyweight bout between France-native Ciryl Gane and Australian Tai Tuivasa. The card also features a number of other French fighters as the promotion attempts to dive into a new market headfirst. Despite the legalization of MMA in 2020, France has been home to a multitude of combat sports talent in this century and before. Ahead of UFC Paris, let’s take a look at some of the greatest French combat talent of all time.

Jérôme Le Banner

Born in the north of France, Jérôme Le Banner competed in boxing and MMA, but where most of his success came was in the world of kickboxing. Le Banner racked up a professional record of 86-22-2 over the course of his career. He saw great success in K-1 where he won two grand prixs and competed in the finals of four more. In the International Sport Karate Association Le Banner won eight championships between 1992 and 2015. Le Banner also competed in a trilogy of kickboxing matches against Mark Hunt, capturing two victories over the Samoan slugger, highly-coveted including a stoppage win.


Fares Ziam

Hailing from France, Fares Ziam is 2-2 in the UFC but has faced good competition in his short stint with the company. He lost to Terrance McKinney his last time out which is a fair loss given McKinney’s apparent upside, but holds wins over Jamie Mullarkey as well as Luigi Vendramini. Ziam still has a lot of upside as he is only 25 years of age, and has really been thrown into the deep-end of the Lightweight division of the UFC. He is currently set to face a debuting Michael Figlak on the UFC Fight Night: Gane vs. Tuivasa. He is an underdog heading into the contest, but Ziam’s technical ability and youth gives the French MMA community a lot to like moving forward.

Georges Carpentier

Going to go out on a limb here and say that nobody reading this was alive during Georges Carpentier’s career, but he still deserves a spot on this list. The boxer’s career lasted from 1908-1926 and he was best known for his speed, power, and excellent boxing ability. His career record of 89-15-6 is outstanding, and included some incredible moments. He won the Welterweight Championship of France and of Europe, the Middleweight Championship of Europe, the Light Heavyweight Championship of Europe, and the Heavyweight Championship of Europe. He defended the Heavyweight title once before winning the White Heavyweight Championship of the World shortly after. All of these bouts took place in just a three year span between 1911 and 1914, which is pretty astounding. While his boxing career was special, the other areas of Carpentier’s life were special as well. He took a short break from boxing in 1914 and was a French Air Force aviator. During that time he was awarded the two highest French military honours that exist. When he returned from service, his popularity skyrocketed, and he fought in the main event of boxing’s first million dollar gate. Though he fought 100 years ago, Georges Carpentier’s story should and will live on.


Fabrice Tiozzo

Fabrice Tiozzo is a former professional boxer hailing from St. Denis, France. At the time of his retirement in July of 2006, Tiozzo held a pro record of 48-2. He was a world champion in two weight classes, as he held the WBC Light Heavyweight belt from 1995-1997, the WBA Cruiserweight belt from 1997 to 2000, and the WBA Light Heavyweight championship from 2004 to 2006. During those periods, Tiozzo earned six defences of his titles, fighting in his home country in nearly all of them.

Nassourdine Imavov

Nassourdine Imavov is a Dagestan-born fighter who has called France home since his early childhood. Imavov has come into his own lately in the UFC’s Middleweight division, scoring massive victories over the likes of Edmen Shahbazyan, Ian Heinisch, and Jordan Williams, only faltering once to Phil Hawes. Imavov currently stands at the number 12 ranking in the division and is set to face the always-exciting Joaquin Buckley on the preliminary card of this weekend’s Paris card. If Imavov can get the win this weekend in front of a home crowd, his star will rise considerably. And in a thin Middleweight division, he could see himself closer to a title shot than we may think.


Marcel Cerdan

Considered by many to be France’s greatest boxer, Marcel Cerdan was a World Middleweight Champion who amassed a 110-4 record during his 15-year professional run, with two of those losses coming by disqualification due to low blows. Like another on this list, Cerdan also fought for his country in the middle of his career, when he took up arms in World War II. He captured multiple titles during his career, starting with the French Welterweight title as well as the European Welterweight title. After World War II, Cerdan moved up and captured the Middleweight Championship. Unfortunately, Cerdan was killed in a tragic plane crash in 1949. Cerdan was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1962 and is a French boxing icon.

Cédric Doumbé

Cédric Doumbé is a former professional kickboxer who was just signed to the UFC this summer. During his kickboxing career, he was a two time Glory Welterweight Champion with five title defences, a World Kickboxing Association European and World Champion, as well as a K-1 and A1 Champion. In the kickboxing world, Doumbé finished with a record of 75-7, and now he turns his sights on to the UFC. Despite only having two professional MMA bouts, he is a highly-touted prospect who generated quite the buzz when he was signed. Both his MMA bouts are victories coming by way of TKO. Doumbé was supposed to debut on this weekend’s card but unfortunately his fight was cancelled by the commission due to a differential in the number of bouts between fighters being too high to bypass the French commission’s rules. The Cameroonian-French fighter is definitely a premier French talent, and if he can emulate the same sort of success that kickboxers like Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira have, he is a name to keep an eye on.


Manon Fiorot

Manon ‘The Beast’ Fiorot sadly will not be displaying her skills on this weekend’s card, but any fan of the Women’s Flyweight division should still be on notice. Fiorot stormed onto the scene in early 2021, racking up four straight wins with two knockouts in just 14 months, which included a dominant win over former title challenger Jennifer Maia. Fiorot has an extensive amateur background in multiple disciplines and currently holds just one pro MMA loss which came in her debut. Currently scheduled to face Katlyn Chookagian on October’s ridiculously stacked pay-per-view, Manon could be just one or two wins away from fighting for a title against the human-buzzsaw Valentina Shevchenko. With the combination of her striking and grappling acumen, Fiorot could be a problem in this division for some time.

Cyril Gane

Of course Gane had to be on this list. Not only is the former UFC Interim Heavyweight Champion headlining the UFC’s first card in France, but he could be the most talented French MMA fighter ever. His combination of speed, technical ability, and decision-making has propelled his professional record to 10-1, with his only loss coming to the champion Francis Ngannou. With a win over Tuivasa this weekend, Gane would be 8-1 in the UFC and is definitely a name that the UFC could use to propel the French market. As well, should something happen to Ngannou’s title, Gane could easily be slotted into a vacant title fight sometime soon. At the time of writing this, 68% of the Verdict Community are picking Gane to win.


Cheick Kongo

Born in Paris, France, Cheick Kongo is a professional mixed martial artist who holds a pro record of 31-13-2. The 6’4 Heavyweight fought the best of the best during his time in both Bellator and the UFC, holding wins over names like Mirko ‘Cro Cop’, Pat Barry, Alexander Volkov, and Matt Mitrione. He also competed against Frank Mir, Mark Hunt, Roy Nelson, Cain Velasquez, and Ryan Bader. Though he was never able to get his hands on a belt, he did win a Bellator Heavyweight Tournament and is a legend of French MMA who continues to fight and win into his late forties.

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