As the popularity of mixed martial arts has grown over the last few decades, we have seen a substantial increase in talent.
Not only are athletes more well-rounded than ever before, but great fighters are getting younger and younger. The UFC, in particular, has an abundance of great young fighters. So let's take a look at 7 of the best fighters under the age of 25.
1. Muhammad Mokaev - Age 22 DOB: 30th July 2000
Muhammad Mokaev is introduced before his fight against Malcolm Gordon during UFC 280 at Etihad Arena. Credit: Craig Kidwell-USA TODAY Sports.
The Dagestan-born fighter from the UK boasts a perfect 23-0 record as an amateur and 9-0 (1) as record a pro. With three wins in the UFC against Cody Durden, Charles Johnson, and Malcolm Gordon. Mokaev fights in the flyweight division (125lbs) and is currently ranked 12 in the UFC rankings
Mokaev is very vocal about becoming the youngest UFC champion ever, leaving him exactly 13 months to fulfill his dream and beat Jon Jones to that accolade. Mokaev is a wrestling heavy fighter who has shown diverse striking and a well-rounded ground game. He is exceptionally confident inside the octagon and fun to watch. Consistently chasing the finish and being someone who wants to stay active makes him a fighter who is easy to root for.
2. Raul Rosas JR - Age 18 DOB: 8th October 2004
Rosas lands a kick on Mando Gutierrez. Credits to: Zuffa LLC.
The Mexican fighter burst onto the scene with his impressive win on Dana White's contender series in 2022, being the youngest fighter in the UFC at 17 years old. Another fighter on this list boasts a perfect record with seven wins and 0 defeats. Fast forward a couple of months from his DWCS win, and Raul Rosas JR picked up his first UFC win with a first-submission finish against Jay Perrin.
Fighting in the UFC's bantamweight division (135lbs), Rosas JR put a lot of people on notice with his debut win. At just 18 years old, Rosas showed immense skill and understanding inside of the octagon. He fought like somebody way beyond his years with excellent grappling and a fearless attitude. It does pose the question of just how high the ceiling is for this young star. He undoubtedly has massive potential in the UFC and is already talked about as a future world champion. Keep your eye on Raul Rosas JR as he fights again on the 4th of April against Christian Rodriguez.
3. Erin Blanchfield - 23 Years old DOB: 4th May 1999
Erin Blanchfield and Molly McCann during UFC 281 at Madison Square Garden. Credit: Jessica Alcheh-USA TODAY Sports.
Erin Blanchfield fights in the UFC's women's flyweight division (125 lbs) and is currently ranked at number 10. She already has an impressive record of 10-1, with wins against notable opposition already in Miranda Maverick, Molly McCann, Sarah Alpar, and JJ Aldrich. Blanchfield is a perfect 4-0 in the UFC, with 50% of her wins coming via finishes.
Blanchfield is certainly proving already that she is the real deal. Her toughest fight, however, comes this weekend when she goes up against late replacement Jessica Andrade. Andrade is currently ranked number 3, and a win here would put her straight into title contendership. It will be fascinating to see how Blanchfield holds up this weekend with a big step up in competition, and this fight will answer any questions or doubt people have about her ability. And at just 23 years old, Blanchfield is constantly evolving and improving.
4. Tatsuro Taira - Age 23 DOB: 27th January 2000
Tatsuro Taira punches CJ Vergara during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on October 15, 2022, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Credit: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC.
Tatsuro Taira has been making waves in the flyweight division (125lbs) with three straight wins in the UFC, with the last two coming via submission. Wins over Carlos Canderlairo, C.J Vergara, and Jesus Santos Aguilar take the Japanese fighter to a perfect 13-0.
Tatsuro has shown maturity in his fights for a young fighter overcoming adversity after being caught in a guillotine in his last fight, not panicking, and trusting in himself and his skill set. A dynamic submission threat and good stand-up make Taira one to watch for the future. Currently unranked, I don't think it will be long before we see this young man start to climb the rankings and test himself against some tough opposition.
5. Maycee Barber Age 24 DOB: 18th May 1998
Maycee Barber battles Montana De La Rosa during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on April 23, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Credit: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC.
Maycee Barber is another fighter on the list who came through Dana White's contender series. With eight fights already in the UFC at just 24, Maycee Barber has a record of 11-2, with her only losses coming back-to-back against Roxanne Modafferi and Alexa Grasso. Since then, Barber has notched up a 3-fight win streak and will be back inside the octagon for her next fight on the 25th of March against Andrea Lee.
With wins against JJ Aldrich, Gillian Robertson, Miranda Maverick, Montana De La Rosa, and Jessica Eye, Barber is another athlete to keep tabs on in the flyweight division. Currently ranked at 12 in the flyweight division (125lbs), Barber is slowly climbing to the top, consistently displaying an improving freestyle approach to MMA. She is always entertaining to watch and has a huge future ahead of her.
6. Brady Hiestand Age 23 DOB: 30th April 1990.
Brady Hiestand punches Fernie Garcia during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on November 19, 2022, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Credit: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC.
Brady Hiestand represented Team Volkanovski as a bantamweight defeating Josh Rettinghouse and Vince Murdock to make it to the TUF 29 finals at UFC Vegas 35 in August 2021. He lost to teammate Ricky Turcios via a close split decision, dropping his pro record to 5-2.
Since then, Brady picked up a decision win against Fernando Garcia and returns on the 22nd of April to face Batgerel Danaa. Brady showcased a lot of talent during his time on 'The Ultimate Fighter' and is certainly a bantamweight (135lbs) with bags of potential.
7. Chase Hooper Age 23 DOB: 13th September 1999
Chase Hooper following a win at the Apex. Credits to: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC.
With six fights already in the UFC, making his debut back in 2019. Chase Hooper can easily be overlooked, as he has been in the UFC since he was 18. He is still an extremely young fighter who has a lot of experience for his age, with a professional record of 11-3. The grappling heavy featherweight (145lbs) has wins over Felipe Dias Colare, Peter Barrett, and Daniel Teymur.
The jiu-jitsu black belt has excellent submissions and has showcased this on multiple occasions, including five wins coming via submission. Chase Hooper has always been slightly behind in his striking in terms of skill but has been showing improvements. At only 23, he is only going to keep improving, and I fully believe he has a big future. Keep your eye on his development over the next few years. As Hooper continues to grow and develop his striking, he will be a tough opponent for anybody.
This list only emphasizes how good these new young fighters are. Three of the above-mentioned fighters have perfect records, and three are already ranked in the top 15.
Projects like The Ulitmate Fighter and Dana White's Contender Series are so important for finding new young talent and giving them a platform to establish recognition. As the sport continues to grow, the level of competition is only going to keep getting better.
One thing is for sure, the future of mixed martial arts is very bright.