The UFC has seen fighters of all ages fight inside the organization. With the return of Raul Rosas Jr, the youngest fighter to be signed to the promotion, this weekend at UFC 287, now is the perfect time to look at the ten youngest fighters in UFC history.
Chase "The Dream" Hooper is one of our more recent debates. After training in Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu while still in school, he began his professional career, amassing a record of 5-0. Hooper would fight on Dana White's Contender Series against Canaan Kawaihae at eighteen in 2018. Hooper would survive a brutal first round where he was dropped and rally back over the next two rounds with brutal ground and pound with frequent submission attempts to secure the win by decision. He would earn a developmental contract, win two of his next three fights, and draw the other. With these performances, he would receive a UFC contract in 2019 and debut at twenty years old on UFC 245: Usman vs. Covington. Again, "The Dream" would survive early and win the fight with a first-round TKO. Hooper's record now stands at 3-3 inside the UFC, with all his victories coming by stoppage.
Still just twenty-three years old, Hooper has a long future in MMA, and if he keeps winning, inside the UFC.
Alongside being the ninth youngest UFC fighter, Michael "Mayday" McDonald also holds the record for being the youngest fighter to challenge for a UFC Championship when he was twenty. At just sixteen years old, McDonald made his professional debut and won with a submission in the first round. He would go 10-1 in his next eleven bouts and fight in the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC). McDonald joined the promotion when the WEC was purchased and merged with the UFC. At just twenty years old, he debuted on March 26th, 2011, against Edwin Figueroa and won via a dominant unanimous decision. "Mayday" would have a successful UFC career, challenging for the interim Bantamweight title against Renan Barão.
He amassed a record of 6-3 inside the promotion before winning two fights in Bellator and retiring young. His most significant victories came over Brad Pickett and Miguel Torres, claiming performance bonuses in both those bouts.
Max "Blessed" Holloway is one of the most successful, if not the most successful, names on this list. The former Featherweight Champion and Lightweight title challenger has done it all in his career, and yet he's just thirty-one years old. Hollway made his professional debut at eighteen years old and, in less than three years, debuted in the UFC against Dustin Poirier. Although he would lose his debut via submission, he wouldn't be deterred. He went 19-6 in his next 25 bouts, only losing to the greatest of his division, including Conor Mcgregor, Alexander Volkanovski, and Dustin Poirier again. Holloway also put together a thirteen-fight unbeaten streak, where he would capture the Featherweight title from José Aldo and defend it three times.
He remains the #2 ranked contender at Featherweight and looks to defend his ranking against Arnold Allen on April 14th. While still a young fighter, there's no doubt a Hall Of Fame spot will be reserved for Holloway when he finally decides to retire from the sport.
Nick Diaz is one of the sport's most polarizing figures and also takes the #7 spot on our list. He surrounded himself with martial arts as a child, already being trained in Aikido, Sambo, and Karate before he was sixteen. He made his MMA debut at eighteen and amassed a 7-2 before joining the UFC in 2003. His debut inside the octagon was actually a trilogy bout against Jeremy Jackson, with the two being 1-1 against each other, both earning TKOs. But Diaz got the better of the trilogy, submitting Jackson in the third round to make a successful UFC debut. From there, his popularity continued rising alongside his younger brother Nate Diaz. Nick would go 7-7-1NC in the UFC, with notable wins over Robbie Lawler, B.J. Penn, and Frank Shamrock. He would also fight for the interim Welterweight title against Carlos Condit and the undisputed title against Georges St. Pierre but would come up short on both occasions. His last bout was in 2021, returning from a six-year layoff to rematch Robbie Lawler. Despite early success, Diaz would be TKOed in the third round, and we haven't seen him inside the octagon since.
Although he never won a title in the UFC, Diaz will go down as one of the most popular and beloved fighters ever, and he had a longevity of over two decades inside the octagon.
Coming in just four days younger than Nick Diaz, "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler takes the #6 spot. Lawler's first martial art was taekwondo, which he began training at eight years old, and in karate when he was ten. This made him stand out to MMA Coach Pat Miletich, who took "Ruthless" under his wing. He would go on to win his first four fights by KO/TKO, all taking place in 2001, before being signed to the UFC in 2002. His debut came against Aaron Riley at UFC 37, and the rest is history. Lawler has been a prominent force inside the UFC ever since, accumulating a 14-10 record and winning six performance bonuses. His accolades don't stop there; in 2014, he defeated Johnny Hendricks to win the UFC Welterweight Championship and would go on to defend it two times, and two of his four title fights would be fight of the year contenders.
Now, at forty-one years old, Lawler still delivers entertainment for the fans. His last bout was on UFC 276 against Bryan Barberena, where he lost via second-round TKO. He was also booked to face Santiago Ponzinibbio at UFC 282, but the bout was pulled due to Lawler's injury. "Ruthless" undoubtedly will have a spot in the UFC Hall of Fame when he decides to retire and will go down as one of the most entertaining fighters in UFC history.
The Kung Fu Kid Song Yadong is one of the youngest debutees in the UFC and is still just twenty-five years old. Like most fighters on this list, he trained in martial arts early in life, starting in a Sanda school at nine years old. By age sixteen, he had been training in MMA for two years and already had a professional bout. He racked up a record of 11-5-1NC before being offered a UFC contract. He debuted in China in 2017, successfully winning via first-round TKO against Makoto Yoshida. Now, he's one of the most promising prospects in the Bantamweight division, currently holding the #8 ranking. Yadong has racked up wins over Marlon Vera, Marlon Moraes, and Casey Kenney. His last fight came against Cory Sandhagen, where he lost via fourth-round doctors stoppage due to suffering a nasty cut over his eyebrow.
He's scheduled to face Ricky Simon in his comeback fight on April 22nd, and at just 25 years of age, he's likely to have a long career in the stacked Bantamweight division.
"The Phenom" Vitor Belfort is mainly known for his explosive finishes, which makes sense as he holds the record for third most finishes in UFC history. But what many people are unaware of is his longevity in the sport. Belfort began boxing when he was just twelve and later picked up Brazillian jiu-jitsu under Carlson Gracie. His professional debut came when he was nineteen in 1997 when he won by KO in only twelve seconds. This win was enough for him to get a shot at the UFC 12 tournament, where "The Phenom" won his promotional debut against Tra Telligman by TKO, still at nineteen years old. Due to the nature of the tournament, he also fought on the same night against Scott Ferrozzo, winning the bout and tournament by TKO. After that, Belfort continued participating in UFC and Pride events, and in 2004 he defeated Randy Couture to become the UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion. He continued to fight promotion-wide until he signed with the UFC in 2009, where he would challenge for an undisputed title three times and retire from MMA in 2018. Despite his MMA retirement, he continued to fight in boxing matches, claiming notable wins over Evander Holyfield and Ronaldo Souza.
His most significant MMA wins included Wanderlei Silva, Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold, and Dan Henderson. Although some of his legacy is tarnished with multiple PED usage violations, Belfort will go down as one of the most fierce fighters in UFC history, evidenced by holding the record for most first-round finishes in promotional history and being the youngest ever UFC Tournament winner.
At one point in the UFC, "Super" Sage Northcutt was all the hype in the organization. Having trained in martial arts since four years old and being part of a family surrounded by karate and kickboxing, Northcutt was destined to have a future in MMA. After compiling an amateur record of 5-1, he made his professional debut at eighteen and won five bouts in just over a year. "Super" earned his UFC contract through "Dana White: Looking For A Fight," a TV show where White scouts for new UFC talent. His debut came against Francisco Treviño in 2015, where he would win in just fifty-seven seconds via TKO.
However, Northcutt would go on to have a relatively short UFC career, as his hype train around being one of the youngest UFC athletes would disappear after his losses to Bryan Barberena and Mickey Gall. Although he finished his contract on a three-fight winning streak, White opted out of re-signing him to the promotion, hoping that he could gain more experience in lesser promotions. Instead, Northcutt signed with ONE FC, losing his promotional debut by KO. He is scheduled to return after a four-year layoff in May, which will likely show fans if "Super" Sage Northcutt can still replicate the same success he had in his early UFC days.
Many people know about some of the youngest fighters in the sport, but "The Upgrade" Dan Lauzon is a glaring exception to this. He began training in MMA at fourteen, and only four years later, he made his professional debut. After gaining four wins in just five months, "The Upgrade" was offered a place inside the UFC, with his debut coming against Spencer Fisher at UFC 64 in 2006. Being the younger brother of UFC fighter Joe Lauzon, big things were expected of Dan coming into his octagon debut. However, he couldn't replicate his brother's success and fell short in his debut, losing via first-round TKO, and would subsequently be cut after his loss. Dan would not fight in the UFC for nearly five years but re-entered the promotion on an eight-fight win streak. He would have two more fights inside the UFC and lose to Cole Miller and Efrain Escudero.
This marked the end of his UFC run, as he was cut from the promotion again and never returned. Lauzon is now retired and is most known for his victory over Bobby Green and his bout against future Interim Lightweight Champion Justin Gaethje.
The youngest UFC fighter in history is Raul Rosas Jr, and he's taking the UFC by storm. Rosas Jr started to gain recognition for his fight in Dana White's Contender Series. "El Nino Problema" came onto the series at sixteen years old and won by a unanimous decision. His UFC octagon debut came two months after his eighteenth birthday, taking on Jay Perrin at UFC 282. The young phenom would run through Perrin, clearly showing his discipline in wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu, securing the first-round submission.He's made his dreams clear, wanting to become the youngest champion in UFC history, and due to his young age, he has a very long time to get it done. Jon Jones currently holds that record, capturing UFC gold at twenty-three. Rosas Jr now has another opportunity to get fans on board his hype train when he takes on Christian Rodriguez on the main card of UFC 287. If he can secure the victory in this bout, his fanbase will skyrocket, leading the prospect to even bigger fights in the future. With so much room for growth on top of an already stellar grappling pedigree, many fans believe Rosas Jr will soon be a problem in the Bantamweight division.
Which fighter on this list is your favorite? And which prospect do you think will succeed most in the UFC? As a member of the Verdict Community, let us know your prediction in the comments below.